© 2005 Ray Wong
Stars: Charlize Theron, Marton Csokas, Jonny Lee Miller, Sophie Okonedo, Frances McDormand, Pete Postlethwaite, Amelia Warner
Director: Karyn Kusama
Writers: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi (based on characters by Peter Chung)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and sexual content
Running time: 90 minutes
Script – 3
Performance – 5
Direction – 4
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 6
Production – 8
Total Score – 5.7 out of 10
AEON FLUX first arrived on the cultural scene as an animation short on MTV’s LIQUID TELEVISION. The high energy, ultra-strange characters and story were fascinating to the MTV babies. The question is, would the whole thing translate to the big screen as a full-length, live action feature?
In 2021, a deadly virus wipes out 99% of the world’s population, and the survivors settle in Bregna, the last city on Earth protected by a thick wall. The scientists who save them, led by Trevor Goodchild (Csokas), form a ruling government and their duties are to keep the citizens safe. 400 years later, the citizens become restless as people start to disappear, and they feel scared living in such a highly-controlled “Utopia.” A secret faction called the Monicans, led by the Handler (McDormand), is determined to rebel and overturn the government and set the people free.
Aeon Flux (Theron) is the best of the Monicans, almost a super-human. Her job is to infiltrate the government and sabotage their systems. Then her sister, Una (Warner), is mistaken as a Monican and killed by law enforcement. Aeon’s mission becomes personal. Her next order is to assassinate Goodchild. When she finally finds him, something strange stirs inside her and she can’t carry out her task. Believing there’s something deeper than what’s at stake, Aeon abandons her order and searches her instincts, eventually leading her back to Goodchild and finding the truth behind everything.
Theron (NORTH COUNTRY) impressed us in MONSTER (and won an Oscar for that). Here, as an action heroine, most of the time she simply looks like a model posing for a photo shoot. In extremely skimpy clothing, I may add. Don’t blame Theron for turning in a cookie-cutter performance, though; nor Csokas’s (KINGDOM OF HEAVEN) as Trevor Goodchild. Their archetypical roles don’t require much depth. Csokas and Theron are very attractive, and they do look great together. Miller (MELINDA & MELINDA) has the thankless job of playing an uninspired villain. And McDormand’s (NORTH COUNTRY) talent is totally wasted as the Handler. The only person who leaves a definitive impression is Okonedo (HOTEL RWANDA) as fellow Monican, Sithandra. Her resolves and loyalty leave her with an interesting conflict.
But we don’t see AEON FLUX for the acting, do we? First, the good things. The production design is pleasing with some cool visuals. I’ve never seen such clear and beautiful eyes in these actors. Some of the action sequences are also cool, most notably the “garden” scene in which Aeon and Sithandra must get through a manicured garden stocked with deadly weapons. Even so, for a high-concept sci-fi movie, the production doesn’t necessary “wow” us. Its concepts of the “future” have that “seen that before” feeling. Everything is slick and sterile (doesn’t anyone believe in vintage anymore in the 25th Century?) Still, by far, the production is the best part of the film – it just doesn’t mean it’s great.
Now on to the bad. The screenplay by Hay and Manfredi (THE TUXEDO) is paper-thin and nonsensical. Sure, it happens in the future in a strange, controlled society, but at least explain how Aeon Flux could leap 100 feet or fall 50 feet unhurt or dodge bullets like she’s a mutant in X-Men. The screenwriters ask for a huge – and I mean huge – dose of suspension of disbelief. And the plot is so unoriginal and predictable – hard to believe with such a high-concept production. There’s almost no suspense since one can easily guess what is happening (hint: It’s been 400 years, but Trevor and Oren Goodchild are still alive). The characters are so obvious that we can call out the good guys vs. the bad, even blindfolded. The coolness of the original characters are replaced by a detached, quasi-futuristic blandness.
Director Kusama (GIRLFIGHT) can’t lift the film out of its material either. Her direction is often clunky and lacking in imagination. There are many confusing moments and the editing could use some work to streamline the plot, especially since it’s such as simple plot. Kusama does have a keen visual style, but all that is buried by a clunky plot and unimaginative action sequences. With all that stacked against it, AEON FLUX is a flux to avoid.