Eye For Film >> Movies >> Aeon Flux (2005) Film Review
Reviewed by: Anton Bitel
First appearing in 1991 as a series of six films made for MTV's Liquid Television, each less than five minutes in duration, followed by a further five episodes in 1992, Aeon Flux was quick to become a cult favorite in the world of animation. Economic, enigmatic and elliptical, it followed a dark-haired female free agent of the future as she tried, and usually failed, to defeat, or at least escape, an oppressive system using her impossibly acrobatic skills. Her adventures were paranoid, highly irrational and, years before the arrival of South Park's Kenny, she would often end up being graphically killed, only to come back in the next episode (again to be killed).
In 1995, Aeon Flux returned for another 10 episodes, but the new 30-minute format demanded a more coherent, conventional kind of narrative. Where previously the only word ever to have passed the anti-heroine's lips had been the incongruous "plop", now she talked a lot and in full sentences, thus losing much of her mystery, while the plots themselves were far less of a head trip. Characters became more fully defined and the puzzling title was revealed merely to be the protagonist's name and slowly but surely the series went from being a genuinely original oddity to something altogether more mainstream, even with all the fetish gear.
Skip ahead 10 years and Aeon Flux has resurfaced as a live-action feature that captures all too depressingly the evolution of the original from inventive weirdfest to a more run-of-the-mill brand of dystopian cyberpunk.
The film is brimming with bizarre mind-bending concepts, including drugs that allow their users to meet and talk in a chamber of the imagination, a woman who has had her feet surgically replaced with hands, a state surveillance building that stores its collected images in drops of water and blades of grass that are, quite literally, blades made of motion-sensitive grass. All these ideas are introduced in the film's first, furiously paced 20 minutes; but thereafter, once the narrative has been allowed to settle in and take over, the high-concept psychedelia all but disappears, leaving only cheesy dialogue, soulless characterisation and a story that is far blander than it thinks it is. In short, the greatest enemy of mystery is excessive explanation and Aeon Flux makes good sense as a concept only when it makes little sense in all other respects.
After a plague has decimated the world's population, Trevor Goodchild finds a cure and assembles the survivors in a walled paradise called Bregna. Four hundred years later the Goodchild dynasty still holds absolute power over Bregna, but in a climate of fear, with civilians mysteriously disappearing each day, rebel Monicans begin subverting the state's apparatus in hope of a revolution. When her innocent sister Una (Amelia Warner) is murdered by the police, Aeon Flux (Charlize Theron) sets out to assassinate Trevor Goodchild (Martin Csokas), only to find that a long-buried memory prevents her from carrying out the deed.
In the meantime, Trevor's brother Oren (Jonny Lee Miller) has been engaging in subversive activities of his own and as Aeon races to discover the truth about Bregna and her own link to Trevor, the other Monicans - including her friend Sithandra (Sophie Okenedo) - start to suspect her of betraying them. With everyone training their guns on Aeon, the time has come to break down the walls and let in some reality.
After fattening up for her Academy Award-winning role in Monster, Theron had to slim right down again to play the limber-legged badassed assassin. Certainly she looks the part and her previous 12-year career as a ballerina has come in handy for all the aerial flipping required, but no amount of Oscar credibility or acting chops, whether from Theron herself or even the likes of Pete Postlethwaite and Frances McDormand, can lift these characters from their cardboard flatness.
The real star of the film is the beautiful visual aesthetic, from the sleek Bauhaus sets to the body-hugging costumes, with some lysergic CGI thrown in for good measure. So here the scenery chews the actors, rather than the other way round, and while the plotting may fail to engage and the many twists and revelations seem striking only in their banality, at least there is the compensation of eye candy aplenty.
In the end, Aeon Flux is not a bad film, but it runs out of ideas far too early and then struggles to distinguish itself from the Lara Croft and Matrix franchises that have influenced it (even if these were themselves influenced not a little by the original Aeon Flux animations). Had the story been condensed to a more bewildering five-minute head rush, then this would have been a masterpiece of compression, matching the giddy heights of the original MTV cartoons. As things stand, the trailer comes far closer to achieving this than the film itself.Reviewed on: 17 Feb 2006