Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

Currently Showing at Cinema Steve

Sunday, December 4, 2005

'Aeon Flux' is better than the marketing campaign makes it seem

Aeon Flux (2005)
Starring: Charlize Theron and Marton Csokas
Director: Karyn Kusama
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

The Monican rebels start wanting freedom from Chairman Trevor Goodchild's (Csokas) rigid system of government in the utopian citystate of Bregna, but when they send their best agent Aeon Flux (Theron) on a mission to assassinate him, she learns that there is something far more sinister lurking behind the walls of Goodchild's citadel than anyone had imagined. Ignoring the orders of her superiors, she instead launches a quest to uncover the dark secrets of Goodhild and even her own existence. She soon finds herself forced to rethink everything she thought was true, and she eventually must ally with the she believed to be her greatest enemy, Goodchild, if she is to survive.

The previews and television ads for "Aeon Flux" are misleading. They make the film appear like a clone of "The Matrix" or perhaps even "Demoltion Man," with a bit of stereotypical Hollywood revenge story thrown in. I say this is a sign that the studio is mismarketing this flick, as they made me think this was yet another example of movie makers buying a property and "improving" upon it by dumping everything that made it cool, so I almost didn't go see it.

In truth, "Aeon Flux" is a faithful adaptation of the animated series it is based on, with enough back story and additional elements added to make it sensible and worthwhile viewing if you walk in cold with no knowledge of the original series. It's got the same over-the-top stunts and action of the animated series, plus an often-times surrealistic atmosphere.

The bizarre technology of the far-future Bregnan society and the rebels that battle against it is perhaps embodied even better in the live action film than the original series. While some of the costumes made me shake my head a bit (shades of bad "Star Trek: The Next Generation" copies in some cases), the look and feel of the "Aeon Flux" world from the cartoon was also brought over faithfully, with the gorgeous Relicary, the private homes of Bregnan citizens, the food and drink that is consumed, and the towering spires around Goodchild's citadel being particularly well-done.

The oddness and often dreamlike sense that runs through everything in the "Aeon Flux" world works both for and against the movie,just like it did in the animated series. I thought "Aeon Flux" was at its best when it was presented as short films; when MTV expanded the episodes into a half-hour format, most of them were more belabored than intriguing. That same sensation started to set in for me about an hour into the film... but it only lasted for a little bit, because the filmmakers then started building toward the climax and they got my attention again.

The acting is hard to comment on in the film, because the characters in it behave as they do in the original series--almost serenely calm even while trying to kill each other. No one that appeared on screen did a particularly bad job, and I thought that both Theron and Csokas were excellent at conveying emotions despite the required restraint of the characters.

All in all, I think this is a good and interesting movie. Not a great one, but I also don't think it's as bad as I am certain critics and movie-goers are going to claim it is.

The real problem with "Aeon Flux" is in the marketing, because it sets up expectations that this movie doesn't deliver. Instead, the marketeers should have played up the conspiracy, dark secrets, and "what is the meaning of life, duty, and freedom" angles that are contained in the film, instead of focusing on a hackneyed "she was the government's top assassin... until they betrayed her!" plot element that in truth isn't even really present in the film. I think this movie, sadly, is going to bomb in the theatres, but it will truly be discovered by audiences when it appears on DVD.

For a brief summary of the original Aeon Flux (and stats for the "Big Eyes, Small Mouth" RPG), "blank">visit this page at my website.

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