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Film Review: ‘Aeon Flux’: So-so anti-science sci fi flick

Aeon Flux

5 out of 10
Aeon Flux (2005)

Aeon Flux is a hit-and-miss live-action big screen adaptation of a series of animated shorts that first appeared on MTV’s Liquid Television series (which also spawned Beavis and Butthead and the film Office Space) in 1991. The film succeeds in capturing the look and feel of the original cartoon, which was virtually a silent film – but fails where it departs from the original as cheesy dialogue mars an otherwise entertaining film.

Imagine a society 400 years in the future when the entire population of Earth exists behind the walls of Bregna, a single city of 5 million. The rest of humanity has been killed off long ago by disease associated with industrial activity.

This is the world of Aeon Flux, starring Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron in the title role. She plays a Monican agent working covertly to overthrow the oppressive government, led by the Goodchild dynasty.

The Goodchilds are similar to the old Chinese dynasties and rule with a caring, iron fist. Under their care, Bregna has grown into a very well-manicured and very ordered society.

Imagine Singapore – where instead of being publicly caned (beaten) for violating laws after the fact, the landscape itself smacks down violators of the social order. You don’t need ugly “Keep of the Grass” signs when the grass itself is beautiful, but razor sharp enough to cut through flesh, bone and soles of shoes.

The plot of the film revolves around Monican agents trying to take out the Goodchild dynasty – and a mysterious ailment (of which only the government knows) that threatens the few remaining humans.

Directed by Karyn Kusama, whose only other film was 2000 female boxing movie Girlfight, and starring Oscar winners Theron and Frances McDormand (Fargo) as well as Oscar-nominated Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda), the film has a definite feminist slant. And that is a good thing for this movie.

In what could have devolved into a fetishist exploitation flick with scantily-clad women with guns (like some of the scenes in Sin City), Kusama pulls off a lyrical film that is stunning in its visual beauty, but cold and distant – like the call of a mourning dove.

This cold distance means Aeon Flux is not a film that will find a mass audience. It is more of an art house science fiction film, with more in common with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Brazil than Star Wars or War of the Worlds.

Aeon Flux also is a little heavy-handed in its anti-science and anti-genetically modified themes. Bregna takes lethal measures to keep wilds of nature from encroaching upon its over-manicured walls.

But the weakest point in Aeon Flux is the writing. Audience members were openly snickering or even outright mocking some of the clichéd dialogue. I haven’t sat through dialogue this bad since George Lucas unleashed Attack of the Clones teen angst love scene between Anakin and Padme upon us a few years back.

The screenplay by the writing team of Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi (Crazy/Beautiful and The Tuxedo) steals many of the one-liners from Peter Chung’s original MTV series, but fails to capture any of the excitement or cutting-edge mood and attitude.

This flaw is probably why the studio chose not to prescreen Aeon Flux to film critics. Probably from fears of dealing with reviews like “Aeon Sucks.” Because, frankly, parts of this movie really do suck.

Thankfully, the stunning art direction and top-quality acting save this film. It is worth seeing for the visuals alone.

Overall: 5 out of 10
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre:Science Fiction
Sex: Adult themes, one minor sex scene which doesn’t show any nudity and was less graphic than much of what is seen on network television and much less graphic sex than what was shown on the original MTV animation effort.
Violence: Fantasy violence. Martial arts-style fighting. Firearm-related deaths.
Special Effects: Very well done

Charlize Theron … Aeon Flux
Sophie Okonedo … Sithandra
Frances McDormand … Handler
Marton Csokas … Trevor Goodchild
Jonny Lee Miller … Oren Goodchild
Pete Postlethwaite … Keeper
Stuart Townsend … Monican Agent

David Speakman

David Speakman has spent more than two decades as a writer/editor, photographer, graphic designer and manager of creative teams in broadcast, print and the Internet. His education is in journalism, graphic design, organizational communication and law.
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