Aeon Flux (2005)

Rating: *
Release Date: 12/2/05
Producer: Gale Anne Hurd
Director: Karyn Kusama
Music: Graeme Revell
Cast: Charlize Theron, Marton Csokas, cameo by Frances McDormand

Nearly ten years after it was originally announced, Peter Chung's "Aeon Flux" (1993) finally hits the big screen. Four hundred years in the future, mankind is still trying to recover from a virus that wiped out 90% of the population. The survivors live inside of walled Utopian cities, ruled by the enigmatic savior of mankind, Trevor Goodchild (Marton Csokas). But there is social unrest in the form of the Monican Rebellion, and they send their best operative, Aeon Flux (Charlize Theron), to assassinate Goodchild and end his regime. Not surprisingly, things aren't always what they seem...

Alright, let's not beat around the bush - "Aeon Flux" is BAD. When seeing Charlize Theron shooting guns and wearing black spandex can't even redeem a film, then it's clearly a lost cause, and that's a damn shame. Nearly every aspect of the film is incompetent - bad lighting, bad editing, uninteresting camera work, uninspired set design, awful costume design, terrible fight choreography, weak special effects, dumb dialog, and unconvincing acting. The production values are pretty poor and the whole thing feels like a low budget TV movie. The only bright spots in the entire film are Ms. Theron's impeccable makeup and Graeme Revell's "X-Men" (2000) inspired music score. While the plot has some nifty science fiction elements in it, it all too quickly devolves into a sappy love story of all things. What is this, "Fortress?"

Granted, the filmmakers had a considerable challenge in trying to adapt Peter Chung's classic character and mind-bending situations into ninety minutes of palatable live action entertainment, and I think they were doomed to fail. Aeon Flux can only exist in her own bizarre reality, and that reality can only be realized through extreme animation. The original "Aeon Flux" shorts were pure blasts of sci-fi fueled adrenaline, wrapped in bizarre and often disturbing imagery. Their complete lack of cohesive narrative made Aeon's adventures compelling and psychologically challenging, and often times completely incomprehensible. That was its charm (apart from the extreme girls with guns imagery). The "Aeon Flux" TV series tried to expand on the mythology of the animated shorts by adding other characters, back stories, and spoken dialog, but couldn't maintain the undiluted appeal of the original material. You simply can't expose an audience to that same level of weirdness for more than 5-10 minutes without losing them. And now with a full length feature film, the only way to keep the audience engaged is to have a dumbed down linear story that's easy to follow. Additionally, the transition from animation to live action is a difficult one. It makes Aeon human and fallible, instead of the outrageous superhuman spy that she is in the animated features. Her bizarre world becomes familiar and recognizable, which also makes it boring and uninteresting. Additionally, certain erotic aspects of the animation just come off as disgusting with real people involved. In short, I don't think it's possible to successfully adapt the original material to the full length film format.

That said, I still think they could have done a MUCH better job of at least making it attractive and interesting to watch. As I mentioned before, the costume design is terrible and meets the unimaginable challenge of not being able to flatter Ms. Theron's beautiful body. And the shoes! God are they awful! Who's idea was that? And then to add insult to injury, she even makes a comment in the film that she likes her shoes. Ugh. So, with the lovely Charlize Theron being not quite so lovely as she could be, we could at least hope for some good ass-kicking action scenes, right? Wrong. The gunplay sequences are woefully inadequate and the fight choreography is appalling. The camerawork is sloppy, the editing is choppy, and they cut away from every hit. It just looks like a lot of jumping around and hand waving to me. It's very disappointing, but not too surprising, given that second unit director Alexander Witt also achieved the unthinkable by making Milla Jovovich look bad in "Resident Evil: Apocalypse" (2004). The film also reinforces the increasingly popular fallacy that bullets aren't dangerous and that at their worst, getting hit with one might just sting a little. The one good thing I can say about the film is that it strays so far from the source material, that I don't even consider it to be associated with the beloved series. It's just another bad movie that's instantly forgettable.