Aeon Flux Review
There's nothing like a good dose of doom with which to begin a science-fiction film and Aeon Flux is no different, telling us that in 2011 a deadly infection sweeps the globe killing 99% of the population. Fearing contamination from the corpses that litter the cities and countryside, the remaining five million humans retreat into the safety of Bregna. A new city, its population owe their existence to a cure developed by the scientist Trevor Goodchild (Marton Csokas) and behind the walls of the city, Bregna exists as a perfect society under the 400-year rule of the Goodchild dynasty.
As with any perfect society, however, cracks begin to appear and a rebellion festers under the spotless streets of Bregna. Calling themselves the Monicans, these rebels strike back at the totalitarian rule of the Goodchilds, declaring to the authorities that they fight on behalf on the disappeared, whose deaths are denied by the state. Sensing that their time is now close at hand, the Monicans send Aeon Flux (Charlize Theron) to assassinate the leader of the Goodchild regime but finds her mission complicated as memories of the past come back to haunt her, memories she knows could not exist. The closer she gets to accomplishing her mission, the more she senses that is not one that can be successfully completed. Disregarding her orders, Aeon Flux works alone but now has both government troops and Monican rebels after her. How fortunate that she is the equal of them both...
There is something ludicrous about Charlize Theron dressed in black fetish gear and portraying a deadly assassin of the 25th century. Oscar-winning actress she may be, though something of a blank-faced actress/model from the likes of The Astronaut's Wife, Theron has many more options available to her now than of a couple of years ago, leaving Aeon Flux something of an odd choice for her. Adapted from the animated series first shown on MTV - being older than their target audience, I've not watched MTV since the days of Ray Cokes, Marijne van der Vlugt and Pip Dann - it's the kind of sci-fi movie that takes a ragbag collection of influences and looks to fashion something original out of them. Hence the global virus from 12 Monkeys, the female assassins of Kill Bill, the fashion sense of The Matrix and Underworld and the sci-fi conspiracy of Gattaca and, once again, The Matrix.
Keeping costs low, the only location shooting appears to have been done in Prague or a similarly Central European city - Berlin, actually - and although the acting isn't of a particularly high standard, it's decent enough to obscure some of the cracks in the story. Theron is arguably the only star in the piece - supporting actors Frances McDormand and Pete Postlethwaite appear under a terrifying ginger wig and a good deal of makeup respectively whilst a clutch of British supporting actors such as Paterson Joseph and Jonny Lee Miller bulk up the cast - and there's a strain of intelligence running through the story that isn't quite sustained by the script.
Yet, it's easy to overlook of all that when presented with Aeon Flux, much like accepting utter nonsense in videogames so long as they deliver moments of button-thrashing excitement. And videogaming is as good a comparison as any, with this being structured in the manner of many an id Software release, laying off on the action just long enough to advance the plot a touch before throwing a boss character in Aeon's way. Similarly, where the Playstation controller is the bridge between our own lack of skill in armed and unarmed combat, so too does director Karyn Kusama's editing disguise Charlize Theron's lack of the same. Theron may throw a punch but it often lands offscreen or, if it doesn't, chances are it's from a Cynthia Rockrock-styled stunt fighter. This heavy use of CG - Aeon Flux's fellow assassin has been modified by having her feet replaced by a second pair of hands - hints at much of Aeon Flux being constructed during post-production, which does take some of the thrill out of it. There's nothing as visceral here, for example, as Kusama's Girlfight but then, for a PG-13 movie, Aeon Flux is as violent a film as that suggests.
Without very much of the plot away, it is something of a willfully confusing story that doesn't reward anyone who thinks too hard about it. It hints at an intelligence but there are more holes here than those counted by Lennon in A Day In The Life and there's no reward in doing anything other than sitting back and letting it all wash over your. Candy for the eyes and a well-earned break for the mind. That said, there's nothing that will put a giddy smile on your face, nothing, for example, like the lobby shootout of The Matrix nor the 'blood bath' of Blade. Equally, though, there's not the amped-up but bloodless CG slosh of a post-Mummy Stephen Sommers film, leaving this somewhere between those two poles.
Whilst Aeon Flux won't be found sufficiently thrilling to shunt the likes of The Matrix or Blade out of one's DVD collection, it's reasonably entertaining and certainly on a par with Underworld. As such, this may not be a keeper, at least not for those struggling to keep up with the last wave of pre-HD Special Editions but for anyone who's currently at a loss in this quiet time between Paul Anderson releases, it's a pleasant enough way to pass ninety minutes. Moreso if the thought of Charlize Theron wearing an outfit that appears to have been sprayed on isn't an unpleasant one.
Aeon Flux looks and sounds largely as one expects it to - the picture is sharp, clear and with an attractive colour balance (bright in external shots, a cool blue otherwise) whilst the Dolby Digital 5.1 makes some use of the rear channels, if not quite enough. Unfortunately, there's no DTS track nor is the picture quality particularly special - being decent but otherwise quite bland, which I suspect has much to do with the amount of CG in the film - leaving this as a rather ordinary release.
Having felt disappointment at the recent release of the Special Collector's Edition of Event Horizon, it would appear that this is only Paramount's titling of any release that features more than a trailer or two. Also billed as a Special Collector's Edition, this includes the Trailer (2m15s) that comes as standard as well as a couple of commentaries, one featuring Charlize Theron and producer Gale Anne Hurd and the other co-screenwriters Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi.
Given much of the appeal of Aeon Flux will be its visual appeal, it's disappointing that Karyn Kusama hasn't contributed to either track, particularly in light of neither commentary being that interesting. Surprisingly, given Gale Anne Hurd's history of producing high-octane action movies, her commentary is a dull one, not helped by there not being anything other than a professional relationship between her and Theron, with the producer and star only politely responding to one another. The commentary with the two writers is, as one might expect, more concerned with the problems in adapting a series of experimental animated shorts for the screen and although they play off one another well, Hay and Manfredi do not offer an interesting commentary.
Other than the commentaries and trailer, there are five features, which are rather a disjointed way of approaching a traditional making-of. Creating The World (20m49s) is the opening chapter in the set, dealing with how the production brought Peter Chung's animated series to being a feature-length movie. As with the rest of the features, the writers, producers and director are interviewed, as well as Peter Chung and although it's not lacking in interest, neither does it offer anything unexpected.
Next is a feature on the Locations of Aeon Flux (14m47s), which is then followed by one on the stunts (9m03s) before The Costume Design Workshop of Aeon Flux (13m37s) brings this making-of to a close. Finally, showing that the producers of this DVD may have run out of the more interesting ideas at this point, there is a feature titled The Craft of the Set Photographer on Aeon Flux (3m34s), which is only slightly less dull than had it been called The Best Boy's Lunching Habits on Aeon Flux.
The problem with Aeon Flux is in owing so much to films like The Matrix, Blade and Gattaca, there is the issue of where its particular appeal lies. Clearly, it's not as good as either of those films but it's not quite as terrible a film as it might have been, leaving it as the sort of film that you may well glance twice at whilst queuing at a petrol station.
As for this DVD release, it's disappointing that Paramount have left such a gulf between their occasional achievements with their archive releases, such as their recent three-disc The Ten Commandments and their more recent films. Although it looks and sounds fine, Aeon Flux has been given a rather ordinary release on Region 1, suggesting, after Event Horizon and this, that the Special Collector's Editions are really nothing of the sort.