Aeon Flux Movie Review

Music video director Anton Corbijn's video clip for industrial dance band Front 242's "Headhunter" featured a topless woman in a surreal black outfit holding a giant egg and wandering around a desolate industrial park. It's a music video that is absurdly artificial and at the same time engagingly artful.

Aeon Flux, Girlfight director Karyn Kusama's second film, is like a 95-minute remake of that video. It's visually sumptuous for no other reason than to indulge arty gluttons. And that's fine by me. I dig it, arty glutton that I am. Based on the animated short films of Peter Chung, the movie succeeds in translating Chung's fluid and sparse design. While it would be impossible to have an actress bend and slide like the heroine in the original MTV animated series, Charlize Theron is suitably acrobatic and looks great in spandex and black leather. The costumes are futuristic and the landscapes, mostly CGI, are eerily organic takes on mid-century design.

That's where Aeon Flux succeeds. Where it fails is where you would expect (and is most likely the reason why the film was not screened for critics): The script is dull, the acting monotone, and the direction pedestrian at points.

The film takes place 400 years in the future. Mankind has been relegated to a single Syd Mead-ian city where the last 5 million people on the planet live. They've segregated themselves off from the rest of the world due to a pandemic, and the deadly virus supposedly still lurks in the fronds and furry beasts that inhabit the jungles surrounding this high tech Alamo. Ah, but all is not well in this city. The dynasty of Goodchild (Marton Csoks) lords over the city, and anyone that disagrees with what the dynasty dictates, disappears. As with all good stories of this sort, there is a rebellious faction at work, eager to overthrow the Goodchilds. Called the Monicans, for no good reason, they are all black leather clad assassins (one has hands instead of feet) who do not emote and rarely have fun. The best and brightest of these rebels is Aeon Flux (Theron).

The plot of Aeon Flux is suitably circuitous, but suffice it to say that when Aeon is sent to assassinate Trevor Goodchild, she can't. A few decent twists and a few mediocre turns later and Aeon Flux quickly moves into Matrix territory. That is to say: Everything you know is wrong. That's fitting. We live in a time when people doubt, with sincerity, the role of their government and the honesty of their leaders, and Aeon Flux is yet another film mining that conspiratorial vigor. The script, however, is ham-fisted, the dialogue atrocious and meaningless. Screenwriters Phil May and Matt Manfredi know how to pace a film and think up interesting action sequences, but it's as though they've never actually spoken to human beings.

What is most striking about the film is its style. Director Kusama lets loose with bizarre images and imaginatively realized sequences, such as a jaunt through a deadly garden, that give the picture an otherworldly quality that is missing from most sci-fi fare. What I dig most about Aeon Flux is its charmingly retro ('80s) sensibility, unabashedly New Wave in form and function. For the record, this is what Logan's Run was supposed to look like.

Aeon Flux does begin clumsily. Kusama swipes too many Matrix riffs and too many music video cues to give it the edge that it needs. But she clearly knows what she likes, and when the film finally settles into its paces (during the last 40 minutes or so) Kusama really engages the material and the results are both gorgeously surreal and vacuously arty.

The DVD includestwo commentary tracks (inluding one with Theron) and five making-of featurettes.

Aka Æon Flux.

Drop and give me 1,000.

Comments

Aeon Flux Rating

" OK "

Rating: PG-13, 2005

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