Aeon Flux (2005)
“Perfect Future Shock”
Director: Karyn Kusama
Cast: Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand, Sophie Okonedo
Synopsis: Aeon Flux is a mysterious assassin working for the Monicans, a group of rebels trying to overthrow the government. When she is a sent on a mission to kill the Chairman, a whole new mystery is found.
If ever a film had some kind of death wish, Karyn Kusama’s Aeon Flux was it. Not only did its producers neglect to provide critics with a preview screening before its release, thereby aggravating a goodly number of the precious souls into preparing their axes for grinding before even seeing one frame, they also chose to retain only the barest details of the MTV cartoon series that served as its source, thereby alienating hordes of fan-boys for whom even the prospect of Charlize Theron – one of the world’s most desirable women – in figure-hugging spandex was no consolation. The writing was truly on the wall, so when Aeon Flux was delivered unto the world in December 2005, it was inevitable that it would be transported directly to the abattoir for immediate, bloody, slaughter. Which is a shame because, speaking as someone who had never even heard of the animated series prior to the release of this movie, it really isn’t too bad. It’s no ground-breaking or artistic masterpiece, but I’ve seen a lot worse.
The story takes place in 2415 in a utopian city called Bregna, in which live the descendants of the survivors of a devastating plague which killed 99% of the human population four hundred years before. Bregna is the last refuge of civilisation in a world now wholly reclaimed by nature. Exactly why nobody has ever felt the urge to venture beyond the city walls is something of a mystery seeing as life in Bregna seems to be pretty dull. People spend most of their time aimlessly wandering around the sterile-looking city and nobody seems to work. That’s the reason for the rise of an underground rebel movement called The Monicans which rails against ‘trading freedom for a gilded cage’ under the benign dictatorship of Trevor Goodchild (Marton Csokas).
Aeon Flux (Theron) is a member of the Monicans, whose commitment to the cause is strengthened ten-fold when her sister is killed by security forces operating under the command of Oren (Johnny Lee Miller), Goodchild’s somewhat hot-headed younger brother. She is given the task of assassinating Goodchild while he is rehearsing a speech, but come the time she blows it, hesitating while she has him in her sights long enough for someone to sneak up behind her and whack her over the head. The reason she hesitated is because Goodchild behaved like he knew her and, even more to the point, the sight of him triggered some hazy memory within her — so hazy, in fact, that the screen goes all blurry when we see it. Naturally, all is not as it seems in Bregna. Trevor Goodchild’s apparently loyal brother is plotting against him, and when Goodchild sleeps with Aeon, little brother sees it as the perfect pretext for orchestrating a coup.
Aeon Flux is probably a better movie for those with no preconceived ideas of what to expect. Apparently, Aeon died at the end of every self-contained cartoon episode, Bregna and Monica were separate countries sharing an adjoining wall, and Trevor Goodchild was the villain of the piece. But Hollywood conventionality demands a romance, a linear storyline and cool action set pieces, which Kusama duly strives to supply. The action starts strongly, with a particularly effective breach of the Goodchild regime’s security, but — apart from an invigorating teleported clash between Aeon and her former ally Sithandra (Sophie Okonedo) — grows weaker as the movie goes on, leaving us with an anti-climactic and completely predictable final showdown.
The film’s vision of the future is a strangely shapeless one, with no distinct theme. The city of Bregna looks like a combination of some twelfth-century Sultan’s gardens, an exclusive adults-only holiday resort and Milton Keynes on a sunny day, and the fashions on display reference virtually every era from the 1700s onwards. But the movie does have some neat ideas (Sithandra’s feet, for example) which could have made the movie something special, had there been more of them. Theron does well in the lead role, gracefully negotiating the difficult job of playing a poker-faced action hero in a movie that always feels as if it’s desperate to shed its serious tone for something altogether more spoof-like.