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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Aeon Flux (review)

Flux You

There’s exactly one good moment in Aeon Flux that I can see: It’s the tiniest bit of throwaway stuff amidst disaster on a grand scale, but still, it’s there. Charlize Theron’s tough-chick assassin/rebel Aeon is actually, like, rescuing a guy, and a powerful, strong, smart guy at that, and as they run along crowded city streets, she’s the one leading him along by the hand, and when he gets shot, she’s the one supporting his injured body, slumped under his weight as they move — she’s the one protecting him. She’s strong, sure, but he’s not weak, just vulnerable and lost, and it’s just a cool little reversal of clichéd depiction of the genders that understands that guys don’t automatically have to be emasculated when women get powerful and capable.
Look, I’m stretching to find something positive to say about Aeon Flux cuz I really wanted to like it. Even after the very bad sign of it not being screened in advance for critics. Cuz Charlize keeps growing on me, and you can see that she approached this babe from the world of animation with the right mix of seriousness and silliness, like she wants to do the character justice but recognizes at the same time how silly she really is. Cuz director Karyn Kusama (Girlfight) clearly has a flair for cinematic style and visual elan. Cuz I’ve finally pretty much decided, after a lot of vacillating through a lot of movies, that I like Marton Csokas, and he doesn’t sneer so much here as he usually does, which is a good thing — he’s got a great and genuine smile, it turns out.

Theron and Kusama and Csokas make me want to not be mean, but damn, this is some dumb crap. I’ve never seen the MTV animated series upon which this is based, but from what I can gather from online episode guides, a whole lotta stuff has been left out and truncated and just plain changed from the source material, and it’s obvious. This could have been, maybe, a rich and fascinating invented place to explore and hang out in, but instead it feels like exactly what it is: a bullshit Hollywood excuse for science fiction. It’s absolutely preposterous, this future world of the year 2415, in which all the surviving peoples of the Earth, five million of them, are living in one walled city after a massive plague four centuries earlier, and these must be the people most drugged into submission ever for not one of them to have ever, in all that time, wanted to go outside that wall. And yet there’s no sense at all of what stops the malcontents from venturing out on their own except that benevolent dictator Trevor Goodchild (Csokas: The Great Raid, Kingdom of Heaven) loves them all so much. No amount of propaganda about what a mess the world outside the walls is could possibly stop everyone in their curious tracks. People are just too damn ornery and nosy, except in crap movies like this one.

Preposterousness in itself isn’t necessarily the death of fiction, especially science fiction — like the major scientific blunder the film makes with regard to one aspect of genetic science, which, if you can get past it, doesn’t automatically have to kill the vibe. (I won’t reveal the nature of this blunder because it’s kind of a Big Secret, and the prospect of Charlize in spandex for 90 minutes is sure to drive some poor souls to the multiplex, and I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for them.) But Aeon Flux doesn’t make sense on its own terms: Not only are the people of this last city so ridiculously stupid that they have not noticed the giveaway aspect of the Goodchild regime that is an instant clue to the Big Secret it’s supposedly trying to keep, but the Goodchild regime is so idiotically complacent in its “security” that it cannot possibly have lasted so long against the highly organized and motivated resistance of which Aeon (Theron: Monster, The Italian Job) is a member.

It makes ya wanna cry, when science fiction goes so wrong like this. SF don’t get no respect from Hollywood because people still go see it even when it’s this moronic. Overly hormonal teenage boys are ruining things for everyone… not that Charlize isn’t gorgeous, but c’mon: have some self-respect, guys. Or at least stop ruining it for the rest of us, who need some decent story along with the eye candy.

Why there is a resistance is also a matter of some debate, because everything frankly seems really cool in this future world: it looks like Star Trek‘s Federation utopia, where everyone is attractive and dresses great and lives on weird alien fruit and there’s, like, manicured gardens everywhere. There’s some vague chatter about “something being wrong with the world,” but hell, that could be said about any society humans have ever lived in. And still, you don’t see me plotting to assassinate our Glorious Leader, do you? Then again, I could never pull off that absurd nightie that Charlize can get away with.

You know what Aeon Flux ends up looking like, with all its abundant style and all its lack of substance and all its disdain for logical editing? A high-concept fashion spread. The models all pull impossible and unnatural poses and the clothes are all ludicrous, and everyone is selling a little piece of their raw and arty soul for riches and fame. How does a Kusama go from the funky and strong Girlfight to this? Why is a Theron so desperate to be an action heroine that she’ll descend to this? Such are the mysteries that keep me at this game long past the point when any sane person would have long since given up.


MPAA: rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and sexual content

viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb
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