Anyone who has suffered through the feature film version of AEON FLUX can see why distributor Paramount Pictures kept it hidden from the press before releasing it. The film is a strange anomaly for a piece of 21st century cinema — it has the feel of an old drive-in flick from twenty or thirty years previous. At the time of its release in 2005, one would have expected something this cheesy to go direct-to-video — or at most to Showtime, on late at night.
There are a few good sets and a handful of special effects, but most of the film takes the approach of old-fashioned, low-budget sci-fi movies: find some campus or development with futuristic-looking architecture and film everything there, with a bare minimum of extras in costumes that are supposed to suggest the fashion sense of four hundred years hence.
It’s hard to imagine what Oscar-winner Charlize Theron saw in the material that made her want to sign on for this junk, but she and Pete Postlethwaite (who gets a couple minutes of screen time) stand out like slumming stars amidst the otherwise no-name cast. Which wouldn’t be so bad if Theron did a good job; unfortunately, she’s frightfully dull in the title role.
The visuals have all the stylistic flair of a Nike commercial — which is fine for a commercial, but doesn’t work as big screen entertainment. Worse, the overall tone is stolid in its attempt to feel serious, in spite of the script’s manifest absurdities. The story is the usual big-brother formula; to be fair, there are a handful of twists and developments that are reasonably surprising, but they raise as many questions as they answer, and it’s clear that the whole plot is just an excuse to string together a bunch of shoot-outs and fights showing off the prowess of the lead character.
The results are not effective, even on this lowest-common-denominator level. Theron is supposed to look really hot in her black leotards, and it’s supposed to be mega-cool seeing her kick ass; but in fact, she just looks skinny, not the least bit threatening. Perhaps there’s supposed to be some visual irony in seeing such an unimposing chick beating up well-armed guards, but the fight sequences are indifferently directed — lots of fast cutting to hide the absence of convincing action.
What this film needed was a director as kooky as Ken Russell — someone who would have realized that the whole movie was junk and taken an outrageously campy approach that might have made the results good for some cheap laughs. Instead, we get the worst kind of bad movie — one that’s not bad enough to be funny, just bad enough to be dull.
This film is based on an animated series created by Peter Chung, which originally aired on MTV’s “Liquid Television.”
Aeon Flux (2005). Directed byKaryn Kusama. Screenplay by Phil Hay & Matt Manfredi, based on characters created by Peter Chung. Cast: Charlize Theron, Marton Csokas, Jonny Lee Miller, Sophie Okonedo, Frances McDormand, Pete Postlethwaite, Amelia Warner.
Copyright 2005 Steve Biodrowski