Length: 93 minutes
Release Date: December 2, 2005
Directed by: Karyn Kusama
Genre: Action / Sci-Fi
There is a running joke about MTV once meaning “Music Television” because they used to play mostly music videos with a smattering of original programming on the schedule. These days, it’s hard to find music videos on MTV with the schedule filled with reality programming, but in its music heyday in the 1990s, “Aeon Flux” stood out. It was a cartoon series that premiered on the animated “Liquid Television” TV show, then had a few different runs of limited series before being retired. This film, also called “Aeon Flux,” is loosely based on that terrific cult classic MTV series.
The film stars Charlize Theron as the titular character, who lives with sister Una (Amelia Warner) on a wildly different earth in the year 2045. The backstory for this dystopian world is that in 2011, a deadly virus wiped out 99 percent of the planet’s population. There were only 5 million survivors of the virus, and 400 years later, the earth’s population is still just 5 million people. The entire 5 million, including Aeon and Una, live in a city called Bresna that has tall walls to protect them from the dangers lurking outside. The inhabitants of the city are led by Trevor Goodchild (Marton Csokas) and his violent brother Oren (Jonny Lee Miller), who keep the peace of Bresna through constant surveillance and a denial of even basic freedoms.
A resistance called the Monicans, led by the Handler (Frances McDormand) is trying to unseat the Goodchilds. When one of them kills Una, Aeon uses her masterful fighting skills to get her revenge. She had always been something of a mercenary for the Monicans, but now the fight is extremely personal. As she plots to kill the Goodchilds and restore freedom to all, she comes across some damning evidence that perhaps things are not as clear cut as she thought. There are many things that the Goodchilds were keeping from the population, some of them for good reasons. In a brave new world where her previous beliefs have been turned upside down, a shaken Aeon must figure out whose side she is on and what her next actions will be. She must choose wisely, because choosing poorly could mean her death.
Director Karyn Kusama helmed the marvelous 2000 film “Girlfight” about female boxers in a time before “Million Dollar Baby” made them acceptable. Watching the strong women of that film, it’s really no surprise that she decided to take on the monumental task of directing “Aeon Flux,” which also features multiple butt-kicking women who can take on a man double their size if need be. In the five years between “Aeon Flux” and “Girlfight,” she hadn’t directed any movies at all, so what is surprising is that she managed to helm two films with such varying points of view. “Aeon Flux” has a lot of explosions, gun battles, chase scenes and special effects, whereas “Girlfight” had almost none of these things. She makes the transition well, especially considering how unwieldy the film could have become, considering the source material.
Speaking of the source material, the original cartoon version had a different Aeon, one with a much skimpier and tighter costume that became part of its trademark look. While it is easy to have a heroine wearing next to nothing in animation, trying to do the same in a live action film just doesn’t work, so the signature look of the cartoon changed in this screen adaptation. Many hardcore fans cried foul, but the new look is much more realistic. Theron still graces the screen in several skintight catsuits; they just cover up more of her body, making her assassin seem much more realistic. It was a needed change, so critics applauded Kusama and costume designer Beatrix Aruna Pasztor for braving the wrath of the long-time fans to make the necessary changes.
Although the plot is quite different from any of the stories seen in the cartoon, there are still several elements that have been carried into the film. The movie version explores cloning, the effects of a plague and the world weariness that seems to embody almost everyone in Bresna. That weariness is especially effective in conveying the tenor of the time period. It’s the one part of the film that is universal, where people from disparate societies can all relate.
“Aeon Flux” isn’t a perfect film , but it is sufficiently entertaining and features good performances across the board. The concepts it plays with offer more than constant action, so those who enjoy cerebral films will likely be just as entertained as adrenaline junkies.
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