That which does not kill us, makes us stranger -Trevor Goodchild
Just in time for the new live action Æon Flux movie staring
Charlize Theron, MTV and Parmount have released the original animated series on DVD.
A smart and energetic show, this is one of the very few American cartoons
that is actually made for an older audience. A fast paced action
story with a good plot and an impressive animation style, Æon Flux
has been a cult favorite for years. Now the entire cannon, from the first
Liquid Television shorts to the entire run of the half hour series,
is available in a nice boxed set which boasts several commentaries and
many other bonus features. A wonderful set that is just what the
fans have been waiting for.
Æon Flux started off as a segment on MTV's Liquid Television,
premiering with the very first episode which aired in the summer of 1991.
This short, hyper-kinetic show featured an angular, thin, and sexy girl
in a leather bikini, Æon, who had cat like reflexes and could think
on her feet. The fact that there was no dialog, and that she died
in every episode only added to the unique feel of the show. One of
the most popular segment of Liquid Television, Æon Flux
was shown during the shows first two seasons, and then graduated to full
half hour status starting in 1995. In these shows Æon talked
and actually survived each episode.
Now the definitve collection of this animated work had been released,
and the centerpiece of the set is the complete collection of the half hour
shows. These 10 episodes are very esoteric and may not be to everyone's
taste, but are outstandingly entertaining. They are filled with sex,
violence, and a good amount of action in just the right combination.
There are really only two characters who are constant through the series.
The first is Æon Flux, a spy/terrorist from the country of Monica.
Her homeland is an anarchist state with no central government. Separated
by only a wall, the country of Bregna is the exact opposite; an ordered
police state where video cameras watch the citizen's every move.
It is ruled by the other reoccurring character, Trevor Goodchild.
Æon and Trevor have a love/hate relationship that is not easily defined
or categorized. They hate each other, that much is clear, but they
are also connected in some way and get jealous easily. The plot of
each show features the intricate chess game they play with each other as
a backdrop, but the view is never quite certain what the rules are, or
who is really winning.
Set 400 years in the future, this is a very eclectic show with different
styles and storylines in each episode. Not a lot is explained, leaving
the viewer to fill in the background details on these strange societies
themselves, creating an slightly unsettling feeling that accents the show's
animation style. The show is sometimes surrealistic and always
esoteric, but also totally engrossing. It has a unique atmosphere,
something unlike any other animation. You can watch these shows over
and over catching new details and meanings as you rewatch them, and never
getting board. It's a unusual program that deserves its cult status.
Purists may have a problem with this set though. Creator Peter
Chung supervised the restoration and DVD transfer, but he did alter his
creation. Enhancements to the animation, highlights, shadows and
glows were added to all the episodes. Sometimes alternate takes were
used when he felt they worked better than the broadcast version.
More significantly, four episodes (Utopia or Deutoronopia, The Demiurge,
Reraizure, and End Sinister) had parts of the dialog rewritten
to make the characterization a little more clear and give the show a little
more continuity. The original voice actors reprised their roles,
with the exception of Clavius in the first episode. His part was
recast and all of his lines redubbed. I haven't seen these since
their original broadcast (and then I did miss some shows) but I couldn't
tell that there was a significant change in either the tone of the show
or the actor's voices in the episodes in question.
This program isn't for children, even though it's animated. The
cover, showing Æon's eye with a fly caught between the lashes like
the spines of a Venus Flytrap give a good idea of the unique angle this
show is going to take. It doesn't shy away from violence, with many people
being killed or maimed, and there is frank talk about sex. Mature
audiences will find a wonderfully enticing show though, that is not too
different to be enjoyed, yet unique enough to feel new and fresh.
This set offers the choice between a 5.1 and stereo surround mix.
I viewed it with the 5.1 option selected but spot checked the 2.0 also.
Both were very good. The 5.1 track was more dynamic and forceful,
but both tracks were free from noise and audio defects. In both cases
the dialog was clear and the range very good. The 5.1 mix made good
use of the whole soundstage there were some nice moments with sound coming
from behind the viewer. A very good sounding disc.
The full frame image looks excellent. They went back to the original
negatives and restored the image and it looks fantastic. The colors
are solid and bright, the lines are tight, and the contrast is excellent.
Digital defects are nonexistent too. This is a great looking set.
There are commentaries on almost all of these episodes with Peter Chung,
the actors, and writers. These are very good and Peter is very forthcoming
about what he was trying to do with each episode. They give a lot
of information about the show and fans are sure to love these.
The third disc if devoted to extras, and there's a good selection of
bonus material. Most importantly, there is the Æon Flux
'pilot.' This 12-minute short is really the six two-minute installments
of Æon Flux that were shown on the first season of Liquid
Television, all strung together. It's a very good story, and
works well. There's also a commentary track with Peter Chung and
Drew Neumann who composed the music.
Next up are the five Æon Flux shorts that were shown on
the second season of Liquid Television. These aren't shown
in broadcast order, but judging by Peter Chung's comments on the commentary
tracks (which they all have) I assume this was the order in which he created
them. These are: War, Gravity, Leisure, Mirror, and Tide.
There are two featurettes too. Investigation: The history of
Æon Flux is an 18-minute look at the origins of the show.
Peter Chung talks at length, as does the executive producer of Liquid
Televison Japhet Asher. This was very informative and interesting.
I especially enjoyed Chung's story of how he was inspired to create Æon
Flux by a pilot that he was working on at the time for Nickelodeon;
The Deviant Devices of Æon Flux is a 6-minute short that showcases
Æon's weapons and their capabilities.
There are several art galleries that showcase sketches, model sheets,
storyboards, and color stills along with pencil tests to two of the shorts:
Another treat that is included on this disc is a selection of other
things that Peter Chung has created. There is a promo for MTV
Loaded, an ad for the Æon Flux CD-ROM, and a commercial
for the Honda Coupe Mission.
Finally, there is an assortment of other cartoons that were shown on
Television. This mainly serves to remind the viewer how mediocre
many of the shorts were. Just about always visually creative, most
of them just don't have anything to keep the viewers attention.
This is a set that was worth waiting for. Æon Flux
is an interesting, perplexing and visually stimulating show that is well
worth watching. It has a unique feel and style that is unlike other
animated works, from America or Japan. An esoteric program, yet one
that is fun to try to unravel, this DVD set is the definitive edition.
With many informative commentaries, the original shorts, and copious art
galleries, this has everything a fan of the show could want. If you've
never seen the program before and enjoy cutting edge narratives and animation,
this would be a great blind buy. Highly Recommended.