I first encountered Aeon Flux on MTV's Liquid Television way
back in the day. A fast, hyper-kinetic cartoon that was as action
filled as it was short; creator Peter Chung took the best aspects from
Japanese anime and American action films and melded them together into
a set of fun and quirky shorts. (The cartoon version has been released
on DVD too. You can read my review here.)
Flash forward to 2005 and a live action version of the cartoon is released
into theaters under the same name. My initial reaction was that if
they did the film right, it would be too violent, strange, and opaque for
mainstream audiences to enjoy. If they did it wrong it would be just
another horrible Hollywood blockbuster wanna-be. I didn't get to
see the film in the week or two it was playing locally, but the negative
reviews didn't bother me so when the movie was released on Blu-ray
I jumped at the chance to see it. I really wanted to like this
movie since I enjoyed the cartoons so much, and when all was said and
done, there was really only one thing that prevented me from loving this
film: it sucked big-time.
A virus had infected the world. 99% of the population of the Earth
died before a vaccine was discovered by Trevor Goodchild. The remaining
people formed a new Utopian city, Bregna, and lived there in peace while
Goodchild looked over them.
Flash forward 400 years. Bregna is still a Utopian society, but
there are some problems. People are having strange dreams where they
remember things that they have never done, and people are starting to disappear.
This has given rise to a rebel group, the Monicans, who want to kill the
current Trevor Goodchild (Marton Coskas) running the show. In order
to do that they send their top assassin, Aeon Flux (Charlize Theron) into Goodchild's
heavily guarded private compound to murder him. But when she gets
there something odd happens: Aeon realizes that she knows Goodchild,
and he knows her too.
There's really not a lot of good in this movie. While some of
the sets were nice and a couple of the action scenes were mildly exciting,
the film as a whole is a mess. It's a case of style over substance
taken to the extreme. There's no characterization, not much plot,
and even the world that has been created doesn't make much sense.
The one overriding force in this movie is to create stylish images.
Take Aeon's first mission where she's supposed to sneak into a surveillance
building and destroy it at night. She knows the place will be heavily
guarded so she dresses in a cool looking bright white outfit. Stylish?
Yes. Practical for sneaking up on someone at night? No.
Another example is Goodchild's secret lab. He keeps it hidden in
another dimension that can be access if you have the correct device.
This is something that was lifted from the cartoon series. In that
the cross dimensional travel was used to create a whole story. In
the movie it's just used for a fight scene. That whole plot element
could have been left out and the film wouldn't have changed one bit.
The whole film was like that. The more you think about it the
more absurd and idiotic it becomes. This is a science fiction film,
but they throw science out the window. One of the semi-major plot
developments has to deal with clones remembering their previous lives.
That's stupid. Memory doesn't reside in your DNA! (Don't confuse
McConnell's experiments with flatworms with this, that's a different ball
of wax.) If it did, people would be able to remember fragments of
their parent's lives.
Another low point in the film was the dialog. It was painfully
bad. With lines like "You killed my family, so I came here to kill
you" you have to wonder if the writers used to write children's cartoons.
Compare that sentence, which Aeon speaks, with this one later on in the
film, also Aeon's: "We're meant to die! That's what makes anything
about us matter. Living like this is torture, we're just ghosts..."
The whole film is filled with that sort of tripe.
The acting isn't any better than the dialog. Now don't get me
wrong, Charlize Theron is a good actress. She won an Academy Award
for Monster; you just wouldn't know it from watching this.
There is so little to this role that even an actress of her caliber can't
do anything with the material. As it is, she and Marton Coskas are
as lively as two planks of wood.
The final nail in this film's coffin is the fact that it is hard to
get into. Even a mediocre SF film can draw the viewer into the world
that the writer and director are creating. That never happens.
There are so many unanswered questions that it's impossible to concentrate
on what little plot there is. Why can't they go outside the city?
So what if "nature has taken over"? Why are people willing to risk
their lives in a rebellion when they are living in a perfect society?
Why is there no crime? Where do they raise the food for five million
people if there are no crops? Why don't they turn the little rolling
explosive's to Trevor's voice and make them blow him up? After viewing
it did anyone really think this was a good film?
Alright, so the movie sucked. How does it look in high definition?
Very good actually. The 2.40:1 image was taken from the digital master
so there wasn't an actual print involved to mess up the transfer.
That means there are no scratches, dirt, grain, or other pesky film defects
to mar the video. On top of that the image itself looks superb.
The colors are the first thing that you'll notice. They are solid,
bright, and very vibrant. The blacks are deep and accurate too, which
is a good thing because Theron spends most of the film in a black jumpsuit.
Detail was very good and the image had a good amount of that HD 'pop' that
makes a film look so impressive.
The video isn't prefect however. It seems like every time I come
across a BR disc that looks really, really good there's a glaring defect
that really bothers me. In this case it was posterization.
When colors change from one shade to another it isn't a gradual imperceptible
change, the colors take it in steps with different tones distinctly visible
in bands. This happened a few times, always in large areas of color.
There was some minor digital noise also, but it wasn't distracting like
the posterization was.
Paramount gives viewers a DD 5.1 tracks in English, Spanish, and French
as well as an English DTS track. I screened the movie with the DTS
track blaring and it sounded very good. The range was excellent,
the sub got a good workout and there were no audio defects present.
The entire soundstage was used to great effect, with bullets whizzing from
speaker to speaker, effects panning nicely across the room, and even some
voices coming from the rear. The action scenes were really enhanced
by the soundtrack; it put the viewer right in the middle of the action.
A top notch audio track that I can't find fault with.
This BD also includes a good assortment of bonus material, and actually
includes all of the extras from the SD release of the movie. Good
First off there are two audio commentaries, the first by producer Gale
Anne Hurd and Charlize Theron, and the second by writers Phil Hay and Matt
Manfredi. The first of these was horrible. Theron and Hurd
talk over the film with all of the excitement and energy of a golf commentator.
What they say isn't too interesting either; they both claim to like the
film. The boring comments and general lack of enthusiasm are sure
to put the most hard-core insomniac to sleep.
The track by the writers was a bit more interesting. They frankly
discuss what was changed and the challenges to bring the cartoon to the
big screen. While this isn't a great track, it's much better than
the first one.
There are also five featurettes: Creating a World, The Locations,
The Stunts, The Costume Design Workshop, and The Craft of the Set
Photographer. These are all self explanatory and do a good job
of discussing the various aspects of the film focusing on the look and
action sequences. A nice set of bonuses that run about 45 minutes
Aeon Flux had a lot of potential. The cartoon series was wildly
creative, action filled, and had a good amount of humor. This film
discarded all of the good aspects of the original series and instead turned
it into a bland film that is a chore to watch. It's best if you skip