Although not the film it could have been, "Aeon Flux" still has its moments and is not deserving of the "Catwoman" comparisons some offered. The picture is the feature film adaptation of Peter Chung's bizarre and fascinating early 90's MTV anime series (which was "Ĉon Flux"), which featured the heroine going on a series of missions that were each harder to understand the details of then the last.
The movie is, not surprisingly, much less vague than the series was. It's also PG-13, where I personally feel as if a more accurate translation of the series (and not in terms of Flux's barely-there outfit, but in general) would have been R-rated. It's set 400 years from now, after we're told that a deadly virus has wiped out 99% of the world's population. The survivors all live in the city/state of Bregna, which is ruled over by the Goodchild dynasty, one of whom were responsible for the cure to the virus. However, everything isn't perfect in this sleek society: people frequently vanish without a trace, snatched by the government, who watches over everyone at all times.
A small band of rebels called the Monicans has plans to overthrow the dictatorship, and they send in assassin Aeon Flux (Charlize Theron) to kill Trevor Goodchild (Martin Csokas). Flux doesn't need much convincing, especially after she finds out that the government killed her sister. However, once she actually makes it through the defenses to get to Trevor, she finds that nothing is as it seems.
Directed by the strange choice of Karyn Kusama (Kusama's only other credit is 2000's "Girlfight"), "Flux"'s main issue would be some of the action sequences. Although the majority of the action fares well, there are a couple action sequences in the film early on that seem awkwardly assembled (one sequence in particular where Theron's character must go over an "obstacle course" that includes very sharp grass felt, for use of a better description, almost "Power Rangers"-ish), making it impossible to appreciate the athleticism involved or even really see entirely what's going on.
One wonders what this project could have been like had any number of different directors been brought on. The Wachowski Brothers could have been a terrific fit, as the directors could have fully brought the anime series to life and have worked with original "Flux" director Peter Chung on "The Animatrix". Alex Proyas would have been another interesting choice and there are probably quite a few others.
The element of the movie I was least sure about actually works quite well here. Theron, who certainly is athletic enough and who is certainly a strong actress, just never seemed like an action hero. While this certainly isn't her best performance, she certainly handles the action well (she apparently did almost all of her own stunts here and was injured at one point after a stunt went wrong) and delivers enough of a performance to give some depth to a character that could have seemed too steely and surface in someone else's hands. She also looks quite striking with black hair, which gives an interesting, edgy contrast to her soft features. Supporting performances are also just good enough to work.
Operating with a budget that is mid-sized as action movies go these days, "Flux" looks pretty good, with interesting costume, set and production design. The film also offers crisp 'scope cinematography by Stuart Dryburgh ("The Recruit"). Overall, I certainly thought this movie had a lot of potential it didn't meet, but I did think it was watchable sci-fi with a fine lead performance. Pretty much the definition of "a rental."
VIDEO: "Aeon Flux" is presented by Paramount Home Entertainment in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality is not without some minor concerns, but it's generally a very fine-looking effort. Sharpness and detail are mostly excellent, as the picture looked consistently crisp and well-defined, with no inconsistency.
The main issue was the presence of some mild edge enhancement at times, causing some slight distraction. Otherwise, the picture looked largely crisp and clean, with no print flaws and no pixelation or other concerns. Colors remained bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other issues.
SOUND: "Aeon Flux" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's sound design is terrific, as the surrounds play quite a role throughout quite a few scenes, offering effective ambience, sound effects (especially during the final battle sequence) and reinforcement for the score. Audio quality was excellent, with dynamic, rich effects and crisp, clean dialogue.
EXTRAS: Actress Charlize Theron and producer Gale Anne Hurd offer the DVD's first of two full-length commentaries. Their commentary track is suprisingly low-key, with the two chatting about working with the actors, shooting on locations in Germany, effects, story and other issues. While there are a few interesting insights and tidbits on occasion, some may have a hard time getting through with the commentary's almost sleepy tone, occasional pauses of silence and some stretches that essentially just narrate what's going on in the story.
Faring better is the other commentary, with screenwriters Phil Hay and Matt Manfredini. The two seem like they're having more fun, and provide a lot of good information, such as discussion of their dealings with the studio, some of of the elements that were edited out of the picture and what they think work and doesn't work. I thought this track was a lot of fun and also provided an entertaining look at different aspects of the production. Definitely a worthwhile listen.
We also get a series of featurettes, including: "Creating a World: Aeon Flux", "The Stunts of Aeon Flux", "Costume Design Workshop of Aeon Flux", "Craft of the Set: Photographer on Aeon Flux". We also get the film's theatrical trailer and promos for other Paramount releases.
Final Thoughts: An example of a movie that had potential to be a lot more and yet isn't a total loss, "Aeon Flux" has a fine lead effort from Theron, some interesting visuals and some entertaining stretches. It's definitely not a movie without some flaws, but I thought it was certainly watchable and better than the "buzz" made it out to be. The DVD offers very good audio quality, fine image quality and a nice selection of supplements. Those interested should rent it.