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 going Paramount!
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 all together.
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