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While it flopped at the box office and was almost instantly labeled as a bad movie, Aeon Flux is more intelligent and more interesting than most people were lead to believe by the action oriented trailers and bad press it received during its theatrical release. The movie is no classic, and at times it definitely takes the dumb way out emphasizing action over intelligence, but it gets enough right that it's at least an entertaining movie, even if it doesn't come as close at it should have to the potential that the concept could have allowed.
Over four hundred years from now , a plague will break out and destroy almost all of mankind save for a few survivors who whole themselves up in a walled city named Bregna. Outside the walls, mother nature has reclaimed the planet Earth and the citizens of Bregna, a utopia of sorts, have a healthy fear of what lies outside the protective boundaries in which they carry on their day to day lives. The main man in charge of Bregna is Trevor Goodchild (Marton Coskas), a direct descendant of the man who created the antidote to the plague which saved the survivors who have kept the human race alive to this day. He's looked up to by most of the citizens of Bregna, but there are a few who have clued in to the fact that something is amiss in the seemingly perfect city he and his family have created.
One of these people is Aeon Flux (Charlize Theron), who is part of a gang of rebels known as the Monicans, a group of people who know that the government in power is responsible for a few unusual kidnappings in which their subjects are quickly scurried away and never seen or heard from again. The Monicans are smart and savvy enough to have figured out a way into the government headquarters and that's where Aeon comes into play. Her sister, recently a victim of one of these kidnappings, is gone and seeing as she was the only thing that Aeon really cared about, she shows now fear when she's assigned with breaking into the seemingly impenetrable fortress and assassinating Trevor Goodchild, for the greater good of the people who remain ignorant as to their oppression. Aeon teams up with Sithandra (Sophie Okonedo), and the two start their mission but once Flux makes it inside, she quickly learns that what she thought to be the truth might just be one more elaborate lie and that the reality she thought she knew is in fact not reality at all…
Based on the strange animated series from Peter Chung that used to air on MTV of all places, Aeon Flux does an interesting, if not entirely successful, job of blending the 'everything is not as perfect as it seems' feature of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World with the action/sci-fi movie clichés we've come to expect from big budgeted Hollywood productions and as such, it's a little conflicted. The film wants to be intelligent, it wants to have something to say and it tries really hard at times to prove some sort of point but it gets lost in and amongst the bullets and stunts and explosions and special effects. Now, granted, telling a story about a futuristic assassin requires a certain amount of gun play and a certain amount of action to pull in its audience but this is a rare exception where a quieter film might have been a more interesting one. The premise itself is completely ridiculous so be prepared to throw realism to the wind before you even press the play button but if you're willing to accept the fact that this is a complete and utter comic book movie you can have a lot of fun with it but the fact remains, the story gets lost in spots. Aeon Flux is obviously getting in tune with her maternal side, she wants love and the possibility of motherhood but she goes about getting this by popping caps in everyone's asses and leaping through the air with guns a'blazing. This creates a character that is almost too complex for the movie in which she stars and the film can't quite make up its mind if it wants us to take it seriously or not.
That being said, Theron looks great in the lead. The costume designers have done a very good job on her for the movie and while she isn't as fetishy looking or as nearly naked as her cartoon counterpart, she's still instantly recognizable as Aeon Flux. The wire work and action scenes are impressive, even if they feel a bit too much like they've been yanked out of The Matrix at times – while there isn't a lot of slow-motion 'bullet time' in the movie, these set pieces are similar on almost every other note. The set design and location work is also excellent and Aeon Flux is a very good looking movie in every capacity. Director Karyn Kusama, best known for Girlfight, brings a uniquely female perspective to what is normally a male dominated genre but ultimately Aeon Flux buries its high concepts in bullet ballet and flashy visuals that distract from the message and end up burying the intelligence that parts of the film really show. It's not a bad film, it's still very entertaining and plenty easy on the eyes, but one can't help but lament the fact that it could have been so much more.The DVD
The anamorphic 2.35.1 transfer looks very, very nice on this DVD release. Blacks are solid, colors are very well defined and flesh tones look lifelike and natural. Compression artifacts and edge enhancement are almost non-existent and there isn't a whole lot to complain about. There's plenty of both foreground and background detail present in the image from start to finish and color reproduction is drop dead gorgeous in certain scenes. There's a tiny hint of aliasing present in a few scenes but other than that there aren't really any digital transfer issues worth noting aside from some very slight edge enhancement here and there. Print damage is pretty much non-existent and while there is some fine film grain in one or two spots, that's okay as it isn't ever once overpowering or distracting in the least. Aeon Flux looks damn good on this DVD.Sound:
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound tracks are available in both English and French and optional subtitles are available in English and French and a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround track is supplied in English only. The surrounds are used very actively during most of the key action scenes and it makes for some pretty atmospheric viewing. Dialogue is clean, clear and easy to follow (as long as you're okay with the accents – they're really not that difficult…) and the sound effects and the background score are mixed into the movie nicely without ever overpowering the performers as they speak. This is a pretty aggressive mix with bullets coming at you from every direction during the climactic finale and plenty of boom in the lower end with most of the dialogue coming from the front center speaker. It's a very well designed mix, and if you want something to show off your surround sound system, this wouldn't be a bad choice at all. Subtitles are provided in English and Spanish and an English closed captioning option is available for the feature.Extras:
First up is a commentary track with star Charlize Theron and the film's producer, Gale Ann Hurd. The two cover a fair bit of ground on this track, but they do so without any humor and in a rather dry, very matter-of-fact manner that winds up putting the listener to sleep. A bit more enthusiasm would have made this track a winner as the information is good – we learn about how Theron came on board, what she likes about the character, as well as how certain participants were chosen for the difficult task of bringing a cartoon character to life on the big screen.
Thankfully the second commentary turns out to be a lot more fun and a lot more interesting. Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, the two screenwriters attached to the film, fill us in on what they did and didn't like about the finished product with a refreshing sense of honesty. It's a blunt track ,they tell it like it is, but they keep a sense of humor about themselves that makes this fun to listen to as well as pretty educational at the same time. We hear from them how the studio wanted or at certain times insisted on a few changes in the story, and how they had to accommodate them even if it wasn't ideal from their side of the spectrum and we learn how they tried to keep the spirit of the cartoon alive while branching out into what is essentially a stand alone story that doesn't play with the continuity of the animated series much at all.
Once you're done with the commentary tracks you'll find five different featurettes that explore different aspects of the film's production. The first featurette is entitled Creating A World at twenty-one minutes in length it explores in a fair bit of detail how director Karyn Kusama went about creating the look of the film with the art department and design department. Series creator Peter Chung shows up here as do Hay and Manfredi, to talk about the look they were going for in the story and how they all hoped to effectively bring an animated character to life in a believable (at least in the context of the story) fashion without sacrificing the energy and style that the cartoon series had going for it. They also talk about how they wanted the future to look utopian, at least in terms of cleanliness and brightness, rather than the grim outlook that so many science fiction films have of what's to come.
The Locations Of Aeon Flux is a fifteen-minute long documentary on the Berlin locations that the bulk of the movie was shot on. This segment covers how a few different options were considered before Berlin was finally settled on and why it happened this way as well as how they got the futuristic look out of the locations that they were able to secure for the movie. It's a pretty interesting featurette as we get a chance to see the locations out of context, and it's neat to be able to compare them against how they look in the finished version of the movie.
A nine-minute featurette entitled simply The Stunts Of Aeon Flux clues us in as to the physical training that Charlize Theron had to go through in order to be able to do as many of her own stunts for the film as she did. Though this doesn't cover the injury that she got on set, it does cover some of the wirework and how she had to get into shape and really practice to be able to pull it all off.
The Costume Design Workshop Of Aeon Flux gives us a look at the design work that went into creating the futuristic look for the characters in the movie. While Aeon was definitely 'covered up' quite a bit compared to her cartoon counterpart, Theron definitely does look the part in the movie and the supporting characters have all got pretty fancy duds for their roles as well – here we learn about the people who made all that happen for roughly thirteen and a half minutes.
The last featurette is The Craft Of The Set Photographer On Aeon Flux and at under four minutes it is pretty brief, however, it covers the role of someone who doesn't usually get noticed much in the supplements department, that of the set photographer. Here we learn what a set photographer does and why it's important to the look of the movie and it's an interesting little piece that wraps things up nicely.
Rounding out the extra features are a trailer for the film and a few trailers for other, unrelated Paramount DVD releases, in addition to animated menus and chapter stops.Final Thoughts:
It's not a classic and it could have and should have been a whole lot more than it turned out to be, but Aeon Flux is a reasonably entertaining and slick looking action film with plenty of style even if there isn't so much substance. Paramount's DVD looks and sounds fantastic, making this one a very solid rental, maybe a marginal recommendation for die-hard fans of the cartoon series who need to collect everything related to it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.