DVD Talk
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Reviews & Columns
Ultra HD
International DVDs
Video Games

Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Anime Talk
DVD Stalk
DVD Savant
High-Def Revolution
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info

DVDTalk Info
Review Staff
About DVD Talk
Newsletter Subscribe
Join DVD Talk Forum
DVD Talk Feeds

Sponsored Links

Search: For:
Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Aeon Flux (HD DVD)
Aeon Flux (HD DVD)
Paramount // PG-13 // August 8, 2006 // Region 0
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted July 31, 2006 | E-mail the Author
Buy from Amazon.com
Rent It
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
Printer Friendly
A live-action bastardization of Peter Chung's animated series for MTV, Æon Flux has the clunky

dialogue and the "...the hell were they thinking?" charm of a Sci-Fi Original Movie *, only with a $60 million budget and an Oscar-winning asskicker in the lead. Paramount knew they'd come up a cropper and avoided screening the film for critics when it plodded into theaters last year, and...yeah, it doesn't take long to see why.

Æon Flux is set in the far-flung future, hundreds of years after a devastating virus decimated virtually all of the world's population. The five million survivors live in the walled-in city of Bregna, which is either Utopia or a sprawling prison, depending on who you ask. There are those who oppose the rule of Trevor Goodchild (Melba t...I mean, Marton Csokas), a dynasty that has endured for the past four centuries, and assassin Æon Flux (Charlize Theron) has been dispatched to bring his reign to an end. When her sister (the almost-as-lovely Amelia Warner) is gunned down under suspicion of working as a subversive Monican spy, Æon sets out to exact her vengeance but soon discovers that Trevor isn't the fascist, genocidal murderer the Monicans have claimed. The truth she uncovers threatens the survival of the human race, pitting her against both the regime of the status quo and her former Monican comrades.

Æon Flux is pretty damn far out there, kind of a cross between a third year art student's acid trip and masturbatory

fan-fiction from a Buffy the Vampire Slayer LiveJournal. The stale "so bad, it's good" cliche doesn't really apply; it's so bad that it goes past good, circles back to bad, and winds up someplace completely unrecognizable. As a movie, I'm kind of consciously aware that it's lousy, but as a train wreck, there's something strangely fascinating about Æon Flux. It's too self-serious and pretentious for viewers who want a mindless popcorn action flick and too vapid, incoherent, and arbitrary for those aching for something substantial.

Æon Flux doesn't establish a set of rules for its world at the beginning, and whenever Æon gets in a scrape, the movie without fail invents some out-of-left-field way to get her out. No matter how skin-tight her costumes are, she always manages to have a canister of Bat Shark Repellant stowed away in there somewhere to deus ex machina her way out. Around half of the movie features some intriguingly off-the-wall action, although you've already caught the highlights in the trailer. As Æon skulks around Goodchild's fortress, she sprinkles small metallic discs across the ground. When she hesitates to take the killing shot and is imprisoned, Æon whistles, those discs turn to orbs, follow the sound of her voice, and detonate. In another assault, Æon and a vaguely simian sidekick with hands for feet struggle with the organic security surrounding the perimeter of the compound, including razor-edged blades of grass and hanging fruit that blast needles at intruders. Another memorable sequence has

Æon and Goodchild's chief thug teleporting back and forth in a battle royale. Why? 'Cause it looks neat. Once Trevor and Æon get entangled, the action becomes a lot more routine, consisting of standard issue running, punching, kicking, acrobatic leaping, and shooting.

The movie squanders a gifted cast that includes the likes of Charlize Theron, Pete Postlethwaite, and Frances McDormand. The performances are devoid of emotion all around, really just a series of flat, stilted, expository line readings wrapped around CGI and awkward wire stunts. At least Æon Flux is kind enough to drape Theron, for my money the most drop-dead gorgeous woman on the planet, in form-fitting, occasionally barely-there outfits. The costume and set design overall are fairly impressive in that '64 World's Fair Futurama sort of way (in the future, everything is curved), although McDormand is borderline-unrecognizable with her orange Bride of Frankenstein coiff, and the digital and live-action elements often don't blend together particularly convincingly. I appreciated a lot of the "hey, wouldn't it be kinda cool if...?" visual flair, such as a surveillance system consisting of a giant pool of water revealing events present and past, no matter how impractical it may be. Even though I like this sort of oddity, it's not as consistently far out there as the animated series, and this smaller dollop of strangeness in the context of a fairly conventional action movie doesn't really work. Either go all out or don't bother.

The movie lifts some ideas from Chung's series but doesn't manage to do anything all that interesting with 'em, and the sticky depravity that defined the animated Æon is sorely missed. Hell, any one of the Liquid TV shorts sported deeper characterization in the space of two or three minutes without a single line of dialogue.

Video: I took longer than most to buy into HDTV, but I've watched well over 150 movies in high def along with countless hours of TV shows, concerts, sports,

and video games over the past couple of years. I mention all of this not to brag, as if that's really something to cheer about in the first place, but to try to put it in perspective when I say that Æon Flux boasts the most jaw-droppingly impressive video I've seen from any source to date.

I haven't viewed anything that even approaches being in this same league -- its diverse, cranked-up palette looks amazing, black levels remain robust throughout, and the image is impossibly sharp and detailed, looking spectacular even standing an inch or two away from the screen. No compression hiccups or even the slightest imperfection in the source could be spotted. The movie does have an excessively 'digital' look to it rather than boasting the usual warmth of film, and the increased resolution makes some of the shoddier CGI look that much worse, but despite not being shot in the style I generally prefer, I was profoundly impressed by this 2.40:1 high definition image. This is the first HD DVD I've rated with a full five stars, and as vacant as the movie is, Æon Flux looks so remarkable that it's almost worth recommending just to impress the neighbors (about your home theater anyway, not your taste in movies).

Audio: The Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio for Æon Flux is as hypercaffeinated as its visuals, and sounds are constantly pinging from channel to channel, bolstered by oodles of discrete effects and smooth pans. The stilted dialogue might have been better off if it had been drowned out by other elements of this exceptionally active mix, but it emerges with crystal clarity, and bass response packs the expected wallop. About as showcase-quality as the video.

If you've read any of the other reviews of Paramount's HD DVDs on this site, you know the routine: a full-bitrate DTS track is also included along with Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 dubs in French and Spanish and subtitles in all three languages.

Supplements: The first audio commentary, which pairs Charlize Theron with producer Gale Anne Hurd, is clunky enough to wind up on

The A.V. Club's Commentary Tracks of the Damned. I could write my own review, but The Onion's staff writers are wittier than I could ever hope to be, so...read their write-up instead. Kinda smirk-worthy to see these ridiculously kinetic images flashing across the screen while Hurd and Theron sound like they're zonked out on Xanax or something. I get the sense from the commentary by writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi that they really want to savage the movie, frequently pointing out how far Æon Flux diverges from what was originally on the page. They also comment on the challenges of adapting such a stylized animated series while taking themselves far, far less seriously than Hurd.

Æon Flux includes the following featurettes, handily titled so you don't forget what movie you've been watching: "Creating a World: Æon Flux" (21 minutes), "The Locations of Æon Flux" (15 minutes), "The Stunts of Æon Flux" (9 minutes), "The Costume Design Workshop of Æon Flux" (13 minutes), and, most awkwardly, "The Craft of the Set Photographer on Æon Flux" (3 and a half minutes). It probably goes without saying that the titles are self explanatory. The featurettes do a solid job of providing the key information from the commentaries in a much more condensed fashion.

These featurettes are particularly well-made, and I especially appreciated the fact that they delve in-depth into areas most DVDs and HD DVDs ignore. For one, I can't recall ever seeing the set photographer get any face time, and Jasin Boland dispels some of the myths associated with a photographer's job and shows off some of the tools of the trade. And yes, that is his some of his work scattered around this review. The costume design featurette discusses the process of designing and producing the wardrobe used in the film, and I was particularly interested to learn how the couple hundred extras were creatively clothed without busting the movie's comparatively slim budget. The stunt featurette is really more about the training that the three female leads undertook than the stunts themselves, but there's still a good deal of substance to it. I'd never really stopped to think about the locations in the film -- I incorrectly assumed a lot of the backdrops were purely digital -- but the disc includes a fifteen minute featurette that runs through a Brazilian city that's eerily remiscent of Bregna as well as the sometimes centuries-old buildings in Berlin that stood in for the futuristic backdrop of the movie. "Creating a World" seems like it would wind up being the traditional making-of overview, but its emphasis is primarily on the story, especially the movie's view of the future.

The lone high definition extra is a 1.85:1 theatrical trailer.

Conclusion: Æon Flux uses its digital effects budget as a crutch for shoddy storytelling and agonizingly dull characters. Æon Flux may be worth a rental to show off what HD DVD is capable of or just to ogle Charlize Theron, but it's really not worth buying. Rent It.

* Yeah, I know it's probably lazy to rehash the Sci-Fi Original Movie jab from my Doom review, but I'm not feeling motivated enough to come up with anything original.

Standard image disclaimer: The images in this review were lifted from the official movie site and do not necessarily reflect the appearance of this HD DVD.
Popular Reviews
1. Cary Grant Collection
2. Breezy
3. Clockwise
4. Spawn of the North
5. The Sign of the Cross
6. A Different Story
7. The Mirror Crack'd
8. Dr. Who and the Daleks
9. First Snow
10. Carole Lombard Collection I (Fast and Loose / Man of the World / No Man of Her Own)

Sponsored Links
DVD Blowouts
Alien [Blu-ray]
Buy: $19.99 $9.99
Sponsored Links
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Copyright 2020 DVDTalk.com All Rights Reserved. Legal Info, Privacy Policy, Terms of Use,