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Aeon Flux (2005)


In 1991, Korean American animator Peter Chung came up with an avant-garde animated series called Aeon Flux, featuring trippy imagery, surreal anatomy, and a gleeful shredding of many sci fi action conventions. It premiered as six-part short film on MTV’s Liquid Television, and went on to spawn two more seasons, until in 2005 the decision was made to make a live-action movie based on it.

…What.

Aeon Flux is a sci fi action film directed by Karyn Kusama, based on the Aeon Flux animated series. It stars Charlize Theron, Sophie Okonedo, Marton Csokas, Jonny Lee Miller, Frances McDormand, and Amelia Warner.

After a virus in the year 2011 wiped out 99% of the Earth’s population, all the survivors live in the walled city of Bregna, ruled by a congress of scientists headed by one Trevor Goodchild. While Bregna is utopic on its surface, people are disappearing, and everyone is plagued by nightmares. Aeon Flux, a member of an underground rebel group known as the Monicans, returns home from a mission to take out a surveillance station, only to find that her sister Una has been killed, mistaken for a Monican. Aeon is sent on another mission to assassinate Goodchild, but what she discovers will shake her perceptions of Bregna and the world she thought she knew…

I remember watching Aeon Flux on MTV during the 90’s, and while it was often surreal and trippy, it was engaging and easy to follow (even the original series of shorts, which had no dialogue). It quickly established a virus-ridden future with Aeon on one side of the battle and her nemesis Trevor Goodchild on the other. Later series threw some complexity into the mix by making them lovers as well as rivals, but it still worked. How did the movie do? Well… On the bright side, this movie is very nice to look at. Bregna is a beautiful, geometric city-state, the fashions are almost as weird as those in the original cartoons, and the technology is eye-popping and organic. While a live-action movie can’t quite capture the full spectrum of weird anatomy featured in the animation (for obvious reasons), the execution of Silandra’s hand-feet was seamless and well-done. The plot is fairly action-packed, with twists and turns that will keep you guessing even if you’re intimately familiar with the original.

Unfortunately, this last bit is mainly due to the fact that the movie is almost completely divorced from the animated series, plot-wise. If you approach this movie hoping to see Charlize Theron in the bondage gear, thigh-high boots, and ram-horn hair of the original, you are going to be sorely disappointed. The only apparent nods the movie gives the original is the deadly virus and making Aeon and Trevor lovers (from a previous lifetime, but still). Aside from this, the story just makes no damn sense once you start looking at the details. The original was trippy, but at least it didn’t confuse cloning with reincarnation, it made sense within the logic of its setting, and it had the common decency not to be so… generic. In the end, even though this movie bears the title Aeon Flux, I am left wondering if Peter Chung was anywhere near this movie when it was made.

In the end, I am left with the impression that whoever was responsible for this movie owes Peter Chung a sincere apology. They took an innovative, ground-breaking animated series and made a pretty but confusing and overall bland live-action movie out of it. Avoid this one.

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  1. Mars
    06/08/2011 at 8:45 am

    so this is “The Last of the Monicans”?

    also, this review could use a bit of editing… “he sister”, “withint he logic”, etc.

  2. 06/08/2011 at 9:02 am

    Typos fixed. Author embarrassed. 🙂

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