01/01/2006. Contributed by Frank Ochieng
The standby decision not to screen Aeon Flux for critics may have been justified, decides Frank. After all, why would Paramount Pictures risk the uneasy notion of having sceptical movie reviewers bad-mouth their sci-fi jolting gibberish which could hurt the box office potential of seeing desirable Charlize Theron bend like a rubber pretzel in a tight-fitting black outfit?
Aeon Flux (2005) Paramount Pictures
The standby decision not to screen Aeon Flux for critics may have been justified. After all, why would Paramount Pictures risk the uneasy notion of having sceptical movie reviewers bad-mouth their sci-fi jolting gibberish which could hurt the box office potential of seeing desirable Charlize Theron bend like a rubber pretzel in a tight-fitting black outfit?
Well, here's some food for thought. First, who really listens to critics when they tongue-lash mindless escapist fantasies such as the synthetic yet surreal Aeon Flux? Secondly, why would giddy fan-boys (or ogling oldsters for that matter) eliminate a chance at developing a cheap thrill in watching confrontational babes kick their way through this flimsy futuristic fable? And did we already mention witnessing Theron in skin-hugging get-ups acting like a curvaceous contortionist experiencing PMS?
Based on the MTV animated series, Aeon Flux tells the tumultuous tale of our titular harried heroine (Theron) who's hired to eradicate the governmental leader Dr. Trevor Goodchild (Marton Csokas) for his adverse influence on their controlled, conservative society. It's hard to fathom that reliable filmmaker Karyn Kusama (Girlfight) could concoct such a convoluted and clunky production armed with pseudo-stylistic action sequences and overdone special effects. Certainly it doesn't hurt the flick's credibility to include Oscar-winning actresses such as Theron (Monster) and Frances McDormand (Fargo) and previous Oscar nominees Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda) and Pete Postlethwaite (In the Name of the Father).
Granted that Aeon Flux is meant as a fly-by thrill ride where surging superwomen are strutting their stuff in the name of frenzied frivolity. However, Kusama never quite establishes an imaginative foundation for this vacuous vehicle beyond the colourful back flips and manufactured brooding moments.
Merely reduced to the arbitrary sentiments of an overplayed video game, Aeon Flux follows the trials and tribulations of this skilful Monican agent pegged to bring down the aforementioned Goodchild and other shady officials. The setting is in the city of Bregna and the year is 2415. There are clones roaming around because of the diseased original folks that are branded sterile. The blame, at least in the mind of Aeon and other rebellious agents, is that Goodchild and his ilk are responsible for such atrocities. Hence, "The Handler" (Frances McDormand) calls upon Aeon to carry out her assigned assassination of Dr. Goodchild.
No doubt that Aeon Flux can perform her duties to infiltrate Goodchild's establishment and complete her deadly agenda. However, a couple of monkey wrenches are thrown into the plan when Aeon tangles with the baddies yet handles them resourcefully through her combative athleticism. Still, she senses an inability to get the drop on Goodchild when his interfering evil brother Oren (Jonny Lee Miller) dictates the agenda. Apparently Oren will stop it at nothing to destroy Trevor if it means keeping the disease's cure secretive and away from the inquisitive Aeon. Naturally, Oren is running the show and must prevent Aeon Flux from raining on his opportunistic parade.
Aeon Flux is cohesively pleasing when it showcases its snappy set designs and eye-popping costumes. The choreographed fight scenes are inspired but you've seen it all before in countless kinetic actioners. Kusama and screenwriters Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay spin an off-kilter future adventure that's funky, flashy and feisty. However, the dialogue feels downright dreary and the supporting players simply go with the flow in this heavy-handed premise.
Theron appears very intriguing when demonstrating her showy calisthenics. Sporting a Louise Brooks hairdo and channelling the reminiscence of a slinky nihilistic German yoga instructor crammed in a dark tutu, Theron is a high voltage sex-pot with a self-righteous mean streak. She's captivating to look at yet Kusama never gives her a genuine tortured psyche to go along with her explosive physicality. Sophia Okenedo frequently rises to the occasion as a fellow feminine fighting machine named Sithandra with an ambiguous connection to Aeon Flux. And the great Pete Postlethwaite languishes in the wings as "The Keeper", an oracle whose weary eyes have seen it all.
Quite frankly, we could say the same thing about our tiresome peepers trying to follow this soggy action-packed sci-fi caper.
(c) Frank Ochieng 2006