By Bob Suh
Director: Karyn Kusama
Cast: Charlize Theron, Marton Csokas, Jonny Lee Miller, Sophie Okonedo, Pete Postlethwaite, Frances McDormand
Rated PG-13, 93 min.
When I heard that they were finally going to bring animator/writer Peter Chung’s highly respected MTV animated series “Aeon Flux” to the big screen, I hoped for a film on par with other science fiction films featuring dystopian worlds, sleek villains, and gritty action heroes like “The Matrix” or “Blade Runner.” Despite the Oscar caliber cast of females, including Charlize Theron (“Monster,” “North Country”), Frances McDormand (Theron’s co-star in “North Country”), and Sophie Okonedo (“Hotel Rwanda”), “Aeon Flux” will place among the Sci-Fi Channel B-team features.
The sci-fi actioner is set 400 years in the future, when disease has wiped out the majority of the earth’s population except for one walled, protected city-state, Bregna, ruled by a congress of scientists. The story centers on Aeon Flux (Theron), the top operative in the underground “Monican” rebellion, led by The Handler (McDormand). When Aeon is sent on a mission to kill a government leader, she uncovers a world of secrets.
For those unfamiliar with the MTV cartoon series, there wasn’t much conventional narrative. The writers for this film adaptation had the freedom to create a fresh, fully formed myth — and possibly even launch a film franchise to boot. Instead, the dialogue is mostly stilted and seems almost redundant to what can already be seen played out onscreen. It’s nearly as annoying as the dialogue in the last three “Star Wars” prequels.
On the other hand, the blessing and the curse in adapting anything to a different medium, especially something as abstract as the original “Aeon Flux,” is how to make something that will please both the long-time fans and a new audience. I was a bit surprised at how much was altered from the MTV series. For example, Aeon Flux was now a freedom fighter instead of a rogue assassin. Her outfits and punishment are much more in line with the film’s PG-13 rating instead of the cartoon’s pulpy flesh and blood. And the movie is not nearly as surreal. I wonder how it would have turned out if a director like David Cronenberg (“The Fly,” “eXistenZ”) or Paul Verhoeven (“RoboCop,” “Starship Troopers”) took the reins, instead of Karyn Kusama in her sophomore directing effort. (Her first film was 2000’s “Girlfight”).
Much like this year’s earlier release “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” I left the theater wanting to love it, wanting to let others know that there was a lot there to appreciate—and there is. For example, the art direction and costumes are excellent. Theron is in, and teasingly out of, some slinky sexy costumes, while McDormand looks like a band member of Flock of Seagulls and Okonedo shows off some serious body modifications.
Because “Aeon Flux” is simply a great looking film, it might be best to bring your iPod, put on some favorite tunes, and just watch the movie.