Aeon Flux

2 stars


2nd March 2006

Women: you really can't do anything properly, can you? Don't get me wrong, I like the way you sometimes wear your hair in pigtails, and there's no denying that you do a cracking roast of a Sunday, but when it comes to saving the world, you suck at it. Us men have to ask why you still bother, when we do such a good job at it - Indiana Jones, Rambo, John McClane and friends, all saviours of the planet and all in possession of a fair size cock and balls. Lara Croft, Catwoman and now Aeon Flux - all mighty pretty and fun to look at, but the female of the species still have yet to prove themselves when it comes to cutting it as a heroine of the silver screen.

Anyone over 21 might just remember the original Aeon Flux shorts on MTV's Liquid Television. It was original, cutting-edge and highly creative; in short, it's everything the Hollywood adaptation isn't. The setting remains the same, although a whole series' worth of plotlines have been condensed into a feature-length film: it's 400 years from now, and a deadly virus has wiped out most of the human race, with the stragglers walled up in protected city-state called Bregna. Aeon Flux (Charlize Theron) is a lithe assassin, working for an anarchic group of rebels called the Monicans, who are trying to overthrow the oppressive government and restore freedom to the people. When she's sent to kill the apparent saviour of mankind and exalted leader Trevor Goodchild (Marton Csokas), Aeon uncovers some secrets she'd rather not know about her own background and about the society in which she lives in. Who'd have thought it - a post-apocalyptic world being a bit crap to live in? Tsk.

The problems with Aeon Flux are rife; poor casting (stand up Jonny Lee Miller); an unoriginal setting (ooh, the future!); an uninspired screenplay ("Keep off the grass" etc.) and dull special effects being just the first gripes to come to mind. Theron continues the trend of female Oscar-winners choosing subsequently duff roles, and although she's undoubtedly a talented girl, even the Academy's finest couldn't make this script sparkle. There's no denying she looks the part - the costume design is desperately shite yet leaves little to the imagination - but she looks uneasy with her finger on the trigger and is always looking into the middle-distance, perhaps searching for another 'downtrodden female victim' role to bag her another statue. She's in almost every frame of the movie, but when your main star looks as uninterested as Theron, it's going to sag no matter how much money you throw at it.

The real shame is that there are definitely some excellent ideas to find, but it's like spending an hour and a half scrubbing shit off a diamond. Aeon's tight-fitting costume holds more gadgets and gizmos than Bond's glove compartment, and the woman herself isn't so much an assassin as a weapon, able to evade detection and kick generic henchman arse without even raising a whisper - the character, rather than the portrayal of her, is effortlessly cool. The character of Sithandra (Sophie Okonedo), who has extra hands grafted where her feet should be, is a goldmine of potential but is limited to swinging on trees and little else. The synapse messages that the Monican assassins use to communicate are inspired, but the effect is ruined by the presence of Frances McDormand's grand leader, who looks like she's been dragged through a futuristic hedge backwards. It's an ongoing theme - just when you start to think that maybe Aeon Flux is hiding a certain degree of intelligence, it drops another clanger and brings you crashing back to Earth. It walks the fine line between being silly and being stuffy, leaving you unsure whether you're supposed to be laughing at it or taking it seriously. Pete Postlethwaite, in a small role, looks like he can't believe he's lowered himself to dressing like a gigantic phallus.

Although the plot is initially confusing - some plot threads don't seem to go anywhere - by the end, some semblance of an interesting story has been flattened out in front of you, but whether you're still paying attention is another matter entirely. The ending, though you'll see it coming a mile off, opens up all kinds of possibilities, even raising questions on the nature of human existence and evolution, but yeah, you guessed it, anything vaguely interesting is glossed over in favour of a naff gunfight or a long, lingering shot of Charlize's lycra-clad butt. Aeon Flux is terribly lightweight fare, a cacophony of broken ideas and half-arsed sci-fi silliness, not worth bothering with at all unless you're either a huge fan of the series (prepare to be disappointed) or a die-hard Theron obsessive (prepare to masturbate frequently). Strike another one up for the guys - when it comes to the crunch, it's still a man's world to save. Your move, Wonder Woman.

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