In an age when the next movie to gross $300 million is only a “Spider-man” sequel away, filmmakers have squabbled to pick up the rights to any superhero they can find. Even though the latest attempt, “Aeon Flux,” an adaptation of an animated MTV TV series, is being released in the middle of awards season, nobody expected it to compete for an Oscar. But people didn’t expect Paramount would lack confidence in the film enough to cancel screenings for critics either. Any who are still baffled should go see “Flux,” a shamelessly futile attempt at filmmaking.
“Aeon Flux” is set 400 years in the future in the fictional city of Bregna, where a corrupt government uses its powers to deceive and manipulate its people. Aeon Flux (Charlize Theron, “North Country”), an expertly trained killer and member of an underground resistance force known as the Monicans, is charged with assassinating the leader of the government, Trevor Goodchild (Martin Csokas, “Kingdom of Heaven”). While she undertakes her mission, she comes to the proverbial realization that things are not what they seem and people are not who she thinks they are. The premise is actually very similar to 2002’s “Equilibrium,” but while that film is both intelligent and thought provoking, “Aeon Flux” is neither.
The quality of the film’s action sequences is very mixed. While some are well-made – such as Flux’s storming of the government headquarters – many are haphazardly constructed through the use of jarring, nonsensical cuts in order to save the characters from reciting any more of their horrible lines. And man, is some of the dialogue bad. Theron has some one-liners that would make even Keanu Reeves cringe. The plot of the film demands a tight, intelligent screenplay, but we are left with incongruous and contrived explanations for many events and some bizarre attempts at political commentary. For example, the name of the catalyst that once nearly decimated the population is the “Industrial Plague.”
The movie has banked its box-office hopes squarely on the shoulders of its star, Theron. Most of it is just a means for the filmmakers to put her in an extremely tight spandex suit or, as in the case with a particular scene, a most revealing nightgown that is really little more than lingerie. Theron started out her career as arm candy in films such as “The Devil’s Advocate” before moving into serious acting, trading in her irresistible good looks for such parts as Aileen Wuornos, the psychotic-serial-killer role that won her an Oscar for the film “Monster.” To be fair, she signed on to play Aeon Flux before her win, but the career comparisons to Halle Berry, who followed up her Oscar win with such smut as “Catwoman,” are now inevitable.
The most disturbing part of “Aeon Flux” really is watching the denigration of respectable actresses. Joining Theron is Oscar winner Frances McDormand (“North Country”), playing the leader of the Monican rebellion and Oscar nominee Sophie Okenedo (“Hotel Rwanda”), Theron’s sometime-sidekick Sithandra who has hands where her feet should be. Yet here they are, stuck in one of the most disappointing films of the year. In this case, Paramount and MTV Films were right to cancel advance screenings of “Aeon Flux” for critics; in fact, it would have been better if they had canceled every screening altogether.
FILM REVIEW: 1 OUT OF 5 STARS