Screens Safe for consumption

Hollywood’s Aeon Flux is warm, fuzzy, and ethical. Yawn.

For a brief period in the mid ’90s, I was heavily involved with Aeon Flux, the animated MTV series created by Peter Chung, spending hours on the couch entranced by late-night, back-to-back episodes. The installments bled into one another with little introduction and no background. It was clear that Aeon Flux was some sort of rogue assassin, and that her nemesis—Trevor Goodchild, dictator of the faux-Utopian society Bregna—was also her lust interest. In addition to penetrating Aeon’s minuscule black latex wardrobe (is it comfortable to leap tall buildings in a G-string?), Trevor was committed to bringing a Hindu-flavored, transcendental alien being that caused beholders to lapse into passive ecstasy to his kingdom. Aeon Flux resisted the glowing being in Nietzschean fashion, preferring struggle and passion to spiritual escapism. Beyond that, who knew what the hell was going on? More to the point: I didn’t care. The dialogue was cryptic, the animation jumpy, but Aeon Flux’s impregnable narrative was its greatest charm. It was a visually mesmerizing jigsaw puzzle, tailor-made for insomnia and procrastination.

Charlize Theron puts flesh on the animated antiheroine Aeon Flux. We’ll miss the cartoon version’s hysterically oversized chi chis, but after Monster, Theron has street-cred cool to burn.

Unfortunately, the movie version starring Charlize Theron (Monster) and Marton Csokas (Kingdom of Heaven) takes pains to explain the plot to us in detail, brazenly and thoroughly violating the “show, don’t tell” rule. If the script were a score, the rhythm would read like this: chop, chop, shoot, shoot, run, chop, explication. Chop, chop, shoot, shoot, run, shoot, speech. We are told that although the Bregnans live in a perfect society, free of want and disease, people disappear suddenly and no one feels quite right. Bregnans not involved in the conflict between the Goodchild dynasty and the opposing Monican rebels don’t get much screen time, so except for a few glimpses of people quietly weeping for no apparent reason, we have to take the speechmakers’ word for it.

Aeon Flux
Karyn Kusama; writ. Matt Manfredi, Phil Hay, based on characters created by Peter Chung; feat. Charlize Theron, Marton Csokas, Frances McDormand, Jonny Lee Miller, Sophie Okonedo (PG-13

Perhaps the Bregnans are unhinged by living in a society in which form is so radically divorced from function—like Ikea run amok. But the impractical glassware and overdesigned architecture could be a metaphor for the way in which the Goodchilds have used science to pervert the natural world. Such clues to the government’s machinations are strewn along the way, but just when I was enjoying the mystery, plop!, Trevor Goodchild drops the dime.

A disappointment, because the film begins promisingly with a scene straight from the animated series’ opening credits: Our antiheroine catches a buzzing fly with her eyelid. It’s a nod to the old chop-sockey trick, alerting us that Aeon is an ass-kicking loner who lives by her own code. It hints that genetics, in which another winged irritant, the fruit fly, has played a significant role, is key to the plot. It is also the fly in the ointment, because the film version is a classic tale of dystopia created by man’s ill-fated tinkering with nature. Director Karyn Kusama emphasizes this interpretation by channeling Ray Bradbury and Gene Roddenberry, while the original series had much more affinity with William Gibson: hardcore dystopian fantasy in which moralizing is secondary to the tale, humans are as unpredictable as the weather, and sentimentality is scarce. But the series was adult-only fare. Here the studio has cut violence, sex, and moral uncertainty in favor of a PG-13 rating, and in the process made a film safe to screen in Bregna.

By Elaine Wolff

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