Aeon Flux: Special Collector’s Edition
May 13, 2006
Aeon Flux (2005) is a live-action adaptation of the critically-lauded animated T.V. show by Peter Chung. This movie was something of a gamble as the show only managed to spawn a small, but dedicated cult following. Now, comes along a big budget movie starring Charlize Theron as the eponymous protagonist. Unfortunately, the show’s creator had no input into the movie which only further alienates it from the fan base. However, I think fans will be pleasantly surprised at just how faithful the movie is to the show.
It is 2415 and a deadly virus has wiped out most of humanity. Scientist Trevor Goodchild (Csokas) finds a cure that saves five million people and keeps them under control in a city known as Bregna. It is a utopia maintained with a totalitarian regime while a small underground resistance movement is dedicated to overthrowing it. Aeon Flux (Theron) is the resistance’s best operative, a ruthless assassin whose mission it is to kill Goodchild.
Charlize Theron certainly has Aeon’s emotionless attitude down cold and is more than up for her character’s athleticism. It is an extremely physically demanding role that she is more than capable of, showing an impressive prowess. However, Marton Csokas is miscast as Trevor. He doesn’t look like his animated counterpart nor does he act like him – a lecherous powermonger. Csokas goes in the opposite direction as a quietly confident leader.
This film has top notch production design and special effects with well-choreographed action sequences often accompanied by the requisite techno music. The sterile, futuristic look, flashy martial arts and Orwellian society is reminiscent of Equilibrium (2002), although its action sequences were much better as was its kinetic editing – something that this movie could have used more of. In an interesting twist, all of this society’s top assassins are women and, like in the Kill Bill movies, there are ferocious fight scenes between highly trained and very dangerous women, each with their own unique skills.
The dialogue is appropriately minimalist in nature much like the show. Plotwise, Aeon Flux does adhere to the basic concepts of Chung’s show and its often cryptic nature, refusing to resort to excessive exposition and spelling everything out for the audience. Instead, director Karyn Kusama lets the visuals speak for themselves and tell the story, again, much like the show.
The animated series was a fantastic example of abstract sci-fi surrealism and to capture that in a live-action movie is a difficult task to say the least. The film tries to have it both ways. It’s not quite abstract as it should be and is not as pedestrian as it could have been. Aeon Flux is quite good and like any decent piece of SF, it poses questions about science, in particular the practice of cloning and what it means to be human. It also comments on our current political climate as the Goodchild regime spies on its citizens much like in America today. Aeon Flux takes what we are wrestling with now and extrapolates it into the future. Watching this movie, it’s easy to see why it failed to capture a mainstream audience. It’s too abstract for most and not abstract enough for the show’s fans, leaving it in an odd state of limbo.
There is an audio commentary by Charlize Theron and the film’s producer Gale Anne Hurd. They talk about how the themes of the movie are relevant to our own political and social climate. Theron talks about how she tried to humanize her character and provide motivation for what she does. They point out a lot of the historic locations and buildings that they filmed in Berlin. Theron talks about the challenges of the intense, physical training she underwent for this role and then Hurd, in turn, praises her physical prowess. This is fairly decent track and both commentators are engaging.
Also included is a commentary by the film’s screenwriters Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi. They point out connections between the film and the animated series. They also talk about how much exposition was needed to set up this world and how the challenge is to tell enough but not to overwhelm or bore the audience. Hay and Manfredi went with a less is more approach in their script which went against conventional studio logic which dictates that you spell everything out.
“Creating a World: Aeon Flux” examines the challenge of adapting an experimental, non-narrative cartoon into a Hollywood movie. We see Peter Chung visiting the set and marveling at his drawings being brought to life. Karyn Kusama wanted the technology to look organic as opposed to sterile machinery.
“The Locations of Aeon Flux.” Kusama originally wanted to shoot in Brasilia because it had an ideal, futuristic look that was surrounded by jungle. It wasn’t practical for them to shoot there so Berlin was their next choice because it also had futuristic looking architecture.
“The Stunts of Aeon Flux.” Charlize Theron trained hard for this role. She came from a dancing background so she was very flexible – an ideal attribute for her character. She spent three months just on movement techniques and says that she was interested in pushing herself and her body to new levels. It’s amazing to see the level of commitment she had for this movie and the fact that she did 95% of her own stunts!
“The Costume Design Workshop of Aeon Flux” takes a look at how the film’s many costumes were designed and then made. They took their inspiration from the film The Conformist (1970).
“The Craft of the Set Photographer on Aeon Flux.” He took pictures on the set for publicity stills and sometimes even for the film’s poster. He shows us the various lenses he uses and gives a little insight into how he works.