Aeon Flux: The Complete Animated Collection
February 13, 2006
MTV wanted to branch out in the 1990s and get away from music programming. In particular, they wanted to produce late night programming for a young adult audience. The result was a collection of animated shows collectively known as Liquid Television. Aeon Flux originally got its start as a series of animated short films on Liquid T.V. in 1992. It was a clever mix of dialogue-less wall-to-wall action and an intriguing science fiction premise that was popular enough to spawn a ten-episode series in 1995.
There are two rival societies with a large wall separating them: Monica and Bregna. Monica is a dynamic, anarchistic society while Bregna is a centralized scientific based state. In Bregna, Trevor Goodchild (Lee) runs an Orwellian regime – a utopian society ruled with an iron fist and rotten to the core. The citizens are under constant surveillance and punished severely for any transgressions. Monican secret agent Aeon Flux (Poirier) opposes him and they develop an antagonistic relationship as she tries to sabotage his regime as much as she tries to seduce him. Aeon and Trevor have a love-hate relationship that is developed over the ten episodes. Ideologically, they are very different but are physically attracted to one another.
The animation style of Aeon Flux is very comic book-esque – especially the pilot and short films. At times, it resembles something you might find in the pages of Heavy Metal magazine. Many of the characters, including Aeon, are tall and impossibly thin. She is an intriguing enigma. She is a self-reliant woman of few words who is defined solely by her actions. Aeon moves like a dancer with fluid, almost balletic actions. The pilot and short films are also very cinematic (even more so than the series) with all of the stories told entirely visually and with no dialogue. It really pushed the envelope in terms of content and structure. Aeon died at the end of every segment and never spoke a single word.
The look of the characters reflects their environment: hard, angular features that don’t seem entirely realistic but are consistent with the world Peter Chung has created. The world of Aeon Flux is very Spartan in nature with seemingly no vegetation visible just endless amounts of buildings upon buildings. This is a rich, detailed futuristic world and the series expands on what was merely hinted at in the pilot and short films.
Chung has digitally remastered all of the episodes and they have never looked or sounded better. The colours are much more vibrant and the animation style more clearly defined with shadows fleshed out creating an even more cinematic vibe. What is so striking about Aeon Flux is that it refuses to appeal to the lowest common denominator. It features very intricately plotted and complex stories and sneaks in all sorts of fantastical creations (including spider-like robots and deadly genetically engineered assassins with four arms), suggestive sexual references and the level of violence that you wouldn’t find on regular television. Along with The Maxx and The Head, Aeon Flux was adventurous programming for the alternative nation. It was produced at a time when alternative culture was making serious inroads into the mainstream and it is doubtful that we will see its likes again from MTV.
The first two discs feature several audio commentaries with creator Peter Chung and key creative crew members (including the voice of Aeon Flux herself, Denise Poirier). However, most of them are tedious as Chung is not the most eloquent or interesting speaker. He dominates most of the tracks so that everyone else has to fight to get a word in edge-wise. While it is clear that he is trying to articulate his intentions on these tracks they are punctuated with so many “Ums” and “Ahs” that it becomes very annoying to listen past the halfway mark.
The real extras come into play on the third disc which features the brilliant pilot episode with optional commentary by Chung and music and sound designer Drew Neumann. We are presented with a world that is plagued with a deadly virus as Aeon fights her way to an antidote. In one segment, she just shoots her way through and in the next we deal with the aftermath featuring piles of bodies in rooms flooded with their blood.
“Aeon Flux Shorts” (again with optional commentary by Chung and Neumann) features Aeon on various missions all of which she dies. In some episodes she lasts to the end in others, she is killed off at the beginning and this keeps the viewer constantly on edge anticipating how she is going to be killed.
“Investigation: The History of Aeon Flux” takes a look at how this innovative series originated. Chung had been working on Rugrats and was approached by Liquid T.V. to do a Spy vs. Spy type animated show. He had already been working on the pilot in a rough form. Immediately, the executives knew that they had something different on their hands. Five short films were made for the second season of Liquid T.V. with Chung brazenly killing her off in each one. A fanbase gradually developed and this resulted in a ten-episode season and now a feature-length live-action movie starring Charlize Theron.
“The Deviant Devices of Aeon Flux” examines the various weapons and gadgets that she uses in the show with narration provided by her.
“Production Art” is a collection of sketches, model sheets, storyboards and pencil tests of character designs, props, backgrounds and so on.
“Other Works by Peter Chung” features a promo he did for MTV Loaded, an ad for an Aeon Flux CD ROM and a cool commercial for the Honda Coupe Mission.
Finally, there is a collection of “Liquid Television Shorts” that appeared on this show in the ‘90s.