Æon Flux

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 2011, a deadly pathogenic virus has killed 99% of the Earth’s population, forcing the survivors to regroup and scatter across the Earth.

404 years later, in late 2415, all of the survivors inhabit Bregna, a walled futuristic city-state, which is ruled by a congress of scientists. Although Bregna is largely an idyllic place in the destroyed Earth, people routinely disappear and the population suffers from bad dreams.

A skilled warrior, named Æon Flux, is a member of the Monicans, an underground rebel organization who communicate through telepathy-enabling technology and are led by the Handler. After a mission to destroy a surveillance station, Æon comes home to find her sister Una has been mistaken for a Monican and killed. When Æon is sent on a mission to kill the government’s leader, Trevor Goodchild, she discovers that both she and the Monicans are being manipulated by council members in a secret coup.

Æon questions the origins of everyone in Bregna, and in particular, her personal connection to Trevor. Everyone in Bregna is revealed to be a clone, grown from recycled DNA. With the dead constantly being reborn as new individuals and bearing partial memories of their previous lives, their troubling dreams have increased. Cloning was required because the antidote to the virus made humans infertile. Trevor’s ongoing experiments were attempts to reverse the infertility. His ancestors had also worked on this problem. Æon learns that she is a clone of the original Trevor’s wife Katherine, and is the first “Katherine” clone in over 400 years.

One of Trevor’s experiments, Una, was successful: she had become pregnant. However, in order to stay in power, Trevor’s brother, Oren Goodchild, had her killed along with the other members of the experimental group. He ordered all of Trevor’s research to be destroyed. In a confrontation with Trevor and Æon, Oren reveals that nature has corrected the infertility problem and that some women are becoming pregnant. Oren has had them all killed to maintain the Goodchild reign. Æon is forced to go against both her former allies, who want to kill Trevor, and Oren.

She convinces the other Monicans to ignore the Handler and help her to kill Oren and his men. Æon goes to destroy the Relical, the dirigible that stores the DNA for cloning. There she meets the old man who monitors everything. She discovers he preserved her DNA for years, although Oren had ordered it to be destroyed so “Katherine” could not influence Trevor in any way. The dirigible crashes into the city wall, breaking it down to reveal the surrounding land for the first time in centuries. It is lush and fertile, not a wasteland as they were taught.

REVIEW:

Looking at MTV today, it is hard to imagine that at one time all they showed on there was music videos. That’s what the ‘M’ stands for, as a matter of fact, music! In the 90s, they would occasionally show short little vignettes between video shows. Those that are around my age will remember these, Dogboy, Beavis & Butthead (which went on to its own success, including a spinoff, Daria), The Specialists, and the one that perhaps was the most popular at the time, Æon Flux. Brining a character of few words and little known background to the big screen is a challenge, indeed, but was it worth the gamble? Let’s find out, shall we?

What is this about?

Aiming to hasten an uprising, the leader of an underground rebellion (Frances McDormand) dispatches acrobatic assassin Aeon Flux (Charlize Theron) to eliminate the government’s top leader in this futuristic thriller based on the popular animated MTV show. It’s the 25th century, and a rampaging virus has forced the remnants of humanity into seclusion. But political conflict swirls within, and the climate is ripe for revolution.

What did I like?

Re-creation. It has been awhile since I’ve any episodes of this show. I wonder if there are any clips on YouTube? One of the things I do recall was how almost every episode opened with Æon Flux’s closed eye-opening to catch a fly. That is not something you would expect the filmmaker’s to recreate, but they managed to actually do it, surprisingly, showing that they did at least watch an episode or two of the series before they started filming.

Action. A film about an extremely acrobatic and flexible assassin trying to bring down some form of government. Hmmm…will there be action? You bet your sweet ass there is. Now, there isn’t the kind of action where everything blows up, but rather this is the more subdued somersaults across deadly blades of grass type stuff. Still, it works for the film and its characters.

Conspiracy. Overthrowing government is a popular plot device in films, or so I’ve noticed. I’m not quite sure that I’d necessarily call this a government, as much as it is a group of people who have made themselves the rulers because they created the cure for the virus that wiped out the population of Earth. Still, some people are easily corrupted by immense power and think they can rule everything. These people must be stopped, hence the reason for the Monicans and their plan to bring the power back to the people…by any means necessary!

What didn’t I like?

Close, but no cigar. Recreating the wispy frame of Æon Flux for the big screen, let alone real life, was no easy task. The only person I can think of who may have pulled this off better than Charlize Theron would have been Angelina Jolie in her scary skinny skeleton like stage around  the time that this was released. Strangely enough, Michelle Rodriguez was up for the role. No offense to her, but she’s a bit too…um…genetically blessed for this character. At any rate, my issue is that Theron does a good job, but not good enough. Her take on Æon Flux wasn’t working for me, partly because of how she was written, partly because I’m sure Theron insisted on having actual lines, rather than being true to the character and staying mostly silent. Also, the hair was wrong, and what was the deal with Sithandra’s enhancements? Blech! Don’t even get me started on how the costume was altered. I think that was done so that she didn’t look like a dominatrix, though.

Explain! We get a brief explanation near the end as to why the Monicans are being hunted by the scientists/government, but even then you are still left scratching your head. What is the motivation? Is it all because of the DNA that just happens to be floating above the city in a giant dirigible? There are more questions than answers to be found in this film, which isn’t a good thing, as they are questions that should have been answered early on, not before the climax!

Handle this. I’ve seen this move 3 or 4 times and still have no idea why Æon Flux, Sithandra, and I’m assuming other Monican assassins take some kind of pill and are transported to this alternate dimension where they wear some sort of white ritual robe and talk to “the Handler”. Where is she? Why haven’t the scientists targeted her? Surely they have knowledge that someone is calling the shots, right? I don’t recall her from the show, so this was just a bad idea that whoever penned this script brought in, I imagine. Why can’t anyone stay close to the source material anymore?!?

Æon Flux should have been a fun action flick, especially enjoyable by those who are clamoring for a strong female lead in this genre. However, due to severe departure from the source material, bad writing, and even worse and uninspired storytelling, this film crashes and burns. Such a shame for such a great character. It is no wonder she has been all but forgotten. So, do I recommend this? Yes, but only as a weekend afternoon flick. You know, the kind that you watch when you’re flipping through and absolutely nothing else is on? That is probably the only time to watch this, if you must.

3 out of 5 stars

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