Saturday, February 19, 2011

Aeon Flux

More like Aeon Sucks!  High five, anyone...?
I love movies that are set in the future.  They often tell us what will happen to us soon, or maybe even in the recent past.  For instance, I bet you forgot all about the huge gang wars that divided the city of Los Angeles in 1997, to the point where gangs had minor fiefdoms.  Well, just watch Predator 2 and catch the history lesson.  Aeon Flux may be set in the far future, but it references a disease that wipes out 99% of the Earth's population in 2011.  So...nice knowing you, I guess.  Suck it, Mayans, you were off by a year!

The year is 2415 and all human life is within the contained city of Bregna.  Of course it is.  And just as obvious is the fact that life in Bregna is pretty perfect.  Except for the fact that it is under a benign totalitarian rule, with Trevor Goodchild (Marton Csokas) as the leader.  Oh yeah, and people have bad dreams.  That's a bummer.  Speaking of bummers, some people in Bregna just disappear, without a trace.  Bad dreams and disappearances lead to unrest, and the underground movement against the Goodchild regime is called the Monicans.  Aeon (Charlize Theron) is a Monican assassin, assigned by The Handler (Frances McDormand) to kill Trevor Goodchild.  The job is tough, but Aeon does a bunch of physically impossible things (while not breaking a sweat) and eventually reaches Trevor...but cannot pull the trigger.  Somehow, she knows him; even more disturbing, Trevor knows Aeon, and calls her Katherine for some reason.  Sensing that something is wrong with her mission --- and her understanding of Bregna --- Aeon escapes and vows to uncover the one secret about Bregna that will explain everything.
Sadly, this lawn crawling is part of the best action scene in the movie.

You may recall the anime series of the same name that Aeon Flux is based on.  Or not.  It was weird, obtuse, and was guaranteed to leave a new viewer completely confused.  The characters didn't speak any languages, they were either quiet or they made weird noises.  There wasn't really a plot, but there was a whole bunch of interesting things to look at.  With that in mind, I assume Aeon Flux's screenwriters had carte blanche when putting together this plot, and yet they came up with a pretty terrible story.  I don't want to spoil the twist in the plot, but it's pretty basic sci-fi stuff and it's not handled with either intelligence or ingenuity.  It's not all the story, though.  For a movie with so many random and weird futuristic things, like killer lawns and hands where your feet should be (to be fair, that was just one character), a lot of Bregna was very reminiscent of the 20th century.  Do you wonder what fashion will look like in 400 years?  For most people, exactly the same as today; that makes sense, because normal dress today closely resembles that of 1611.  The only people that wore unusual clothes were the abnormally hot, like Charlize Theron.
Why is she wearing boob drapes to bed?
Sure, I could pick on the science behind the story, but that factors into the big twist.  I do wonder how any of these people became more or less superhuman.  That's not really explained or even mentioned.  And some of the stuff is really weird.  Take the scene where Aeon catches a fly with her eyelashes.  Um...awesome?  What is that supposed to show me?  That she needs to wash her eyes now?  I don't get it.  I also don't get how Aeon and her friends are such efficient assassins.  Since the only army in Bregna is the one that protects the government, shouldn't the list of crack shots in the city be pretty well-known?  For that matter, I would think that, with so few humans left, the impossibly gifted ones would be relatively well known.  And yet, Aeon (who the two heads of the government both recognize on sight) lives an anonymous life?  I am willing to turn off my brain to certain things when watching dumb movies, but don't mix stupid action movies with pseudo-science fiction. 

I will give director Karyn Kusama credit for making a visually interesting movie.  It doesn't look very realistic and often looks like it's in Technicolor TM, but I don't know if she was going for plausibility, so I won't knock her for that.  Does this movie stay true to the television series?  Not particularly, from what I can recall, but I'm okay with that.  If you are a big fan of the show, you should know that there was no way in hell that a comprehensible live action movie could be made from it; while this takes several liberties with the source material, I think it did the best that could be expected.  In other words, I don't know why they wanted to make this movie, but it came out as good as it should have.  In still other words, any reliance on the original material guaranteed an incomprehensible product, and this movie should never have gotten beyond the planning stage.

But it was made, and actual actors signed up to star in it.  After a couple of serious dramas with critical acclaim, Charlize Theron was apparently tired of looking less than supermodely, so she took this role.  At least, that's the only reason I can think of for an Academy Award winner to agree to this tripe.  Her acting was decently mediocre, and probably better than the script demanded, but she still didn't do anything special.  I would put her work in this movie on par with her commercial work.

"Gold is cold"? What, is she writing the lyrics to Goldfinger?  That's okay, though; she just had to act to the standards of her co-stars.  You may remember Marton Csokas as the villain from Kangaroo Jack and xXx, and if that doesn't give you a hint about his acting talents, I don't know what will.  Jonny Lee Miller is just about as accomplished an actor as Csokas, but he plays a pretty annoying villain here.  I was also disappointed in Sophie Okonedo (the lady with hands for her feet) --- she's better than this.  Speaking of disappointment, what the hell was Frances McDormand doing in this movie?
Helena Bonham Carter looks great!
Pete Postlethwaite popping up for a bit part I am willing to accept, but McDormand is a genuinely fantastic actress.  Did she hear that this movie already had a slumming Academy Award nominee (Okonedo) and winner (Theron) and figured that no other film has had so much underachieving female talent in it?

[Side note: drop a comment if you can think of a movie as bad or worse than Aeon Flux with this many Oscar-worthy actresses in it.]

For this film to have worked on any dramatic level whatsoever, it needed to, at the very least, shown the populace being genuinely disturbed by their bad dreams.  Those dreams are a symptom of the city's horrible secret, and just mentioning that people have bad dreams doesn't justify assassination or toppling governments.  For this movie to work on an action movie level, it needed better action scenes.  That's pretty basic.  For this movie to work as a science fiction film, it needed more convincing science and fiction.  When I think about Aeon Flux, I am left thinking of a killer lawn.

And that's a pretty lame scene to sum up a movie.


  1. Legally Blonde 2 had Sally Field and Reese Witherspoon. Mars Attacks! had Annette Benning,Glenn Close, and Natalie Portman. The Phantom Menace is one of the worst movies (in terms of how mad it makes me personally) and it has both Kiera Knightly and Natalie Portman (Liam Neeson is also in this shitpile.)

    I already know what you think of Halle Berry's acting ability, but it's worth noting that she won an Oscar after appearing (with Martin Landau) in B.A.P.S. Two Oscar winners in one of the stupidest movies ever.

  2. If you want to go with "Stupidest movies with Oscar winners," I think Michael Caine missing the Oscars when he won Best Supporting Actor because he was reshooting scenes from Jaws: The Revenge takes the high/low cake. Another close one is Sandra Bullock/Thomas Hayden Church in All About Steve. B.A.P.S. is pretty amazingly bad, though. I commend your knowledge of awfulness.

    I agree on the quality of Phantom Menace and will assume that Legally Blonde 2 is godawful, but having two Oscar-worthy actresses in awfulness is surprisingly not too uncommon, thanks to romantic comedies.

    Mars Attacks! is a great call, although I would argue that it is closer to mediocre than terribawful.