Serious, quality films are wonderful, but there are times when you just want some mindless entertainment, a fun distraction from the world. Aeon Flux, the adaptation of MTV's animated series of the same name, is just such a decently exciting, but mindless, hundred-odd minutes of escape.
Set 400 years in the future, Aeon Flux tells the tale of an eponymous assassin (Charlize Theron) who fights against the government of Bregna. Bregna is Earth's last city, inhabited by the last five million people alive, descendents of the survivors of an apocalyptic plague. Chairman Trevor Goodchild (Marton Csokas) and his brother Oren (Johnny Lee Miller) head up the ruling council of Bregna, commanding a classic dystopian state with absolute control over its citizens. Frances McDormand plays The Handler, Aeon's mysterious rebel boss, Sophie Okonedo joins as a fellow assassin, and Pete Postlethwaite rounds out the cast in a bit part. After the death of her sister at the hands of government, Aeon receives the go-ahead to eliminate chairman Goodchild, only to find that things are much more complicated than they seem.
Aeon Flux never really covers new ground (how many times have you read about or seen the tale of a dystopian futuristic society under the control of a dictatorship?), but it pulls together classic threads in fun ways. The plot is engaging enough, if ultimately predictable (and of course riddled with a few holes). The writing and acting are nothing special, but they get the job done. Theron looks and acts the part, and the supporting actors fufill their roles adequately (if not memorably).
But like many sci-fi action flicks, Aeon Flux earns whatever stripes it has largely through its action sequences and special effects, which are quite pretty throughout. Aeon is brutally impressive in combat, and the final massive gunfight can certainly hold its own against most comparable scenes in other recent films. The film shines brightest when it combines its visual effects with clever little gadgets of all sorts, including hostile grass, liquid remote control hive mind non-exploding explosives (an awkward description, I know, but accurate nonetheless), and an extremely beautiful and intriguing method of communication among the Monican rebels.
Sadly, fans of the original animated television series are likely to be the most disappointed with the new film. While the central elements—notably the characters of Aeon and Trevor, and the city-state of Bregna—of the show were more-or-less transferred to the film, the overall feel has changed substantially. In the show Aeon's motives are as elusive as she is, and she normally acts with little or no assistance from others, but the film depicts her as revenge driven and part of an organized resistance. Moreover, the overwhelming strangeness of the entire series, with its endings oddly lacking in resolution and its inexplicable fantasies, has almost entirely disappeared, in a favor of a mildly mysterious plot that eventually unfolds and resolves itself practically to completion. But little touches—like a four-handed assassin, people kidnapped through walls, and the massive walls along the border—from the series survive.
In the end, Aeon Flux is worth checking out, if only for the eye candy and distraction it provides, but do not expect to be impressed. And if you plan on seeing the television show as well, see the movie first.
Neil is a an aspiring writer who dreams of being a movie critic someday. He writes part-time for a newspaper in Columbus, Ohio, while washing dishes full-time at night to pay the bills and writing movie reviews on the side.