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Aeon Flux
by Ed Owens

The poster for Aeon Flux reads, "The Future is Flux," a tagline that works somewhat on the level of alliteration, but fails completely as a marketing tool. A tagline should not only capture the attention of meandering movie-goers, but woo them.seduce them.intrigue them with promises of imaginative treasures that await them in the darkened auditorium. For another, the tagline fails to encapsulate the vast potential which waits within.

An example of a good tagline is the recent Saw II : "Oh yes.there will be blood." Pithy and exact, Saw II makes its intentions clear immediately, trailer optional. Compare that with Aeon Flux 's "The future is Flux"-surely they could do better. To that end, I would like to suggest the following to the marketing folks at Paramount & MTV Films:

"Charlize close to naked as PG-13 will allow."

The benefit of this tagline is that it makes good use of elements already a part of the poster design-namely Theron's name, occupying a place of prominence at the top, and the rating, currently shoved unceremoniously off into a lower corner (why make horny adolescents search for it?). It passes both the seduction test (at least, with regards to anyone who has secretly harbored a thing for Theron since first saw her in a painted-on white body suit in 2 Days in the Valley ) and manages to convey in a nutshell the only worthwhile thing the movie has to offer.

According to the opening voice-over, ninety-five percent of the world's population was wiped out in 2011 by something other than Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (vacaphobics the world over can rest easy), while the remaining 5% survived in the walled city of Bregna thanks to a cure discovered by Trevor Goodchild. Four hundred years later, the city is a police state, and a group of freedom fighters (Monicans) are seeking to end what they see as an oppressive regime led by Goodchild's descendents. Fans of the original MTV cartoon will already know that they're not in Kansas anymore.

The original cartoon, which first appeared as a series of 10-minute shorts on MTV's "Liquid Television" before being expanded into its own series, played like "Heavy Metal" on acid, a bizarre and bewildering concoction of heavily stylized sexuality & violence seemingly devoid of logic (committed viewers-and those on heavy meds-can piece together some fascinating threads with a little work). The film drops pretty much everything but the bare bones of the backstory and the character names-gone is the heavy stylization (perhaps a necessary concession given the move to live action) and over-the-top violence (definitely a necessary concession given the target demographic). Narratively, the film eschews the original's obscure plotting in favor of a more straight forward (and derivative) storyline delivered in staccato bursts between gunplay and catfights (oh yes.there will be hair-pulling!).

Theron plays the titular heroine, a freedom fighter/government scapegoat in fuck-me boots and damn-the-ozone-layer hair who struggles to uncover the truth beneath Bregna's not-quite-idyllic surface while flipping, twisting, splitting, and somersaulting her way around town. Her wardrobe consists largely of strategically placed swatches of fabric held together by leather straps (the least revealing outfit she owns is a ankle-length skirt slit-to-here so her thigh-high fishnets can be seen from outer space). She's trusted with little more than looking good, even at her worst, while those around her scowl (Johnny Lee Miller makes me long for the halcyon days of Hackers as Goodchild's scheming brother), scamper (Sophie Okonedo, fresh off her Oscar-nominated performance in Hotel Rwanda , plays a freedom fighter who's had her feet surgically replaced with hands), and strain (Frances McDormand sports a hairdo evoking a red-headed Marge Simpson after a particularly taxing drinking binge, and Pete Postlethwaite shuffles around a brightly lit blimp wrapped in a semi-inflated air mattress).

Screenwriters Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi seem content to let Flux 's story lurch along without bothering to explore its more hauntingly beautiful potential, while director Karyn Kusama (writer/director of Girlfight ) manages to capture some of the more iconic imagery (the image of Aeon catching a fly with her eyelid which opened the show is altered, but intact) while completely failing to capture its more general look and feel. It's as if the entire production were stranded somewhere between appealing to the hardcore fans and broadening its appeal, doing neither well. The end result feels half-hearted in all respects but one-an appreciation of Theron's form in all her semi-nude glory (Stuart Dryburgh's camera practically caresses the actress at every possible opportunity). The only fans who'll potentially like Aeon Flux are Theron's, and even they'll regret having to suffer through its superficially derivative plot and b-movie sci-fi theatrics for little more than teasing images of dream girl.

©2005 Ed Owens


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