If there’s nothing that gets on my nerves more, it’s a big budget sci-fi movie that tries to harness a deliriously eccentric animated series while not having a single clue to what makes it work leaving viewrs to pick through a ridiculously illogical mess. In fact, while we’re on the subject, another thing that really gets on my cinematic tits are movies featuring impassive-faced heroes pulling off ludicrous gymnastics that choked up the blockbuster scene in the wake of The Matrix.
So you can imagine how stoked I must have been when trying to stir up enthusiasm to make it through Æon Flux, a relentlessly awful adaptation of the MTV animated series of the same name that spends the entirety of its runtime doing everything in its power to make you hate it with the fire of a thousand suns.
In 2011, 99% of the world’s population bit the big one after a lethal pathogen ravaged the earth and after the survivors regrouped, they tried to rebuild civilisation as they knew it.
By 2415, humans, numbering a mere five million, havecall gathered to live within the walled city-state known as Bregna which is run by a Congress of scientist and although the place is kind of nice for a dystopian city located on an inhospitable earth, there are numerous reports of mysterious disappearances and the population is plagued by nightmares. Talk about clouds and silver linings, eh?
Because this is a future dystopian movie and future dystopian movies always have a underground resistance, we meet Æon Flux, a cat-suited warrior for the rebel organisation known as the Monicans, whose successful mission to take out a surveillance station is marred by the fact that her beloved sister was mistakenly murdered while under suspicion of being an agent for the resistance.
Consumed with vengeance, Æon takes a mission to assassinate the head of the government, Trevor Goodchild, but like every movie similar to this thats ever been made, not only is there a mystery villain out there pulling everybody’s strings (it’s Johnny Lee Miller, the movie doesn’t even try to hide it), but Æon has a hidden past that’s linked directly into the growing mental issues the people of Bregna are suffering from.
Going against the Monicans in order to unravel this mystery, Æon teams up with Goodchild in order to discover the secrets the ruling body is trying so desperately to hide.
What it all actually amounts to, is a bunch of annoyingly smug fight sequences, a lot of breathy yearning between Flux and Goodchild and contrived reveal that throws clones, immortality and Pete Postlethwaite wearing something that looks like a giant paper bag, into an already irritating mix. But with the impressive amount of utter shite this movie pushes out, would not a more accurate title have been Anal Flex?
Firstly, before we get into the meat of things, I’d like you to know how impressed you all should be that I managed to jot down such an in-depth synopsis, because god knows Æon Flux certainly puts you through your paces when trying to follow its rambling plot. It’s not because its overly hard to follow (although some impressively shoddy storytelling certainly doesn’t help), but is actually so mind-numbingly fucking boring it’s virtually impossible to make it through the whole thing without feeling the mercifully urge to go for your phone, pick up a book, or emigrate to an island where no copies of Æon Flux are allowed to exist.
I actually used to watch the animated series when in was still in it’s short film, incarnation when it was part of MTV’s Liquid Televison show back in 1991 and found it quite fun in a bizarre, avant-garde sort of way (Æon actually dies at the end of almost every episode), so when news broke of a movie, I would have slammed down a years worth of wages to bet that it was going to suck harder than experiencing explosive decompression while using the toilet on the NASA space station.
The movie’s first mistake (as is the norm for most Anime adaptations) is that the filmmakers try to actually cram the aesthetics of the animation into real life, meaning were stuck with emotionless lead characters who effortless slaughter scores of faceless bad guys without breaking a sweat. Firstly, do you realise how ridiculous it is to hire someone like Charlize Theron to play someone with no charisma? That’s like hiring Arnold Schwarzenegger to play a 90-pound weakling with a phobia of Austrian accents and it’s frankly frustrating to see an Oscar winner attempt the type of role Milla Jovovich and Kate Beckinsale have been coasting by in for years – but at least they managed to drag out franchises out of over-edited fight scenes and endless posing. Still, at least Theron finally nailed the female dystopian action with Mad Max: Fury Road, eh?
Even the visual style of the movie seems carefully genetically modified to get on your tits, with the movie going overboard with miraculous tech and elaborate costumes that aim for beguilingly beautiful and lands squarely on utterly ridiculous instead. While were trying not to openly smirk at Frances Mcdormand’s Handler character that has her sporting the ginger locks of Merdia from Brave and has her backlit like she’s the Virgin Mary, we’re also supposed to think that the sight of Sophie Okonedo with hands for feet isn’t the stupidest fucking thing you’ve ever seen. Add to that a bunch of weird, trippy technology like killer grass, dart shooting hornet nests and a telepathy inducing pill that you activate by swallowing it (bit awkward if you mistake it for a suppository, I suppose) and you have a visual farce that feels like the only aspect of the film that wasn’t overthought was the script.
Once again, we have yet another Anime adaptation that misses the point by a country mile thanks to filmmakers not realising that live action and animated sci-fi is sometimes utterly incompatible and the visual flare that comes across as so stunning in one form can be unintentionally hilarious in the other. One the other hand, it does nail the bit in the cartoon where she catches a fly with her eyelashes – although in reality it would probably give her pink eye…
Over-produced, under-written, horribly directed (by Girlfight helmer Karyn Kusama no less) and sketchily performed by a cast who plainly have no idea what’s going on, I don’t know whether this movie is a victim of studio tampering or simply incompetence – but one thing I do know? Æon sucks.