Volume 24, Number 04, Summer, 2006

Liquid Vision

Æon Flux

Directed By Karyn Kusama

Paramount Pictures, 2005
(DVD 4/25/2006)
Starring: Charlize Theron, Marton Csokas, Sophie Okonedo
Reviewed by David Wayland
July 2006

In the mid-1990s. MTV carried a series of ground-breaking animated TV shows under their “liquid television” banner. Alas, MTV’s liquid television dribbled out rather quickly. One of the more interesting shows, Æon Flux, followed the adventures of a scantily-clad female assassin in a far-future city called Bregna.

Skip forward a few years and we find Æon Flux adapted for the silver screen in 2005, starring Academy Award winning beauty Charlize Theron. The feature film version assumes many of the same characters, background, and the general idea from the TV show, and adds its own gorgeous vision, along with slightly more than a hint of unique confusion.

In the movie, humanity 400 years in the future survives a devastating plague by retreating into a walled and pristine city. Æn’s character describes this scenario in a weary voiceover, and hints that something is rotten in the city of Bregna. People disappear for unknown reasons, and inhabitants suffer from strange memory flashes of events they never experienced. In response to the autocratic rule of Trevor Goodchild, who organized the city of Bregna 400 years ago, a resistance group emerges, calling itself Monicans, of which Æon is their foremost agent (guessing that this is a play on mnemonics would be incorrect; the source is the original animated series, in which Monica was an anarchist sister-city of Bregna, but this is neither explained nor alluded to in the movie).

The Monicans send Æon and Sithandra, an agent who has modified her feet into another set of hands—one of the strangest visuals of the movie—to assassinate Trevor Goodchild. Something, of course, goes wrong in their mission, creating doubt and internal conflict within Æon, and setting her at odds with the Monicans.

It’s from this point in the movie that events veer from a visually stunning movie with an interesting plot, to a visually stunning movie with a baffling plot. For make no mistake, the effects in this movie as well as the scenery, design, and people all result in colorful eye candy.

In terms of libertarian elements, we find the resistance, highly trained and organized, allowing its agents significant bio-modification and virtual-reality communication seemingly absent from the ruling forces. The Monicans’ goals are unclear; they want to disrupt the government, and take out Goodchild, but nothing else matters. Any initial desire to cheer on the Monicans from a libertarian perspective quickly fades.

For want of a story, the director instead focuses on the surface beauty, and I came away feeling cheated. The same stress on visual effects were a major part of the animated series, but I expected more coherence from a feature length film. Watch this movie if you want to see stunning cinematic craft and design, but the story itself did not carry the same weight. The movie’s release prompted MTV to package and release the original series on DVD for the first time, and that alone might prove more interesting than this version.

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