Hard-won reputations take a serious kicking in Aeon Flux, with Charlize Theron following fellow Best Actress Oscar winner, Catwoman Halle Berry into the career-threatening high-wire genre of the female action superhero with similarly disastrous results.
Sometime soon, all bar five million or so of the world’s population is wiped out by a deadly virus. 400 years later, those few survivors live in a seemingly utopian society called Bregna run by Trevor Goodchild (Marton Csokas), a scientific genius who created the vaccine that saved humanity, and his brother Oren (Johnny Lee Miller). They keep a tight grip on the population via a combination of Big Brother surveillance and heavy-handed military force. The architecture all looks very high-tech, and the fashions are suitably evolved, but there is trouble in paradise and people are starting to disappear. The deadly assassin Aeon Flux (Theron) is part of a rebel group named the Monicans, led by The Handler (Frances McDormand), who have secret meetings in a courtroom inside their brains. Aeon has a sidekick, Sithandra (Sophie Okonedo), who has hands instead of feet. Hang on, I’m nearly finished. When Aeon and Sithandra are sent on a mission to kill Trevor (Trevor?), they must dodge killer grass and beehives that shoot arrows before, not unexpectedly, uncovering a vast government conspiracy and an earth-shattering secret.
The future really is grim. Grim and stupid. Sometimes what works in animation, just like what satisfies about other two dimensional art forms like graphic novels and video games, just doesn’t translate into film. This is one of those times, and far from the only one. Theron looks great in the costume, but man alive, when she’s called upon to speak the lines. She’s not alone; it is sobering to see how such a talented cast can be so spectacularly wasted. Worse is how howlingly bad they are individually, each more uncomfortable and stilted and confused looking than the last. The unadventurous direction, from Girlfight’s Karyn Kusama is either ponderous or frantic but altogether bewilderingly shoddy and half-hearted. The original Aeon Flux was visceral and visually arresting, but as usual, all the juice has been sucked out of the property for the big-screen, big-money gamble and what remains is the bitter rind. That loss might not be all Kusama’s fault, but without soul or energy, her film collapses into a spectacularly muddled assembly of nasty special effects, witless plot twists and Power Ranger’s-outtakes standard action sequences. Chasing the all-important young teenage male demographic, Theron does cartwheels in tight black leather for ninety minutes. She even climbs a few ladders. They won’t want to miss that. For anyone else, you will.