ÆON FLUX. OMG, what a terrible science fiction

Without The Matrix, would there be Aeon Flux?

Rafał Donica

25 November 2023

ÆON FLUX Aeon Flux OMG, what a terrible science fiction

Okay, The Matrix was a revolution (and its revival, for that matter) and it neatly turned the world of cinematic science fiction and the cyberpunk genre upside down. It drew from everything: mythology, the Bible, popular culture, comics, Lem, Wuxia (Asian films about those who jump and fly), and finally, from Mamoru Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell and Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira. Any respectable cinephile knows how many accusations of plagiarism and idea theft were leveled against the Wachowskis. And those who live by the sword die by the sword, for the sisters must live with the fact that now everyone indiscriminately slices through their Matrix, imitating scenes of wire-fu, slowed-down shooting pace, action freezes, bullets joyfully cutting through the air causing shockwaves, or finally, the elegant attire of impeccably looking defenders of the world with an equally elegant grimace on their faces and the grace of acrobats demolishing opponents.

While the initial imitations in terms of visual and choreographic concepts (Equilibrium, The One, Underworld, Romeo Must Die) or parodies like the one in Scary Movie were acceptable and could be tolerated, the persistent copying of the Matrix style is slowly starting to irk viewers (perhaps not filmmakers). The bullet-dodging scene in Alone in the Dark, Bad Boys 2, or Immortal is a clear tendency to insert something ‘Matrix-esque’ wherever possible. And now comes ÆON FLUX that shows that although the Matrix convention and style seemed exhausted to the bone, it can be used again… and even more exhaustively. Now, on the other hand; first, there was a Hollywood trend of disfiguring beautiful actresses: Nicole Kidman with a strange, attached nose in The Hours won an Oscar, the same honorable distinction kicked Charlize Theron for an ugly and repulsive killer in Monster. Roughly at the same time, on the other side of the barricade, sexy ladies stood, squeezed into tight, leather/latex suits, with a gun in hand and a combat attitude towards the world—Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft from Tomb Raider, Trinity from The Matrix, Selene from Underworld and Underworld: Evolution, Catwoman from Catwoman, and Terminatrix from Terminator 3

Aeon Flux Æon Flux Charlize Theron

No need to mention more, as in the case of films drawing from or mocking The Matrix; it was just about signaling certain phenomena. Charlize Theron (as mentioned) won an Oscar for ugliness and excellent, arguably acting in a serious, grim drama. Now, therefore, she decided to try her hand at a genre lying on the other pole, a loose rampage in a tight outfit and an unchanged, elegantly arranged hairstyle, regardless of the number of opponents, the intensity of the fight, the speed of escape, and the spectacularity of the shooting—basically, she’s ready for any weather. The writers added a mega-twisted plot, which is not interesting at all, some prophecies, some ostensibly deep messages, and finally, pseudo-complicated relationships connecting the titular Aeon with the untitled Trevor Goodchild. All of this in a setting that we can associate with the old Soylent Green or the new The Island – sterile interiors, white, smooth outfits, where the world is controlled by an invisible force of executive leadership, which the gray inhabitants of the city do not know and cannot know anything about—a kind of 1984 for the poor, or rather undemanding. The film is primarily overdesigned and overtalked, and since the dialogues are uninteresting, and the fate of the characters is indifferent to us—also boring. However, we do have, of course, plenty of action scenes. It’s just a pity that they are edited as if the editor were a person laying down railroad tracks rather than working with a film reel. Especially the clumsiness of the editing is visible in the shootings (fortunately, it didn’t surpass the clumsiness of action scenes in Ballistic). Strange, given that Peter Honess edited, among others, Fast and Furious and the Harry Potter Chamber of Secrets—with quite good results.

Aeon Flux Æon Flux Charlize Theron

However, what is most irritating is the mannerism of the main character of ÆON FLUX (Charlize Theron with her 177 centimeters of height is not exactly an example of a delicate silhouette—yes, we also use diminutives), who is desperately trying to look super sexy in her costumes, although her figure is clearly lagging behind, for example, Kate Beckinsale (173 centimeters tall—ideal), who rules in a latex suit from Underworld: Evolution. Yes, Charlize Theron has a sweeter and simply prettier face than, for example, Carrie Ann Moss from The Matrix, but in terms of figure, she loses to both Wachowski’s Trinity and Halle Berry from the unsuccessful Catwoman. And most of all, Theron loses to the original ÆON FLUX known from the MTV series, where the main character has a wasp waist and spider legs. At this point, accusations may be directed at me, a film critic (self-proclaimed, at that), playing like a teenager in rankings of which Hollywood lady is sexier, more graceful, and cooler. I know it may look like an article from ‘BRAVO,’ but since Charlize Theron is pushing herself into areas where external values, not interesting inner qualities and a good heart, will be ruthlessly judged, my rights include conducting such a little ambitious beauty contest, which I will end here.

Aeon Flux Æon Flux Charlize Theron Marton Csokas

Now, I’ll deliver a clever technical knockout to Karyn Kusama’s film by focusing on its technical aspects. Filmmakers have been enamored with something as ordinary as a cord in recent years. Cord, string, or any other object used more for pulling than pushing. In the case of Charlize Theron and ÆON FLUX, it seems she was attached to strings on the first day and detached on the last day of shooting. Maybe Charlize was very attached to those strings – hard to say. The bulk of action scenes, where Aeon jumps, runs, and climbs walls, looks as if this otherwise serious actress was waving her legs and arms around while the operators swung her on strings, resulting in an overall effect of awkwardness. Scenes depicting the acrobatic abilities of the protagonist looked much better in the animated version of ÆON FLUX from MTV – perhaps because they managed without strings there. I understand that strings are edited out later, and they are not visible, but can’t the filmmakers see that the artificial, unnatural, and drawn-out movement of actors remains? As an example, I recommend the sequence of jumping over a fairly sharp lawn. Some shots look like a poor joke on the viewer’s intelligence, who easily notices the clumsiness of the movements of actors suspended on strings, which was intended to look like superhuman physical-acrobatic prowess. Honestly, in many places, I commented in my mind on these tacky scenes with the words: ‘It seems your strings snapped’ – and I don’t wish ill to the cast of ÆON FLUX because maybe one day these good people will act in a better movie.

Aeon Flux Æon Flux Charlize Theron

No, I won’t give up on the cast yet; what are serious actors like Frances McDormand and Pete Postlethwaite doing in all of this, the latter in an outfit resembling a large pancake wrapped around him? But, well, since the quite good Christian Slater agreed to play in Uwe Boll’s disastrous Alone in the Dark, Theron, Postlethwaite, and McDormand can be forgiven for their roles in a completely misguided project like ÆON FLUX. Perhaps actors simply like to dive to the bottom sometimes, to later climb back to the top. Maybe these film nightmares are a form of vacation, relaxation, an escape into something lighter, less ambitious, sometimes just silly. So, at this point, one request – let them not take us, the audience, on such vacations anymore.

Rafał Donica

Rafał Donica

Since watching "Blade Runner", he has been passionate about cinema, loves "Akira", "Drive", "Escape from New York", "North by Northwest", the underrated "The Hateful Eight" and "Terrifier 2". Author of the book "Frankenstein 100 years in cinema". Founder and editor-in-chief (in the years 1999 - 2012) of the Polish film portal FILM.ORG.PL. Since 2016, a professional reportage photographer.

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