Aeon Flux

Dec 7, 2005 at 12:00 am

Last year, Halle Berry made an unexpected appearance at the Golden Razzberrys to receive the Worst Actress award for starring in the execrable Catwoman. Her breathless speech began, “I want to thank Warner Brothers. Thank you for putting me in this piece-of-shit, god-awful movie.” It was the first time a major Hollywood star showed up for the dishonor, and Berry clearly had fun mocking her own post-Oscar career trajectory. Before then, only director Paul Verhoeven (Showgirls) and comedian Tom Green (Freddy Got Fingered) dared to accept their prizes in person. Let’s hope Charlize Theron has the good grace and humor to make an appearance at this year’s ceremony for her turn in Aeon Flux.

What is it that drives talented actresses to dive into a hot pile of cinematic crap soon after winning their first Oscar? Is a predisposition for professional self-destruction linked to the beauty gene? To be fair, Theron was paid $10 million (a career high) to bring the kinky animated assassin to the big screen and, though the film doesn’t include one original idea, it never reaches the deliriously campy heights of awfulness that Catwoman achieved.

Aeon Flux, an early ’90s animated MTV series by Peter Chung, followed the violent, futuristic adventures of a leggy, acrobatic killer who took on legions of armed guards in order to kill their handsome and enigmatic leader. The show boasted a distinct visual style and little, if any, dialogue. More than one episode ended with Aeon’s death.

This film, only loosely based on the series, takes place 400 years in the future, after an industrial disease has wiped out 99 percent of the earth’s population. What’s left of humanity lives in Bregna, an idyllic city-state walled off from the rest of the world. Ruled by a cadre of scientists, the place is, of course, more gilded cage than futuristic utopia. Aeon Flux (Theron) is an agent for the Monicans, a rebel group fighting against the ruling dynasty of Trevor Goodchild (played by brooding Australian hunk, Martin Csokas) and his brother, Oren Goodchild (Jonny Lee Miller). Ordered to assassinate the scientist-leader, Aeon predictably discovers that the cloistered society harbors a disturbing secret.

Written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi (of the atrocious Jackie Chan flick The Tuxedo), the story is basically a half-assed mélange of Dark City, The Island and Demolition Man. Filled with obvious and on-the-nose dialogue, the script’s sole twist can be predicted half an hour before it arrives. Adding insult to injury is Karyn Kusama’s (Girlfight) yawn-inducing direction. The once-promising filmmaker joins the long line of young directors who cannot, for the life of them, deliver a coherent or exciting action sequence. Relying on muddled close-ups and frenetic jump cuts, the fight scenes actually get less thrilling as the film goes on.

Theron and Csokas sleepwalk through their roles, intoning half their lines in breathy monotone. Frances McDormand (another Oscar winner who will undoubtedly be nominated for a Razzie in this role) collects a quick paycheck as Aeon’s “handler” — she also sports the most ridiculous hairdo seen in a film this decade.

There are some beautiful things to look at in Aeon Flux, but, more often than not, the film’s visual scheme seems lifted from a perfume commercial. Plastic-faced extras loiter about like French runway models and many of the sets look like gussied-up discards from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Movie studios and audiences have conflicted feelings about film critics. They love us when we draw attention to pictures that might otherwise go unnoticed, but hate us when we sink our claws into more popular fare. Paramount Pictures clearly expects Aeon Flux to be lambasted because they’ve pulled an end-run around the reviewers by screening the $55 million disappointment the night before it opened. You certainly can’t blame them for having the good business sense to protect their investment. One wonders, however, why they didn’t exercise the same sound judgment when they green-lighted this turkey.

Jeff Meyers writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].