Wednesday, December 07, 2005

AEON... oh god i guess it's mandadtory... SUX

Waiting for my moviegoing companion, leaning against the dented and tarnished brass rail of the City Centre atrium well, two chiefs grabbing cash from the third-party ripoff ATM:

GUY 1 -- What movie are we seeing?

GUY 2 -- Aeon Flux, dude.

GUY 1 -- [wincing, drawn-back, just-whiffed-shit grimace]

GUY 2 -- Dude, there's nothing else.

And that's how it works in movies, just like it works in auto racing: the distributors see their hole, find their line, and WHAM -- number two at the box office. "Nothing else" is a little harsh, though; dudely dudes seeking action and adventure could always take their cheap-night dollars to... uh... Harry Potter? Yeah. I guess what I'm saying is, if you're gonna get a downbudget sexy acrobatic catsuit-lady kung-fu machine-gun science-fantasy anime adaptation into the world, there's only a couple of windows you can toss it through.

I'd only seen Peter Chung's original Aeon Flux animated shorts -- a series of highly stylized six-minute dystopian sci-fi espionage sex fantasies -- a couple times, but I knew three things about title character Aeon: she's sexy, she's silent, and she dies a lot. Purists beware! In deadpanning a string of thudding action-movie lines (few memorable) and steadfastly refusing to be killed by any of the challenges in her feature-length obstacle course, Charlize Theron only manages to hit one of the cardinal numbers. And even her sexiness is a bit iffy, wonderfully limber and self-stunting as she may be, just another Serious Actress sliding her impossibly lean and personally-trained body into a slinky battlestocking. Maybe that's your thing; she's got Halle Berry's ludicrous Catwoman beat, anyway.

The plot she moves through is standard, servicable sci-fi bullshit solidly in the Heavy Metalvein, which I don't entirely mind. There's a battle for the human race, a creepy succession of sibling clone overlords, conspiracy, murder, betrayal. Lots of futuristic henchgoons in black armor. It all makes about as much realistic sense as holstering a pistol between your shoulder blades -- ie., none -- but it works for what it is. The only problem with this Heavy Metal stuff is that it takes itself so damn seriously; Aeon Flux is as serious a movie as ever there was. There's barely a hint of humor (you'll know it when/if you see it), and not the slightest twitch of a wink -- another thing lost from the original shorts. Too bad; there's a lot to have fun with here, and I would rather have been laughing *with* the film, at least once or twice, than laughing at it. It's the bad kind of campy.

At least director Karyn Kusama (Girlfight) and her art people didn't go for a "dark and gritty" futuropolis, managed to stay off that tired, rusting, waterlogged path, with all its eerie crepuscular light shining from behind slowly rotating ventilation fans. Aeon Flux's enclave city of Bregna, last refuge of the remnant of humanity, is a bright wonderland on the surface, a utopia of plazas, gardens, and organform architecture populated by healthy, happy multiethnic future people who take their fashion cues from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The action and intrigue takes place in the shadows -- not deep, spooky shadows; regular shadows -- of this sunny sci-fi city, the nasty side of Paradise. It doesn't really make the hack backflipping, necksnapping and machine-gunning any better, but it keeps it from getting worse.

My flu started running me a temperature about halfway the movie, and even the beginnings of a looping fever dementia couldn't spice up this stilted action pantomime. Low point: an utterly tedious "climactic battle" that looked like a high-school "action movie" video project and sounded like an Xbox with the trigger taped down. High point: Pete Postlethwaite as a tired, sick old man... or hologram. Or whatever.

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