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Friday, December 02, 2005

Aeon Flux

Until yesterday I had never heard of Aeon Flux. It sounded to me like something you get when you eat Indian food that's too spicy and you need a Rolaids. After seeing the movie this afternoon at the Essex Outlet Cinemas it turns out I wasn't too far off.

When I first decided I was going to write movie reviews it was after a conversation I had last summer with that so-adorable-you-want-to-squish-his-cheeks-together-and-give-him-a-big-kiss Dale Chapman, the manager at the Essex Outlet Cinemas. I had just staggered out of a showing of The Cave, a ghastly non-frightening fright fest expelled like a steaming bowel movement upon the public. Dale asked what I thought of it since I was always in the first showing audience of the first day the movie was playing and had a chance to see the new films even before the staff did. I searched desperately for words that did not include "worst" or "piece of" as adjectives. There had to be something I could say that did not begin "You could take that celluloid and wipe...". Finally, after what seemed a pause of days I answered "It had lovely underwater photography and Eddie Cibrian's dimples are so cute." So began my spiritual journey. I knew from that moment on that I could find something nice to say about any movie. And I have tried. God knows I have tried. And so we come to Aeon Flux, my personal Everest.

Charlize Theron, still aglow from her Oscar win for Monster, does her best to recreate Halle Berry's fall from grace when she played comic book character Catwoman by playing cartoon character Aeon Flux. For the uninitiated, Aeon Flux is based on a series of animated shorts made for MTV back in the mid 1990s. I'll try to keep you abreast. Charlize certainly does times two. Aeon is an assassin, but a righteous one of course. It is 2415 and the world is a Utopian society where women wear miniskirts with the lowest cleavage this side of their nipples and 5" heels and lots of make-up while shopping at an open-air market that seems to be the only sign of commerce in this metropolitan city. Bregna is this walled-in city with magnificent towers and a typically sci fi beautiful subway system, though in close-ups everything looks oddly like the cement buildings of the college I attended back in the 1970s. Our story begins with Aeon briefly interacting with her younger sister Una, played by Amelia Warner, whose acting is as flimsy as it is a plot device. The two minutes or so they talk about having dinner is so insipid that you just know Una might as well look for a body bag while she is at the market. Sure enough, Una is offed before dinner is served and Charlize almost shows an emotion. Almost. We wait for a tear. Wait. Wait. Wait. Nothing. Maybe they have too much botox in the future. Or too much Thorazine. Nobody seems to get too worked up about anything in this movie even in its' most crisis driven moments. Anyway, this is supposed to help us understand that Aeon's quest to kill Governor Goodchild (Kingdom of Heaven's Martin Csokas) is just.

The plot is as skimpy as Charlize Theron's clothing but basically the premise is that Bregna is the last bastion of humanity. Since 2011, everyone but the 50,000 people in Bregna have died from a super-infection. Goodchild, a scientist, found a cure for the plague and created Bregna as a refuge for people who survived and then the city was walled-in. Since then nature has reclaimed the earth and no one has ever gone outside of the walls, and apparently no one has ever wanted to. All of this is explained in the opening scroll and so there is no explanation as to how Governor Goodchild is still around, 410 years later, how everyone found and got to Bregna, why they built the wall if everybody else in the world was dead (zombies, anyone?), or why Aeon and her fellow Monicans (as they call themselves) are determined to kill the Governor. I wondered who Monica was? Were they originally rallied together by Friends' Monica Geller? That might explain the anal-retentive attention to their hair and wardrobe. And why has no one ever wanted to go outside? In 400 years surely someone must have been curious. I guess I over-think these things, but after what I saw post-Katrina I can't imagine nobody wouldn't want to get out there and loot their nearest WalMart.

One interesting development in the future is that Aeon and the other rebels communicate with one another and their leader through implants in their bodies, making the need for conference rooms obsolete. Instead, as long as you have a cerebal cortex you've got video conference calling available. Someone billed in the credits as "The Handler", and played by Fargo's Frances MacDormand in a red fright wig is the leader of the Monicans. Basically she has nothing to do but stand around in a white room and look ethereal, with a back light to add glamour. She's a bit like a nagging mother-in-law, there to remind Aeon that her job is to kill Trevor Goodchild. I think she also wants to support Charlize by showing her that at least one other Academy Award winning actress is willing to humiliate herself for cash.

Aeon is certain that one of Trevor Goodchild's men killed her sister, though there does not seem to be a reason for her to think so until a fellow Monican, Claudius (played by newcomer Nilolai Kinski, son of legendary actor Klaus Kinski), explains that she was the real target because Goodchild knew she is a Monican. Makes sense, of course, but poor Trevor is not that savvy and apparently neither is Aeon. You might just call them a pair of boobs if you you were so inclined.

Back at his headquarters, which on the outside looks like a waste treatment plant, it is obvious that Trevor may be the Governor but it is his younger brother, Oren, (Johnny Lee Miller) who is really in charge. In great Shakespearean tradition Oren is bound and determined to take the throne and is more than happy to screw over his brother in the process to do so. He practically drips with venom as he tells the governing council of his brother's flaws. I half-expected to hear "Darth Vader" music every time he walked in and out of a room.

So in comes Aeon Flux, aided by her friend Sithandra, inexplicably played by Academy Award nominee Sophie Okonedo of last year's heavy duty Hotel Rwanda, to kill Trevor Goodchild. Not to digress, but in a civilization of only 50,000 people, how many assassins does the world need? There seems to be quite an army of them on both sides. Sithandra seems to disappear once we've been slightly entertained by the fact that she has had her feet replaced with an additional set of hands (from where they don't say), but it definitely gives new meaning to the saying "I'm all thumbs today." Apparently she is only around to lend a hand if necessary. It isn't.

Aeon's moment arrives and she finds she is unable to kill Trevor, but she doesn't know why. She has brief flashes of *something* but it makes no sense. She is jailed, of course, but like any good assassin in the year 2415, Aeon Flux has her clever 007 goodies and is free in no time, ready to kick, swing, somersault, and generally look cool while acrobatically dispatching Trevor and Oren's goons ala Batgirl. She even manages to grab one female assassin and (wait for it) "knocker" head into a wall a couple of times. This movie sure is full of knockers.

In no time at all it is apparent to the Monicans that Aeon is a traitor since she didn't kill Trevor and so The Handler has all of Aeon's former allies, including Sithandra, now on the prowl to assassinate her. Meanwhile Oren charges Trevor with treason for letting Aeon live and he has seized power and dispatched the army to find and kill his older brother.

And so off they go, Aeon and Trevor, together, as allies, through the tunnels and drains of the city, stopping for exposition, bullet removal, more exposition, and finally an understanding of what the Hell is going on in this silly non-plot. Everything is quickly explained, including how Trevor has ruled for 400 years, how Aeon knows Trevor, and why Oren is seizing power. The one thing that isn't explained is what possessed Charlize Theron to make this movie in the first place.

Needless to say, there is much gunfire throughout the film, and 400 years has not changed the look or sound of the weapons in the least. Bodies drop so quickly that I imagine the numbers on the census sign at the outside gate of Bregna spinning rapidly backwards, but what can you expect in a movie all about hooters, guns, hooters, martial arts, guns, and did I mention hooters. Trailer Park Critic Joe Bob Briggs would say it's a great movie because "they don't let too much plot get in the way of the action", and that is certainly the case.
Definitely a must for testosterone driven teenage boys and for very pale guys who spend way too much time in front of the computer or X-Box playing games and who are not getting nearly enough time out in the open air. Here is a chance to see a real live hottie stuffed in black lycra with her two most enormous talents on full display throughout the film. She bounces, flounces, and kicks more butt than Will Smith on a good day. I am sure there will be guys throughout the audience giving Charlize a standing ovation for most of the film without ever leaving their seats. Enjoy.

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