Review: Aeon Flux
Watched the new movie of Æon Flux after work this evening.
The first third or so was every bit as deliciously creepy and surreally appealing as I could have hoped--it even opens with that creepy creepy image of Æon's eyelashes capturing a fly, from the original series. They included the inhuman movement as Æon creeps along a wall, and the kiss that transfers a small ovoid from one mouth to another, and the offbeat camera work, and the somehow liquid-feeling technology, and a milder version of the weird spiky hair, and the fetishwear (though not nearly as over-the-top as the original, and there are no overt references to Æon being a model for a foot-fetishist magazine or a dominatrix). And it adds some lovely touches, like the very real-looking hands replacing Sophie Okonedo's character's feet; if they ever make a movie of Falling Free, they can use this effect for the quaddies.
So I spent much of the first third of the movie wondering what could possibly have possessed them to make this movie, but being pleased that they had. I can't imagine the audience for it is very big--I gather it's not doing all that well at the box office, and the theatre I saw it in tonight was nearly empty, but regardless of that I just doubt there are all that many people who would appreciate the first third of the movie other than fans of the original series.
I should pause in my description of the movie to note that it's been perhaps a dozen years or more since I saw the few original Æon Flux episodes that I ever saw, so my memory is probably faulty, and at any rate is definitely incomplete, as I never saw most of the episodes. But I'm reinforcing my memory by referring to The Herodotus File, a fascinating and entertaining book/comic/graphic novel/artifact put together by Melcher Media in 1995 and written by Mark Mars and Eric Singer. I doubt it's canonical--my impression is that no Æon Flux material has ever been considered canonical, not even the original episodes--but it's delightfully odd and well worth taking a look at. I particularly like the excerpts from Chairman Goodchild's personal file, with lines like:
The past must not be allowed to fall into the wrong hands.
I have been accused of caring nothing for the truth, but on the contrary, I value the truth so highly that I make sure it is hidden away someplace safe, where it is not soiled by dirty hands, embarrassed by prying eyes, or worn out through overuse.
But back to the movie. Unfortunately, there's a lot that they changed (for one thing, there's no country named Monica in the movie; the freedom fighters are known as "Monicans" for no apparent reason), and the dialogue really isn't very good throughout the movie, and the second half of the movie deteriorates into standard Hollywood sci-fi action--and not even very exciting action at that. There are still some cool effects, and a nicely multiracial cast of kick-ass agents and martial artists, but the second half loses a lot of the appeal that the first half held for me.
I guess my feelings about the relationship between the film and what's gone before can be summed up by a quote from the Wikipedia article on Æon Flux:
The film, while it does take a number of major liberties with the character and concept of the series, nonetheless incorporates numerous characters, themes, and even gadgets featured in the TV version.
I don't particularly mind the fact that they took liberties; after all, the original series of shorts intentionally had no continuity from episode to episode. But I was disappointed that the backstory they came up with for the movie (which I assume was original to the movie) wasn't as cool as I'd hoped (among other things, it features a standard misuse of a standard sf concept, a misuse that's a pet peeve of mine), and the choices Æon decides to make near the end seemed to me entirely unjustified by what had gone before. And a lot of the cool weirdness of the world's look and feel goes away in the second half, replaced by lots and lots of guns and explosions (which, to be fair, iIrc, is in itself true to the original).
So I guess overall I'd say the movie's worth seeing if you're (a) a fan of the original, but (b) not such a big fan that you'll be upset at the movie playing fast and loose with the story and characters. But even so, don't go into it with high expectations, and don't let the first half raise your expectations too much.
My next step will be to obtain and watch the DVDs from the box set of the original episodes. I suspect I'll enjoy those more than the movie.