A few of us checked out AEon Flux last night. I’ll go out on a limb and guess most of this audience watched Liquid Television at some point in their lives. For those who haven’t, MTV, back when it was slightly redeemable, ran a late night showing of avant-garde cartoons that smacked of anime, rather than Merry Melodies. To members of my young generation, Liquid Television was a window into the surreal world of Adult, where cartoons weren’t funny and just didn’t make sense.
AEon Flux is the only show that sticks out in my mind, for one reason above all: a hot chick ran around wearing next to nothing, killing stuff wantonly. Hey, I was 13. And I’ll be honest, the show didn’t offer much more than that. There was a plot, but unless you were able to tune in weekly, you weren’t going to notice. So much of the story was unspoken, and on top of that, you were forced to recall stuff that happened three episodes ago, just to understand the obscure dialog. In the days before season-long DVD releases, AEon Flux demanded too much from my pubescent mind. It’s not that it was a bad show, it just tried to do too much I might not have been ready for.
So, going into the theater with this retrospection fresh in mind, I didn’t quite know what to expect. But I definitely wasn’t counting on what the movie gave us, and that alone made it worth the $8.25.
In case you’ve been under a rock (or you’re like me and don’t have cable), Charlize Theron plays AEon, a terrorist operative trying to destroy a futuristic government that oppresses its citizenry for the reasons oppressive governments do things. Blah blah blah. It’s not as good as Equilibrium’s take on the idea, but AEon Flux goes in a different and equally unique direction with the standard futuristic plot device, even if it’s not as appreciable. But the action is definitely good, and there’s no lack of it.
I think the first person dies five minutes in – just as Theron’s monolog explaining that we are, in fact, in the future and a plague killed 99% of humanity 400 years ago wraps up. Long before we really get much of a feel for Theron’s character, or what the hell’s going on, we’re propelled into an action scene where she and a woman with hands for feet are infiltrating a government base, where even the picturesque garden separating it from the rest of the world is a defensive weapon. It was awesome, but I didn’t really know who Four Hands was; she and Theron spoke about six lines before they started flipping and rolling and climbing through the base’s defenses. “Oh, it’s going to be that type of movie,” I thought. “Let’s just settle in for a good action flick and pray for explosions.” Right about then, my brain shut off. And that’s when AEon Flux struck.
It was a beautiful bait-and-switch. I have to give writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi credit. At the very moment I thought I was in a generic rip-off of a bad, yet unforgettable TV show, the plot came forth and charged headlong into that magical realm we refer to as “interesting.” I’ll go as far to say I wasn’t able to predict where they were going until they got there, and that alone means something.
AEon Flux isn’t a great movie, but it’s a good one. And it’s yet another positive step in the right direction for sci-fi and fantasy movies, in general. In a genre previously labeled “geeky,” things are getting better. Oscar winners are playing stone killers from the future. Money is being spent, here. Trendy people were in the audience, along with the smelly anime geeks sitting in the front row. It’s more of the same, folks: They’re onto us, and they’re finally understanding what it is they’re missing.
I remember leaving the first Lord of the Rings movie, seeing a girl in a few of my classes in high school. When I said hello and mentioned what movie I saw, she laughed and commented on how “dorky” the movies were. But by the time the second installment came out, pop culture took hold and sunk in its teeth. She sat next to me on opening night.
This is only going to get better.