Sunday, December 04, 2005
I wanted Aeon Flux to be bad. I really did! All the reviewers seemed to be having so much fun trashing it, and I wanted to jump on the bandwagon and really destroy it (like when The Last Action Hero came out).
Here's a few excerpts:
"An exercise in stupidity ..."
"A thoroughly awful and unusually incoherent piece of work ..."
"Incredibly dull ... a real catastrophe ..."
"I felt like I was holding back a bout of extreme diarrhea while having dinner with my girlfriend's folks for the first time ..."
"Charlize Theron has her Oscar. Now she has her Catwoman ..."
(Ouch! That was just mean! Uncalled for! Over the line!)
"Aeon Flux is by far the year's worst movie, a most dubious achievement ..."
"After her amazing performance in Monster, I prefer the ugly Charlize Theron ..."
Doesn't jumping in on that pile-up sound like fun? (Remember, Charlize Theron is in there somewhere.) I even wrote a few phrases before I saw the movie:
"I wanted to eat my own eyeballs rather than watch another second of Aeon Flux ..."
"Every Union and Confederate soldier feared the onset of the deadly ailment known as the bloody flux. The most notable symptom of bloody flux was painful, explosive diarrhea. There was always shit all over the place ..."
"I maintain that the current malady just as feared by cinema-goers will soon be known as aeon flux. Movie lovers will soon learn to fear the aeon flux and the high casualty rates it will leave behind, among them Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand and director Karyn Kusama."
But it didn't happen. Aeon Flux was great. Great special effects, great costumes, great sets, an appealing star, good acting, good plot and a sensible and satisfying resolution. I was sucked in immediately and swept away into the fascinating world of Aeon Flux.
I'm trying to figure out what the critics expected of Aeon Flux, and why they were so darn hostile. Maybe they never saw a sci-fi film before and were confused by the concepts. Or maybe they were all fans of the MTV cartoon and they expected the movie to be just like the original series. I admit, Charlize Theron doesn't look like the cartoon Aeon Flux. But how many seven-foot-tall anorexic actresses are there in Hollywood that it should be so easy to cast? I would also like to point out that Aeon Flux died at the end about eight times in the cartoons. Each short segment was a self-contained mission with some amazing, impossible shit in it, and it's easy to see why the film-makers chose a more conventional narrative format.
If the reviewers were expecting to see the cartoon, I don't know why they didn't just rent the damn cartoon. It's on DVD, isn't it?
Behind all the sci-fi gadgets, the futuristic city, the innovative melding of utopia and dystopia, the black leather wardrobe, the gymnastics, and the violence, the basic story is about government and resistance, and I wonder if that, ultimately, isn't the real reason why so many reviewers were perplexed and prone to hostility by their frustrating inability to comprehend a few complicated plot elements.
The futuristic city of Bregna projects a beneficial façade, but people are disappearing, and all is not right in Bregna. Aeon Flux is the number-one operative of the Monicans, the shadowy revolutionary group of futuristic acrobats opposed to the rulers of Bregna. Aeon is ordered to assassinate Trevor Goodchild, the chairman of the council that rules the city.
But all is not black and white and so easy to figure out. The Monicans really only have a vague idea of what they are up against. They are also unaware that their intelligence source on the council is feeding them false information, and using the Monicans to get rid of Trevor Goodchild, who is one of the good guys, in order to stage a coup and take over Bregna.
Aeon senses the situation is more complicated than she realized, and she disobeys the orders of the Monican leaders. The rest of the film reveals a mixture of good intentions, deception, nobility and power grabs within the ruling council of Bregna. The ending challenges the beliefs of authoritarians, who will be upset that the dissenting Monicans are depicted as heroic revolutionaries. Nor will it be completely satisfying to the romantic revolutionaries when the truly corrupt elements of the governing council are eliminated, but the basic government and most of the personnel is left in place. Return of the Jedi this ain't.
The criticism offered by the negative reviews is pretty shallow, long on creative expressions of disdain, but short on any rational analysis. One reviewer wrote:
"There's little in this movie that makes sense. For example: it's set 400 years in the future, yet Goodchild's armed forces are still using bullets? C'mon."
C'mon, indeed. You might as well ask why modern humans, we of the 21st century, still use knives, a weapon that goes back thousands of years, even tens of thousands if you count stone knives. We still use knives because they are still effective, as I imagine bullets will still be effective in 2415. This really isn't much of a criticism, but the reviewer put it forward as some sort of irrefutable evidence that Aeon Flux is the worst movie of 2005. The reviewer seemed to be perfectly happy to ignore the use of futuristic psychotropic drugs, exploding ball bearings, trees that bear dart-throwing fruits, genetic modifications, and all the other technological improvements that decorate Bregna. "Damn it all! They still use bullets! This movie sucks!"
So they're still using bullets! Big deal! Is that the best he could do in coming up with a criticism for Aeon Flux? Dude, put your BEST evidence in the review!
I can understand why many people wouldn't be enthusiastic about this film. After all, science fiction isn't everyone's cup of tea. But I am baffled that this exciting, beautiful and visionary fantasy is being subjected to so much unwarranted hostility. I trusted the critics on Catwoman and Gigli. Maybe I shouldn't have.