Æon Flux (2005)

Æon Flux
Director: Karyn Kusama
Writer: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi
Based on: Peter Chung‘s characters from his animated series
Cast: Charlize Theron, Marton Csokas, Jonny Lee Miller, Sophie Okonedo, Frances McDormand, Pete Postlethwaite, Amelia Warner, Caroline Chikezie, Nikolai Kinski, Paterson Joseph, Yangzom Brauen
Seen on: 5.10.2022

Bregna is the last remaining human city after a virus annihilated most of humanity. It is led by Trevor Goodchild (Marton Csokas). There are people who believe in Goodchild, but there are also those that see the increasing absolutism in it. The Monicans are a rebel group who believe the latter. Æon Flux (Charlize Theron) is their star assassin, so when an opportunity presents itself, they send Æon after Goodchild. But once they’re face to face, Æon discovers that things are more complicated than she thought.

Æon Flux is a visually striking sci-fi adventure that tells no great story, but it tells it with a certain panache. I enjoyed it (and don’t understand why it flopped so hard back when it came out).

The poster showing Æon (Charlize Theron) grabbing a gun in a holster on her back.

Totalitarian governments and issues with reproduction are standard staples of the genre, and Æon Flux does not exactly re-invent the genre in those instances. But there are a couple of twists and takes that do get something new from them. They are, I thought, a little underdeveloped and we could have gotten more out of the concepts, but they do give a slightly fresher spin to an otherwise rather standard plot.

But the real star of the film are the visuals. The costumes, the city and above all a striking action scene where Æon and Sithandra (Sophie Okonedo) storm the citadel and the very grass turns against them. The action is generally pretty acrobatic (Theron did her own stunts, apparently, making this even more impressive), and the film still looks very good, even more than 15 years later.

Æon (Charlize Theron) crawling over grass that is releasing a toxic vapor.

Kusama directs the action with flair, but opted for a more subdued, almost inflectionless acting style that contrasts with the visual richness. I am not sure that this always works, but it is certainly interesting in its juxtaposition – a juxtaposition that serves the narrative very well: everything looks fantastic, but humanity is very much restrained here.

I don’t know the animated series this is based on at all, and maybe the fact that I don’t have that to compare it to is what makes me wonder about the negative reception of this film (and how much, maybe, it has to do with this film having a female director of color). But I do wonder because the film – while not a great masterpiece – is certainly a more than average sci-fi film that I could very much enjoy.

Æon (Charlize Theron) standing in a lab.

Summarizing: a good watch.

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