Aeon Flux

Tagged: Film | TV

This title is more correctly given as Æon Flux.

1. US animated tv series (1991-1995). MTV. Created by Peter Chung. Executive producers Japhet Asher and Abby Terkuhle. Writers: Peter Chung (seasons one and two), plus Japhet Asher, Peter Chung, Todd French, Peter Gaffney, Mark Mars and others (season three). Voice cast includes Denise Poirier and John Rafter Lee. 16 episodes of various lengths. Colour.

Initially broadcast as six brief pieces totalling two minutes in all on Liquid Television (MTV's experimental animation show) this was followed by a second season of five five-minute episodes, then by a third season of ten half-hour shows. The first two seasons have no dialogue, save one word uttered by Æon ("plop"); Æon dies at the end of the first season and at the end of each second season episode.

Æon (Poirier) is a secret agent from the anarchist state of Monica who infiltrates the adjacent country of Bregna to assassinate its officials, including the dictator Trevor Goodchild (Lee); he is also, on occasion, her collaborator or lover – there is much flirting. The early episodes are short bursts of dark weirdness whose meaning is unclear; later episodes suffer from the requirement of plot and character to hold a longer story together, which dilute the disquieting edge possessed by the shorter pieces.

Set in a future Dystopia, the show uses many sf tropes: several Alien species, Clones, advanced Technology, Robots, Mutants, and so on. References to Gnosticism (e.g. the use of "Æon", the appearance of a Demiurge), has led to accusations of pretension – with story titles like "Utopia or Deuteranopia?" and "Thanatophobia" as supporting evidence – though tongues might be in cheek.

In the final episode, "End Sinister", Goodchild plans to speed up humanity's Evolution through Rays broadcast from a satellite – despite an extremely high fatality rate. This is put on hold when Æon discovers an alien in a hibernation pod. They find its ship (containing dead aliens already subjected to the ray); eventually Goodchild and the Alien depart in the ship to visit the latter's homeworld, whilst Æon sleeps in the pod awaiting their return. Eventually Æon awakes, to find Earth inhabited by the aliens: believing them to have wiped out humanity she sets off the evolution ray, killing most of the aliens; some flee to a Spaceship. Goodchild appears, explaining the "aliens" are evolved humanity: Æon knocks him out and takes him into the pod. As the ship departs a voice-over of Goodchild says "Go forth and multiply" ... but this ship is likely the one the original alien arrived in and a Time Loop may be under way. Curiously, the name of the satellite is "Aldis B", one letter short of SF author Brian W Aldiss. [SP]

2. Film (2005). Paramount Pictures and Lakeshore Entertainment present a Valhalla Motion Pictures and MTV Films production. Directed by Karyn Kusama. Written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, based on the animated Television series Æon Flux (1991-1995) created by Peter Chung. Cast includes Marton Csokas, Frances McDormand, Jonny Lee Miller, Sophie Okonedo, Pete Postlethwaite and Charlize Theron. 93 minutes. Colour.

With a potentially excellent cast, bewilderingly rich in Oscar winners and nominees, Æon Flux is nonetheless pallid compared to its animated predecessor. With sadly typical Hollywood caution, the movie jettisons much of the weirdness and violence that had given the above Television series its cult status: a dumbing-down rendering it bland and conceptually dated. This in turn gives the actors not much to work with. The director, still a comparative novice, may have been another factor contributing to this weakness (though she was good enough to win best film at Sundance in 2000 for Girlfight, which she wrote and directed).

Centuries in the future, the remnants of humanity live in the walled city of Bregna, ruled by a scientific elite. Æon (Theron) is an assassin who seeks to topple the government, but her mission is complicated by her feelings for its leading member (Csokas).

Much of the plot hinges on a revelation about human cloning (see Clones) – the current population consists of replicas of the original Post-Holocaust survivors, many cloned generations later – but Æon Flux's laughable scientific illiteracy on the subject undercuts any dramatic potency this revelation might have had. What the film most resembles in style, setting and execution – despite a modestly generous budget – is a less-than-cutting edge computer Videogame. [JN/PN]

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