This is not my normal fare, but I’m running out of sci-fi films to stream on netflix. Also, it was late and I was bored/tired/exhausted from grading/researching/reading.
If there was a prize for “soulless filmmaking” Aeon Flux would take home the “honors.” The problem is, there’s not necessarily anything atrociously wrong with “what we see” in this film. The visuals are relatively interesting, the technology weird and unexplained (which can be an useful narrative technique in world creation), even the acting isn’t half bad for this sort of film (especially Charlize Theron). Likewise, the director (Karyn Kusama) utilizes the standard plot and visuals for a post-apocalyptical Utopian community “which is not what is seems” — elements which often produce some good entertaining mid-level Hollywood sorts of films. The problem is we don’t feel anything.
Yes, the theme of the “utopia is actually not an utopia” (SURPRISE) is annoyingly prevalent in sci-fi films and books. I adore earlier book incarnations — ‘We’, ‘1984’, ‘Brave New World’ etc, and the sci-fi works/films from 60s and 70s, and 80s–but here the most basic elements are distilled to their barest bones and fleshed out with a secretly rotting carcass decked out in glit and glamour. That said, I’ve never seen the original Æon Flux anime — there might be something worthwhile there.
This movie has no soul. We don’t care for the characters. People disappear, but it’s not scary. Also, we have our normal bunch of inept enemies. Lengthy voiceovers “tell us about the world” — if the world isn’t inferred from the each character’s actions and visuals it gives the world a mindlessly superficial feel– albeit, this is not always a problem if the visuals are interesting enough — Dark City comes to mind (but even that has some depth).
But the visuals here just aren’t engaging– instead we see the standard concrete walls which every modernist Utopia MUST look like, some bad CGI swoops us around bird-eye view desperately attempting to WOW the audience, our heroine kills people in normal ways and doesn’t die when hit with bullets. Apparently all the surveillance technology wasn’t turned on when our heroine and her pal run navigate killer plant corridor…
This film is makeup slathered on a dead fish. Or, christmas ornaments arrayed haphazardly on a landfill. Or, a Harlequin romance novel touching covers with Herodotus. Or, white truffles mixed with store icing. Or, a dog food dinner date.