Thursday, May 04, 2006

Second impressions

I've changed my mind about something quite contentious to me. I like the recent Aeon Flux movie starring Charlize Theron. It was hard, considering how dismissive I was when it first came out. I adored the original shorts and the television series. After all, Aeon Flux resisted easy translation to screenplay: it was relentlessly nonlinear, viciously amoral, and had a serious foot fetish.
Some Hollywood script cliche gives both Aeon and Trevor siblings and worse a rationale for why they are soul mates. Some decried the loss of the fetish aesthetic to a relentless technocratic minimalism. In retrospect, the film is in the curious position of having to make an action movie based on a series of animated shorts designed to parody the action movie genre. The first time, I saw only the differences between the original and the source, how there are two different states in the original and how different the costuming was, superficial deviations. Most of these deviations themselves result from the anti-continuity standpoint of the original. But I also noticed telling allusions and homages to the television series, such as Schizandra's hands for feet. They kept the reality-bending gadgets, such as one that warps the wearer between different dimensional frequencies within the same room Acrobatics can seem unrealistic enough without trying to make stunt people perform in bondage gear.
The movie both solves and explores the essential mysterious question about Aeon. How can she keep appearing when she shows up dead after every mission? Cloning, although the duh answer, is quite intelligently handled.The climax is a little weak, employing strangely conventional weapons, but its social implications are relevant. Although we could damn AF with faint praise by saying that the theme of the social consequences of cloning was addressed fair better in comparison to Michael Bay's overwrought the Island, also of the same year.Ultimately, taken on its own it stands as an example of pure science fiction. Aeon Flux the movie is saved by its crisp, wholly original retro-futuristic aesthetic, which is both contained within Silver Age (1960-1975) design and contemporary understanding of molecular biology and genetics. The exquisite taste and truly impressive real-world buildings and settings used in the film, and the delicious minimalist nature of the artificial environment are captivating in the grand filmic sense. There is a recurring motif of plant life as a living threat and backdrop in many critical scenes in the film &— plants as life force and plants as weaponry. The walls of Bregna frequently spray a chemical acid to keep the jungle from moving in and destroying the city. Wireless communication is now chemically-induced. The conception of biotechnology of the future being incredibly pervasive is also perhaps one of the finest hallmarks of the film, with an imagination based on real molecular biology and chemistry being very evident. Ae†on Flux is perhaps the most significant film to have as its centre genetics, cloning and disease since the trio of the Jurassic Park franchise, Outbreak and Gattaca in recent years. Also the film rejects the amorality and fetishism of the original movie, which caused some fans to call for a Lynch/Cronenburg surrealistic remake which would be a mistake.

It is pure cerebral science fiction, coherent with the post-cyberpunk movement away from such unrealistic literary devices as time travel, extraterrestrial beings, and other attempts to creatively misunderstand scientific knowledge. Identity and the existential dilemma are brought out by several honest and solid performances. The film also suffered from the politics of the critic/studio relationship, when the weak-willed producers selling this cerebral action sci-fi film in the middle of a holiday season between Harry Potter and Narnia, refused to let critics screen the film until two hours before its release. I predict Aeon Flux will be a sleeper cult classic in the years to come.

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