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2005 sci-fi flop AEon Flux is back in the news recently, thanks to Elon Musk and Grimes’ controversial recent decision to name their baby after it. It actually makes more sense than you might think. Musk and Grimes have always been a bit of an odd couple. One is among the most adventurous, talented, and quirky pop stars of the 21st century, and the other is an arse (for legal reasons Headstuff have barred me from outlining who is who).
However, what binds these conflicting souls together is their mutual obsession with AEon Flux. “The movie AEon Flux is a very fine movie indeed,” said Musk in a recent exclusive interview, with me. “I don’t care for the early nineties animated TV series it’s based on, but the movie slaps. Me and my partner, whose name I cannot recall, often watch it roughly 12-13 times in a row, which is surprisingly easy to do because it’s only 92 minutes. And it’s all killer, no filler.
If you’ve never heard of AEon Flux, let me, Elon Musk, fill you in. It’s directed by Karyn Kusama, who I am told is one of those feminists I’ve been hearing so much about. Not a huge fan of feminism, to be honest, unless it’s presented to me in the guise of a demented tech-thriller with a sexy Charlize Theron in the main role. Hey, feminists! Why don’t you make me a sandwich?! Hahaha! Some of my famous relatable billionaire humour there. I wish there was BACON in that sandwich! I’m just like you, really, if you’re terrible.
Anyway, AEon Flux follows Theron, as the titular AEon, as she attempts to assassinate Trevor Goodchild. Goodchild is the leader of the repressive Bregnan city state. I root heavily for AEon, because the Goodchild family were responsible for something I am staunchly opposed to; preventing people from dying in a global pandemic. In 2011, a killer virus swept the earth, killing 99 per cent of the global population and destroying most of civilisation. Trevor’s ancestor eventually developed an antidote for the virus, and the survivors congregated in one of the last inhabitable places on Earth, which would develop into Bregna. Bregna would then be ruled for generations by the Goodchild family and a group of scientist underlings. Now, the year is 2415, and AEon and her band of psychic warrior pals, the Monicans, have grown tired of living under a dictatorship. It’s time to fight back.
Obviously, if the Goodchilds had dominated the shattered remains of humanity because they did something truly heroic, like closing the world’s public transport networks, I’d be in their corner. But they didn’t, they just thwarted a virus. I’d like to reiterate that I couldn’t care if people contract a killer virus, as long as they die doing what they love; making electric cars in an electric car factory.
Anyway, what results is a breathless, twisty, hyper stylish little movie. It benefits a lot from being wholly crapped upon and forgotten, because a 92 minute film was never going to be able to mimic the complexity and cult weirdness of the original TV series. Isolated from any kind of expectation, however, there’s so much of AEon Flux that works.
There’s lots of mad looking futuristic flourishes, with murderous blades of grass and a Monican warrior with hands for feet. There are gleefully over the top action sequences which look like they were constructed by the bastard love child of a luchador and the Wachowskis. And it’s all in service of a story that makes an impressive degree of sense.
Writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi deserve credit for adapting a show that reveled in being difficult to follow into a tight 90 minute movie. In response to the mauling AEon Flux received at the time of its release, Hay and Manfredi lamented that the original director’s cut had an extra 30 minutes which the studio slashed. Maybe those extra 30 minutes would have given the film a massive injection of depth and nuance, but it would have come at the cost of a lot of its charm. AEon Flux doesn’t ask anywhere near as much of you as a lot of movies with ominous comments about the future do. There’s nothing in it that isn’t fun for its own sake. I’m sure that would come as a let down for fans of the original show, but it doesn’t necessarily make for a bad movie in its own right. Also, just a reminder that this is still Elon Musk talking to you here. Elon Musk.
AEon Flux is also stacked with excellent actors. It’s not just the magnetic Theron in the lead role – there’s Sophie Okonedo as the aforementioned hands for feet woman, Paterson Joseph as a member of the ruling council, Frances bloody McDormand in a small-ish role as the Monicans’ weird haired telepathic leader. Marton Csokas doesn’t quite have the gravitas to pull off Trevor Goodchild. Jonny Lee Miller, however, is great as his treacherous younger brother Oren. Smash all this talent together, with Kusama directing, and you’re going to get a movie that at the very least has its roughest edges smoothed off by their sheer competence.
In conclusion, I love AEon Flux. Do I think there’s a chance that Jack is regretting formatting an article in such a way that he has to write a conclusion from the perspective of Elon Musk, and then another one in his own words? When he absolutely hates writing conclusions and can never think what to put in them? Your question doesn’t make sense. But, as my wife, who’s name I simply cannot recall, once said in one of her excellent albums… OK, I’ve never listened to her albums. I don’t care for that kind of weird pop. NOW GET BACK TO WORK!”
Now, do I agree with Musk’s comments? Not entirely, although I will say that parts of what he had to say align so suspiciously with my own views on the movie that it’s almost as if I wrote that whole thing. But I’m a fair bit cooler on the film that Musk is. Karyn Kusama is excellent and isn’t capable of making a bad film, but the source material she has to work with isn’t as strong as, say, Jennifer’s Body or The Invitation. I don’t know how wise it was to try and reimagine an avant-garde animation as a live action superhero blockbuster. I don’t know how well AEon Flux has aged, considering the high quality of some more recent superhero blockbusters. I don’t know whether 92 minutes is anywhere near long enough to make a story as strange and intricate as this one resonate. I would much rather a film be too short than too long, though.
But I do like AEon Flux, I think the fierce criticism it received upon its release is unfair, and I think it’s a movie worth revisiting. It’s exciting, it’s utterly mad and unique, and all its oddities give it a certain dreamlike quality that lodges in your head. You might not like it enough to name your child after it. But then, that’s probably not a bad thing.