It’s never a positive sign when a studio decides not to provide advance screenings of a high budget production to critics, as was the case with this weekend’s only major release, Aeon Flux. Usually, it means that despite all the money they’ve invested (including Charlize Theron’s $10 million payday, the film cost a reported $75 million to make), studio execs know the final result is going to be a major disappointment to both audiences and reviewers.
But Aeon Flux is not as bad as Paramount’s keep-it-under-wraps-until-opening-weekend strategy might imply. Of course, it’s not that good either.
Just as in the animated MTV series the movie is based on, scantily-dressed Aeon Flux (Theron) is the future’s deadliest assassin. However, for the big screen version, we’re finally told who Aeon is assassinating and why.
In the year 2011, an “industrial disease” wipes out all but one percent of the population. The remaining five million then fall under the rule of the Goodchild dynasty, a family of scientists credited with keeping the survivors alive. To instill order and protect their people, the Goodchilds demand that everyone reside in the utopian city of Bregna. Fast forward to the year 2415, and—as eventually happens with all totalitarian governments—a band of resistors called “Monicans” rises up to overthrow Trevor Goodchild’s rule and restore freedom to the populace.
To this end, the Monican leader (an inexplicably snaggle-haired Frances McDormand) calls in Aeon to take out Trevor (Marton Csokas) by any means necessary. A face-to-face meeting with Trevor, however, reveals that the situation is not as black-and-white as it seems, and Aeon must reevaluate her loyalties.
The best sci-fi films are peopled with characters the audience can identify with and thus care about. Sure, they reside in the future or a galaxy far, far away, but they still experience the same love, anger, and laughs we do in the here and now.
The worst sci-fi films, on the other hand, feature characters that behave as if they know they’re living in “the future” or a galaxy far, far away and therefore speak all their dialogue in flat, humorless, vaguely English monotone. No one has any fun moments of casual contact, because every person and interaction between people has a suffocating sense of “destiny” imposed on them. Think The Empire Strikes Back compared to The Phantom Menace.
Unfortunately, Aeon Flux falls into the latter category.
Megan Basham is the author of Beside Every Successful Man: A Woman's Guide To Having It All
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