Aeon Flux fails to stun audiences

The worst part of a mediocre movie is that its mediocrity shines through in every cell of the film. It’s a feeling that never quite loses its grip on your mind, no matter how much you might enjoy a scene. You might be thinking, “Hey, this scene is kind of cool,” or “Hey, this bit of soundtrack is pretty catchy,” or any other bit of faint praise. Then every bit of hope you had will simply make you more disappointed as the next scene assaults you with its own “meh”-ness.

That was how Aeon Flux progressed over its paltry 95-minute runtime.

Based on a mid-’90s series of animated shorts on MTV, Aeon Flux is about an assassin working for a group of rebels plotting to overthrow a tepid dystopia 400 years in the future. Over the course of the movie, the titular assassin (played by Charlize Theron) goes on a mission to assassinate the leader of the government, which has built the last city on Earth — 99 percent of whose population was killed by a virus in the early 21st century — and forbids people to leave and go out into the wilderness beyond. Most people don’t really seem that unhappy, and while yes, there are some shady government-ordered kidnappings and armed guards on patrol everywhere, it doesn’t seem any worse than a financially well-to-do version of Soviet Russia.

All is not well in the last city on Earth, though. People have started having vivid dreams and remember things that never happened. Feelings exist in their minds that they can’t explain. And the police are murdering more and more citizens for being suspected rebels. The rebels, for their part, have had enough — and they’ve decided it’s time to strike out against the government and kill its leader, Trevor Goodchild (Marton Csokas).

Here’s a good point to mention: in the opening credits for the film, the story behind the virus and the new society was outlined in a series of title screens. It told the story of Trevor Goodchild, the scientist who cured the virus and built the city to protect those who had not yet died. This was in 2011, and the story takes place in the early 25th century. This is your first warning that all is not as it seems.

The movie goes on. Asses are kicked, secrets are revealed, and Charlize Theron gets to wear a lot of black spandex. That’s about it, though. For all the twists and turns that the plot takes, no one ever really seems to care. There’s no reason to. The audience isn’t given any reason to feel attached to any of the characters. All we see is that Trevor Goodchild really isn’t that bad, and his brother Oren (played by Johnny Lee Miller of Hackers and Trainspotting) has a bit of an ego complex. No one feels like a real character — just basic sketches of them.

Trevor Goodchild is the only character with more than one and a half dimensions. He’s got some humanity left in him; part of this was probably a half-baked plot device. Unfortunately, it’s not enough. Every other character seems wooden and bored; the spark of a love story between Trevor and Aeon leads to a couple tender moments, but they mostly just feel awkward. This is the problem with having emotionless assassins as sympathetic characters — they don’t have enough humanity to remain interesting.

So the acting is bad. Action movies pretty much have carte blanche to have bad acting, though, as long as they’ve got some sweet fight scenes. The fact of the matter is that Aeon Flux fails here, too. The sets are fairly generic — a cement spillway, an open courtyard, and an ornate library are some of the highlights — and really, not a single one of them feels like a real place. Goodchild’s council chamber, for instance, looks like a bunch of people sitting in the middle of a warehouse. The action on these sets is simply uninspired. A few high kicks, some lame gunplay, and a whole lot of Charlize Theron glamour shots — these elements do not a good action romp make.

Word on the street is that fans of the animated series on which Aeon Flux is based will be a bit disappointed by the film; those who have never seen the original are likely going to be just as disappointed. However, today’s market means that producers can throw $55 million at a movie and they’ll almost always make it back on DVD, even if box office sales tank. The result is a glut of bland, boring movies that are barely worth a rental — movies like Aeon Flux that fail to move you anywhere except into another theater to watch a movie that’s worth seeing.