Review: Son Flux (2005)

Son Flux (2005)

Directed by: Karyn Kusama | 93 minutes | action, drama, romance, adventure, fantasy, science fiction, thriller | Actors: Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand, Marton Csokas, Jonny Lee Miller, Sophie Okonedo, Amelia Warner, Caroline Chikezie, Pete Postlethwaite, Nikolai Kinski, Paterson Joseph, Yangzom Brauen, Aoibheann O’Hara, Thomas Huber, Weijian Liu, Maverick Queck, Ralph Herforth

A cast full of Oscar winners and nominees, an acclaimed director (Kusama previously shot the well-received ‘Girlfight’) with a competent crew at the helm, and a film that operates within a now very popular (sub)genre, that of action -sci fi. Not much to say, you might think at first glance. Because while the genre in question is often considered too light-hearted, films like ‘The Matrix’, ‘Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith’ and ‘Serenity’ have shown that such films can be quite well appreciated.

Still, the studio seems to have (had) little faith in ‘Æon Flux’ (aka ‘Aeon Flux’). In the United States, the film was not allowed to be previewed to critics; perhaps for fear that the film would be slain from all sides. Now the reviews are indeed not particularly positive, but the film has certainly not become as disfigured as the anti-hype suggests. In fact, despite a lack of real highlights, a large part of the film is still quite digestible. A nice action scene here and there, some intriguing themes under the surface, some nice looking environments, funny hi-tech gadgets, and a sexy lead actress in tight, accentuating suits: a fascinating element is never very long in coming. Too bad about that stale script and the dull characters.

The story, an adaptation of Peter Chung’s animated series, which aired on MTV in the mid-1990s, is basically a dime-a-dozen science fiction story. A future, totalitarian-run perfect community that isn’t as perfect as it seems, and against which a small group of rebels is rising up, is anything but new. And the surprising twists often associated with an unexpected identity or character of characters provide little tension. Also the central secret that is eventually unraveled is not a complete surprise. However, the theme associated with this, and having to do with the value and definition of a human life, is undiminishedly fascinating. It is the snatches of content that can be found here that occasionally keep the film interesting on a story level.

Furthermore, the film is mainly due to its appearance – admittedly, mainly that of the lead actress – and some nice action moments. Storming the government building in an acrobatic sprint through a garden full of deadly poison dart plants is both slightly cheesy and downright entertaining. Furthermore, a fight between Flux and a deadly opponent between two worlds. Flux is wearing a suit of armor that allows her to switch between the worlds or realities. It is also surprising how realistic some scenes still feel. Whether it’s a gunfight between Flux and a group of soldiers, or her leap into the flying museum, the Relical, trying to cling with all her might to fluttering rags of cloth, despite the fantastic nature and context of many scenes, still quite a bit of earthly (biomechanical) logic present.

Charlize Theron is finally to be praised for the acrobatic ability that she displays in the film. She has trained hard in disciplines such as karate, capoeira, and trampolining, and it is clearly paying off in the film. Theron makes cartwheels, flips, crawls like a female Spider-Man on rooftops, and knows how to neutralize her enemies in all kinds of acrobatic ways, one of her favorites being the handstand-neck turner, where she, à la Famke Janssen in ‘GoldenEye’ , puts her legs on the backs of her opponents and then lets her powerful thighs do the work. Not unimportant for the viewing pleasure of the viewer is that she performs all this dressed in all kinds of tight-fitting suits, which emphasize her feminine forms optimally, and which the camera clearly loves. Her role here is of course less demanding than in Monster, but she still manages to put enough emotions into her character, especially later in the film. Nothing remarkable, but adequate. The same cannot be said of her co-star Marton Csokas, who plays as if every life has been sucked out of him. Theron also suffers from this in the beginning of the film, but that can still be shifted to (the development of) her character. Csokas remains a dull, dead jerk throughout the film. He plays here just as sleepwalking as in ‘The Lord of the Rings’, in which he played Celeborn, the husband of Elven Queen Galadriel. However, it was desirable for that role: it gave the character a certain nobility or something superhuman, but in this case it’s just plain boring.

‘Æon Flux’ is certainly not a movie that makes you run to the cinema for a ticket. But it’s not a bad product either. With a few tweaks here and there, despite the lack of originality and truly memorable action scenes, the film could even have yielded a satisfactory result.

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