AEON FLUX - Blu-ray review

It seems like science-fiction going through the motions and watered down to a point where the film would have hopefully captured a larger audience.

DeanWink

Charlize Theron is a very lovely lady and a talented actress. She is not afraid of any role and has made a few wise choices and a few bad choices. The South African beauty may have been second guessing her decision to star in the live-action adaptation of MTV's "Æon Flux" after she was injured during performing a stunt and sustained a neck injury. Theron stormed back after she was hurt and continued to perform her own stunts. The film also performed poorly in box office receipts. With a budget estimated to be north of sixty million dollars, "Æon Flux" grossed just over twenty five million dollars. The Academy Award winning actress deserves better than a box office dud and a neck injury, but the actress has gotten to where she is by taking chances and she took a chance in signing on as the cybernetic character Æon Flux.

Æon Flux is an operative for a clandestine organization, the Monicans. Æon benefits from some cybernetic implants, though the film version of the character is far less ‘enhanced' than the character brought to screen by Charlize Theron. In addition to her physical improvements, Æon utilizes tools and weapons of amazing technology. A ring on her finger lets her drop dozens of small metallic balls that are based upon advanced nanotechnology and provide her important backup in dire situations. Æon is an excellent marksman and a lethal assassin. She has been bred and trained by the Monicans to help bring down the Goodchild leadership that is guilty of kidnapping and killing innocents and restricting personal freedoms with such severity that people are simply ants in a colony and go through the motions of living, but lack are not allowed individuality or expression.

Trevor Goodchild (Marton Csokas) is the Chairman of the last city in civilization, Bregna. Mankind has nearly been wiped out by a dangerous plague and Goodchild and his brother Oren (Jonny Lee Miller) dictate the rules and regulations that help insure their perfect society remains perfect. Citizens are not allowed to move past the city walls, where life still flourishes, but fear of the plague keeps anybody from wanting to see what is behind the city's final borders. Æon is aided by her friend and fellow operative, Sithandra (Sophie Okonedo). Sithandra has had her feet replaced by hands and has improved mobility and is a dangerous friend for Æon. They take orders from the Handler (Frances McDormand), which are given through an implanted pill and the subconscious. Guerilla warfare has scared the Goodchild's perfect city as the Monicans try to discover the reason for strange disappearances and Æon is the best of the opposition.

The film finds Æon's younger sister Una Flux (Amelia Warner) being eliminated by the Goodchild security force. Æon longs to enact revenge for the murder of her lone family member. She is given orders by the Handler to sneak into the Goodchild fortress and do whatever it takes to kill Trevor Goodchild. However, things get complicated when Trevor and Æon find a familiarity between one another and suddenly everything is not as it seems. Oren moves to mutiny against his older and ruling brothers and Trevor and Æon find themselves alone with no allies, but a clear mission to reveal what Trevor knows is infecting the perfect society. The Handler wants Æon eliminated for failing in her mission to eradicate Trevor and Æon finds herself allied only with the person she once thought was her primary enemy.

And so goes "Æon Flux." The film is a far cry from the gritty and disturbing reality presented in MTV's original Liquid Television entry. Æon is more human than what she was in the animated series and she is far lovelier in the skin of Charlize Theron. The post apocalyptic world in the Paramount movie is a beautiful place with perfect architecture in its buildings and bright sunny skies. This is a complete reversal from the gothic and haunting structures that have been ravaged and a dark and ugly world painted on the cells of the MVT cartoon. The live action film does not seem as dangerous a place when compared to the origins of the "Æon Flux" series. In this film, the world doesn't seem to be that bad of a place, though the disappearances and kidnappings are definitely not a pleasant part of every day living. The dangerous and foreboding environment of the original series is not conveyed in this live action film and the film is hindered by not providing a fantasy world reminiscent of the older series.

Charlize Theron loses her long blonde locks and sports the jet black shortened haircut with the dangerously long bangs of the original animated vixen. The actress is given a far greater amount of fabric and leather than the original character, which was clothed as minimally as possible. Some may have wished for an extremely scantily clad Charlize, and one scene in the film where Æon awakens from her sleep does pay homage to the animated series. She catches a fly with her eyelashes and is barely adorned with any clothing. The look of the cinematic Æon is highly influenced by that of the television series and Charlize's transformation into the character shows her dedication to any performance, as she chose not to wear a wig, but allow for her hair to be cut and dyed to fit the character.

The film itself is decent enough, but it apparent why it was not a box office blockbuster. The story is more "Æon Flux" Lite than it is true to the animated roots of the character. Æon is provided with a love interest and much of the film takes place in a handful of locations. The film has a claustrophobic feel to it and where the city is not expansive because of bounding walls, the movie surely could have taken advantage of more locations and sets than spending nearly all of its time at various locations around the Goodwill fortress. Another weak spot in the cinematic experience is the minimalistic future world. Where are the futuristic vehicles and the towering skyscrapers. The floating blimp was an opportunity to break free of the courtyard sets and clean interiors, but once the characters find themselves inside the DNA chamber, there is nothing wondrous about the set. You could say much of the problem with the film is that there is nothing really wondrous about the film. It seems like science-fiction going through the motions and watered down to a point where the film would have hopefully captured a larger audience. Charlize Theron is lovely and nearly perfect as Æon, but "Æon Flux" would be barely noticeable as paying tribute to the original animated series if you would remove Theron from the film's frames.

Video:
"Æon Flux" can never be called a great film and many will not even use the adjective of good. The HD-DVD release can be called featured incredible picture quality. The 2.4:1 widescreen presentation of this 1080p mastered disc is absolutely stunning. While it isn't as visually stunning as the HD-DVD release, the Blu-Ray release of the film is good, but has a few flaws that were not quite as noticeable or non-existent with the older HD-DVD release. Many of these differences can be attributed to the MPEG-2 mastering for Blu-Ray versus the VC-1 mastering of the HD-DVD release. The problems I specifically noted was a lot of pixilation and posterization on various background objects. It was not nearly as bad as some titles I have seen, but it was noticeable. Regardless, "Æon Flux" helps raise the bar higher for Blu-Ray releases and is easily the better looking titles for the fledgling high definition format. I remember flipping through various scenes of Paramount's first ten titles and watching half of "Æon Flux" just based upon its incredibly strong visuals. This title is not just the crème-of-the-crop for the Paramount titles, but it is the best looking title to date.

The transfer and the film features colors that are as vivid and lovely as anything released. They are perfectly saturated and set with the hyper realistic level of detail, "Æon Flux" presents a very three dimensional transfer and exhibits great depth. Black levels are true and deep and shadow details are quite solid. Fleshtones are warm and show Charlize Theron's lovely face in perfect detail. Contrast is solid. The source materials are perfect. I could find no flaws, whatsoever. It really only takes a couple of minutes to look at the stunning colors and ultra-detailed picture to be amazed. This easily one of the better looking Blu-Ray titles released thus far and a great example of where this new high definition format can go. This is not a film I would recommend based on the merit of the story, but the picture is just so good that it is hard not to recommend it for the pure eye candy contained between the opening and closing moments of the movie.

Sound:
Paramount has gotten themselves into a pretty nice pattern. They have released their titles consistently with an English 5.1 Dolby Digital mix and an English 5.1 DTS soundtrack. Additionally, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes are included. The Blu-Ray titles have been released without a Dolby Digital Plus mix, as the Blu-Ray standard does not support Dolby Digital Plus sound mixes for anything less than 7.1 channel sound. The soundtracks of the Paramount Blu-Ray releases have been quite good and "Æon Flux" is no exception. This aggressive soundtrack finds elements of the film's mix populating every speaker. Gunfire encapsulates the viewer during the action sequences, explosions can be deafening and booming when the volume level is cranked up. The .1 LFE channel can easily rattle China in the kitchen from several rooms away. Dialogue is crisp and clear and holds its own during the loudest and busiest action sequences. I don't know how many times I have mentioned Grame Revell's name in the past couple of months, but he has been a busy composer. His score is decent and fits the film. It is nicely rendered here.

Extras:
"Æon Flux" contains a nice number of supplements that have made their way over from the standard definition DVD release and are identical to the HD-DVD release. Two commentary tracks are included, as well as a number of short featurettes. The first commentary, the Commentary by Charlize Theron and producer Gale Anne Hurd is a tough listen. Theron and Hurd deliver a slow-moving and boring commentary that was quite difficult to listen too. The two find themselves delivering a lot of praise and some nuggets of information about the making of the film, but their tone is just too tedious to keep focused on listening to. The Commentary by co-screenwriters Phil Hay and Matt Manfred discusses changes that were made from the original and their script. They discuss some of the difficulties in making an adaptation of the animated series and this commentary is an improvement over the first track.

A handful of featurettes are included after the two commentary tracks. Creating a World: Aeon Flux is a twenty minute documentary that details the making of the picture and the futuristic and sterile landscape populated by its characters. This is a nice enough of a featurette and does create some respect for the production. The Locations of Aeon Flux runs for a quarter of an hour and discusses the sets used. More interviews with cast and crew are provided here and if you paid for the disc, you'll probably want to watch this supplement as well. The third feature is titled The Stunts of Aeon Flux and details how Charlize Theron did her own stunts that led to her neck injury. The Costume Design of Aeon Flux looks at how the costumes were created for the numerous characters and extras. This runs for about fifteen minutes. Finally, The Craft of the Set Photographer of Aeon Flux spends time with the set photography crew and runs by quickly at just over three minutes. A high definition theatrical trailer is also included. Like I said, if you purchase this disc, the supplements are of good quality and you'll want to get more value for your dollar and watch them.

Closing Thoughts:

"Æon Flux" is a watchable film and I thought it was better than the comparable "Ultraviolet." It is however, a claustrophobic feeling picture that feels just as confined as the residents of the city of Bregna are by its walls. The film feels like a watered down adaptation of MTV's Liquid Television animated series. The script finds itself spending a lot of time discussing the film's heavy plot and little time concentrating on eye popping action sequences. In the end, it feels like a routine action picture that is not as bad as many direct-to-video titles, but doesn't feel like a big budget action picture. Charlize Theron is good as the title character and went through plenty of physical hardships to portray Æon Flux. The film starts to run-on at times with its exposition and becomes monotonous. It does not spend enough time showing how dangerous Æon can be. The saving grace for the Blu-Ray release is that this is one of the better looking titles released thus far on Blu-Ray. The picture is absolutely stunning and if it wasn't for some posterization problems, this could be called one of the absolute best Blu-Ray releases. Colors are amazing and the level of detail gives the film a true three-dimensional appeal. It is worth purchasing at this point just on the merits of its picture quality.

Ratings

Video
10
Audio
8
Extras
6
Film Value
5