Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Aeon Flux

I rarely do this, but I copied an entire article about Aeon Flux from the awesome Aint It Cool News Website. I highly recommend everyone who enjoys movies and comics to check this site out. Harry Knowles is the proprietor of the site, and it was this article that prompted me to give this movie a watch... I had wanted to like the film, but was wary... of course, the promos for the flick made it appear to be hot chick (Charlize Theron) kicking ass in a futuristic action scenario while dressed in tight leather, but as anyone who has seen Barb Wire can tell you, sometimes that just ain't enough.

I recently watched the DVD of the movie, with my wife, and the review was a solid 2 thumbs up. I use her as a barometer for my geekiness; if she likes it as much as I do, it must be good. The key is that the movie actually required us to use our brains a bit (gasp!) and pay attention. Holy crap, a Hollywood that didn't require us to drop our I.Q.'s to the median so that we could just the mindless, moronic masses in enjoyment. Check out the article.

Harry says - AEON FLUX is not AEON SUX!
I completely understand why Paramount was scared of this film and to show it. In fact, when I was on the set outside Berlin talking to one of the writers that was telling me what he and his co-writer were attempting to do with this story and the world of AEON FLUX – I laughed. I really did. I laughed one of those, “Oh the red states are going to love this,” sort of laughs.

Not that this film is anti-Republican – but seriously how many in the Bible belt are really going to be down for a film with plot devices involving drug induced higher planes of psychic existence where people of similarly augmented consciousnesses can gather to plot in total chemical secrecy the overthrow of their utopian existence? A film, whose design, is wholly bizarre Euro-sci-fi-esque – without a single thing that they can recognize as familiar or comfortable. How about this – how about the subject matter of cloning as the sole way to preserve humanity – because… well, it turns out “God’s Chosen Few” that survive the great decimation of mankind… well, it’s those godless fucking scientist that save mankind with their Satan ways.

Yeah, this is gonna play real well in the truck-stop edges of America. But they sure do seem to want to sell the film to that audience. Guns, action, ‘splosions – why, this thing must be a testosterone fueled relative of BARB WIRE… lol… This film owes a lot to Mario Bava’s DANGER: DIABOLIK – a film that I happen to love. Or Elio Petri’s THE TENTH VICTIM. But it isn’t either of those films. AEON FLUX exists in its own particular universe of logic and invention.

Imagine a Utopian society – forced to be Utopian by the industrial evils that forced the surviving remnants of mankind to live and exist inside the last walled city on Earth. Imagine, that this civilization was formed and created and molded by a group of pharmaceutically empowered scientists that – have been building on each generation’s innovations and work… for 400 years. They can place a message in a bottle of water that doesn’t need a cork or parchment… You just drink it and the chemicals create the interactive conscious conversation – by creating a psychic link between you and the engineer.

Harnesses that dial in alternative levels of existence to maximize the finite amount of space that your walled existence has. Where science and medicine has progressed to such a level that if you chose to, you could have your feet replaced with hands – that function absolutely perfectly – giving you the astonishing agility of King Kong, or at the very least Cheetah… you know, Tarzan’s monkey. Where grass can be engineered into very dangerous BLADES of grass, where strange fruits on trees become sentient spore hurling ‘darts’ that inject you with some manner of badness.

However, all of this oddness would be so much bric-a-brac if it didn’t actually serve the story and the narrative. This isn’t an action film. It’s a hard science fiction mystery. Where are people disappearing to? What is the truth of our existence? Why do I remember things that I haven’t lived? How do I know people that I do not know? It’s an existential crisis of consciousness and being.

I don’t expect a lot of people to dig this film, not because I’m some big brain that looks down on humanity as ignorant retches, but rather… I happen to like SCIENCE FICTION that isn’t just “Sci-fi”. That isn’t just popcorn space ships and light sabers and swagger. That plays its concept straight and isn’t constantly winking at you demanding that you laugh at the implausible craziness of that funky looking alien in the corner. This is science fiction where the technology isn’t all over the place, hell most of it is built in, and not in the typical way. We’re talking about implanted cel phones that you just think about dialing or answering and you’re talking and listening and there is no outside noise.

How much of my liking of this film has to do with the fact that… well, I thought it was going to suck?

Probably a certain degree. That the conditions for me seeing this were that I not publish my review till noon today, I guarantee that wasn’t because they thought I’d like it. That all the screenings for critics took place at 10pm in their respective towns, thus meaning that it’d be past the paper’s publishing time before they could write up their response. Well, that’s just not a good sign. BUT more to the point, when I went to Berlin and talked with everyone on set – looked at over 2000 stills from the production, I could just find 3 shots that I thought were really interesting. That’s not very good.

I got a real weird vibe from Karyn Kusama on set, I could tell she wasn’t fond, or seemingly fond of having press on set to serve as a distraction. Or maybe, she just didn’t like me. I never wrote up that set visit because when it came right down to it – most of what the writers and producers were talking about different “high-minded” science fiction concepts. The sort of things that are usually the first things to go when adapting Phillip K Dick, because they're considered unfilmable. Every time he’s adapted – the first thing left on the shelf is anything having to do with existential crisis and drugs. However, both items are absolutely paramount to the telling of a good Dick story. That’s why I’m utterly thrilled by A SCANNER DARKLY as handled by Linklater – he’s all about the drug and existential crisis and the inner workings of perception. THANK GOD.

In a way, AEON FLUX is more Phillip K Dick than any Phillip K Dick film thus far. Which in a way, kinda reminds me of a great old Boris Karloff film called THE BLACK ROOM that Columbia produced back in the day. You see, THE BLACK ROOM is actually a better tonal adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe – than any of the films that were made in the period that purported to be based on Edgar Allan Poe.

But what about Peter Chung’s creation and isn’t this all his? Absolutely and absolutely not. I love Peter Chung’s original AEON FLUX, but what it wasn’t – was a cohesive narrative. What it was, was a brilliant propulsive anarchistic expression of pure wanton joy of amorality infused with dozens of wonderful narrative science fiction concepts as spice. I loved it. This is a cohesive narrative. This isn’t anarchy. This isn’t amoral. It may be for some, but frankly – I feel they’d be wrong. All peoples have a right to overthrow their governments by violent means if that government abuses it’s power and people. It’s kinda how the United States was formed. What’s beautiful about this is… Instead of Aeon Flux being a mindless goose-stepping terrorist/freedom fighter – she’s given the intelligence to see that what she thought was true, was not, that the threat perceived was real, but from a different source – and that in the end the band of “terrorist” ends up being mankind’s greatest patriots – protecting and saving the last free state of mankind.

I like that. It’s a good narrative. I’m actually surprised this is PG-13. The whole drug issue was handled in such a way, that I’m betting the MPAA – didn’t even get what was going on there. In fact, I’m sure they didn’t see it as a communal trip, but that’s what it was. And it’s very cool. While the non-stop killing of the tail end of the third act… well, I kinda can’t believe that got through. Sure, it’s mostly bloodless… unless you count Charlize’s fingers digging into the bloody bullet wound of her companion as she fishes for a bullet… twice. Or the shard of glass cutting into her hand as she used it to cut into a jugular.

I do wish this was an R-rated film. Why? Because I wanted wanton nudity with Charlize. Ok, I’m male. And I don’t hide it. You do get boob edges and nude backs and that glorious nightgowny thing she wears. Most of the sexuality she wields in this film is infused into her action sequences. I love the earring tongue fishing. I was on set for that shot, and it got one of the best audience reactions of the film.

What’d the audience think? Almost everyone there seemed to dislike it or not know what they thought… that sort of “I need to digest that or see it again” type of response. The two other critic types that I talked to afterwards – well… they loved it. Interesting, eh?

If you loved films like CQ, GATTACA or EQUILIBRIUM (for more than the Gunkata) – then you might very well really dig this film. If you found those films tedious bores… well, you’ll probably think the same of this. And lastly, if you constantly go around telling everyone you know that BLADE RUNNER and MINORITY REPORT are terrible adaptations of Phillip K Dick, but still cool as hell Sci-Fi… then you might, just might love this thing.

I won’t call this a great film or a pinnacle of the genre. In the end, I’m betting that A SCANNER DARKLY will make this film look like an “almost fantastic” film. This is a very accomplished and well handled work of intelligent science fiction. I hope it finds the cult audience it deserves, though I’m absolutely convinced it won’t do well at all at the box office.
Click for previous story Talk Back More on this story Click for next story

No comments: