Cinema Signals by Jules Brenner:

Aeon Flux:
The Herodotus File


. "Aeon Flux"

Who says seeing gorgeous women performing acrobatics with impressive athletic prowess isn't a good enough reason to see a movie? Granted, it may not be enough for wide human tastes inclined toward the warmth of humanity, but there's a crowd of arcade gamers that's ready to grab the girl action by the libido.

Which is good, because that's this film's principle virtue. Otherwise, it's a klutzy case of a clever sci-fi concept put into the hands of the director who did "Girlfight." Whoever thought Karyn Kusama had the chops to breathe meaning into a romp with superwomen may feel the action part has been covered. Love those backflips. But, broadly-engaging drama? That bell never rang.

It has all the character depth, emotional relevancy and physical panache of a video game, set in 2415. By this time almost all the people inhabiting the enclosed city of Bregna are clones because of a disease that made their originals sterile. Strangely, a few the key clones managed to pass on some memory cells to their generations of copies.

Aeon, a "Monican" agent for the opposition, is assigned by "The Handler" (a bright apparition played by Frances McDormand) on a mission to assassinate government leader Dr. Trevor Goodchild (Martin Csokas) who, they claim, is responsible for the society's clandestine nature and sterile destiny.

No problem. With her skills of deceptive maneuver, the security barriers are simply no match for her acrobatic skills, and she easily thwarts 'em all. But, when she gets the drop on her quarry, she can't pull the trigger. No, she's not paralyzed by some unseen force, nor alzheimered by the hammer of fate. Her problem is she feels a fuzzy attachment to Trevor and, when she checks it out, she uncovers a byzantine plot by his bro' Oren (Jonny Lee Miller) to suppress Trevor's discovery of a cure for the disease. Brother turns out to be the real villain. He likes things as they are, nicely controlled and him at the top, and is ready to kill Trevor or anyone else to keep it that way.

Theron, as well as her gal pal and potential enemy Sithandra (Sophie Okonedo, "Hotel Rwanda") are Spandexed to the max, that old favorite for futuristic body garb. It's well used to emphasize the acrobatic moves of these two nicely proportioned ladies, which editing and body doubles exaggerate as though they're trying to make it convincing. In this regard, the confidence in Kusama paid off. As for her dependence on sexy action to disguise the superficial concept, she doesn't offer much to work with in a story that's essentially a vague clone of far better futuristic examples.

Paramount Studios, which kept the film under wraps and provided no advance exposure to the press, indicated their greatest fears for their investment. They're probably hoping it'll appeal to the teenage boy crowd in great enough numbers to break even. This demographic might actually find the backflipping beauties reason enough to see it more than once, and tell their friends but, whoever supports the film is going to constitute a young crowd. Oglers and sci-fiers, for the most part.

The barren effort includes a sighting of the great Pete Postlethwaite as "The Keeper," an oracular overseer growing tired after 500 years floating above the community in a dish-shaped craft with a tail whose function remains mysteriously unexplained (futuristic antennae?). It's called the "Relical" (clever names, I have to give them that) and its purported purpose is to collect intel about the clones below. Maybe this is the future of political polling?

Theron makes a mark in the comic strip action flick genre with this homage to digital algorithms, and thereby widens her portfolio. As though she needed to.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  


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