In 2415, rebel Aeon Flux (Theron) is assigned to assassinate Trevor Goodchild (Csokas), apparent dictator of the last surviving human city-state, but hesitates before the kill. The two go on the run from government and rebel factions, and she learns uncomfortable truths about humanity’s survival.
When a man wins the best actor Academy Award, he comes home to find his answerphone full of A-list offers and his hallway snowed under with freshly couriered hot scripts. When a woman wins Best Actress, she is more likely to get a message from her mother saying she looked frumpy in that dress and a half-apologetic “how about doing something in a leotard?” suggestion from her agent. How else to explain Halle Berry’s career path from Monster’s Ball to Catwoman, and now Charlize Theron’s from Monster to this? Based on a series of stylish cartoon fillers aired on MTV, in which the joke was that the super-competent heroine was always getting killed, Aeon Flux is daffy dystopian science-fiction (like the recent Equilibrium). It dresses up leftover ideas from Orwell and Huxley with tame action-movie licks, absurd costumes (if anyone’s frock deserves censure, it’s the bizarro number Pete Postlethwaite gets strapped into), enough familiar-face-from-British-telly supporting actors to suggest the filmmakers have borrowed the casting director from Holby City and a concrete-campus aesthetic that makes humanity’s futuristic last redoubt seem like a civic centre in Milton Keynes circa 1968.
The original ’toons all had Aeon sneaking into things, and a suitably svelte Theron does all the usual business: dangling from silk streamers attached to a flying saucer, escaping from a cell thanks to a clever pile of busy ball bearings, abseiling into a liquid memory bank, chick-fu one-on-one with a former comrade (Sophie Okenodo) who has extra hands for feet, and performing elegant gymnastic moves while brutally slaughtering five helmeted guards. Karyn Kusama, who directed Girlfight, is a shade less insistent on shots of the heroine’s tightly-trussed secondary sexual characteristics than a male sleaze-hack might have been, but still doesn’t have much to bring to the party.
With a deft, daft touch, this might have been Barbarella for the New Millennium, but it becomes hung up on solemnity as if all its wittering about freedom, oppression and cloning (as usual, completely misrepresented by a scientifically illiterate script) really meant something. Still, even with an unflattering black dye-job ’do, Charlize does at least look scrumptious.
It takes a whole film for Charlize Theron to flash her trademark adorable smile, by which time it’s too late to warm up to an effort that’s somehow both depressing and trivial.