Man, it sux

A belly-crawling low point for Charlize Theron.

A belly-crawling low point for Charlize Theron.

Rated 1.0

In Aeon Flux, Charlize Theron plays the title character, a would-be assassin rebelling against a utopian society. She wears tight outfits and can catch flies in her eyelashes, and to my understanding these are the assassin’s only job requirements. What she can’t do is muster decent entertainment for most of this film’s running time. Expect this dreary movie, which wasn’t screened for bloodthirsty critics, to appear on many year’s-worst lists.

The production had some big setbacks—Theron got a major neck injury while performing stunts—and there’s no telling how they’ve ultimately affected the final product. Still, it’s hard to believe the movie would be any less boring if Theron had been able to perform a few more wire flips or high kicks.

The problem isn’t just with the mostly poor action sequences. Director Karyn Kusama apparently has instructed her performers to over-annunciate at lethargic speeds, making even the most simple of phrases sound like faux-Shakespeare on quaaludes. This film screams for a crisper pace. Sure, a couple of slowed-down moments can work in any movie, but in this one, every time characters speak to each other, they seem to be on the verge of falling asleep. The worst offender is Marton Csokas as one of the utopian leaders. He acts like he’s rehearsing Hamlet at 4:30 in the morning after a two-day bender.

The plot is a potpourri of third-rate science-fiction stories. Most of the world has been killed off by some sort of virus, and survivors are living on an atoll that keeps Mother Nature out and survivors in. The synthetic society has existed for more than 400 years, but now some rebels called Monicans, clearly bored out of their minds, look to overthrow the leaders. The film’s big twist ending, a standard movie gimmick we’ve seen recycled over and over (ironic, as it involves cloning), comes as no surprise.

As for Flux, her dreaded fighting arsenal includes flash-cheat editing; the extreme action close-up that makes it impossible to determine who’s doing the hitting; and, of course, the running-away-really-fast maneuver, sometimes enhanced by slow motion. When people run away really fast, but in slow motion, their butts are guaranteed to remain unscathed by enemy bullets.

Theron’s isn’t the only talent being wasted. Here the great Frances McDormand has the worst hairdo in cinema history and, of course, instructions to speak very slowly. McDormand is a beautiful actress, but she should get her agent on the phone for a “No more harsh lighting, and no more frizzy orange hair!” proclamation. But she fares better than Pete Postlethwaite, who’s saddled with terrible age makeup and a goofy spacesuit that doesn’t flatter his figure.

As bad as the film is, one or two of its action scenes seem halfway decent. Flux’s attempt to board a blimp-like floating monument is almost exciting. Flux outwitting a security system’s knife-sharp blades of grass is fairly interesting. Maybe the filmmakers should’ve just gotten their actors to shut up and work through a few more zippy moments like these to move this thing along.

Theron was having a good year. In North Country she was solid, and her performance in this one is probably the film’s best, but that’s not saying much. Although she doesn’t have the makings of a wallet-padding franchise on her hands here, it’s doubtful that her career will suffer. This debacle isn’t nearly as damaging as, say, Catwoman, which had no redeemable value whatsoever. Aeon Flux has spots of interest, but for the most part, it’s just a withering sci-fi clone.