Aeon (Charlize Theron) is an elite member of a group called the Monicans. Due to a large-scale epidemic, there is only one city left on the planet ruled by Trevor Goodchild (Marton Csokas), who heads a council of elders (of sorts), including his brother, Oren (Jonny Lee Miller). Everyone in the cast seems to have been chosen because they spell their names in an odd way. Perhaps this is the director's subconscious method of evoking the future. The Monicans realize that although everything may look good, they are living in a police state and nefarious people lurk in the background, extracting citizens without cause. Aeon receives her latest instructions from Handler (Frances McDormand): The Monicans want her to assassinate Goodchild. Aeon has good reason to hate the Chairman as her sister was just murdered, for being a suspected member of the Monicans. The Monicans have received secret information that he will be vulnerable at a certain time. Just as she is about to kill him, Goodchild recognizes Aeon and asks "Catherine?" causing her to lose her concentration.
"Aeon Flux", directed by Karyn Kusama, whose only other film was the independent film "Girlfight", is an interesting film to look at, to a point, but it is extremely simplistic and hollow.
The film is based on a series of graphic novels and an animated series, which I am not familiar with. A friend told me that in these original incarnations, Aeon is repeatedly killed and then cloned, to keep coming back and back. If this is true, it seems rather pointless. How can we root for Aeon, the hero, if she is so completely unsuccessful that she repeatedly gets killed? Thankfully, the filmmakers have changed this when adapting for the big screen. Charlize Theron's interpretation of the character is an extremely well-trained assassin who seems to have every skill she needs at her fingertips. This makes her the sort of tough, no nonsense woman you are probably expecting from the commercials and trailers.
But she is ultimately too tough. Aeon never shows any emotion. Even when her sister is killed, a tear barely falls before she is off running, kicking, or killing guards with a quick jerk on their necks. Note to filmmakers: They don't all have to be cold-hearted and stone-faced killers in the future. This would be an acceptable trait for the lead character if anyone else showed any emotion. Occasionally, a tear makes its way down a cheek, but the person remains cold and immobile. But no one does. I understand all of this stoicism is meant to evoke the sterile, antiseptic feel of the future, but we're beyond that. We can see a character show some emotion in the future.
Watching Charlize Theron kick box her way through a series of attackers is fun, but it gets repetitive. Real fast. She gets a scratch here and a cut there, but nothing seems to slow her down. She just keeps running or kicking or hitting, etc. Yawn. When there is little or no evidence that she will ever be waylaid by any injury, any suspense generated by the situation quickly evaporates. Many of these futuristic fighting machines are just that, machines. They never appear vulnerable, never show emotion and simply move from one target to the next, trying to achieve some goal. What the filmmakers are missing is that the character, their futuristic fighting machine, needs to have something for us, the audience to identify with. Give the machine some trait or other that lets us in, shows us they are vulnerable. This is one of the reasons The Terminator is such a great character. In "The Terminator", he is originally the villain. Yet, he is also vulnerable, he can be slowed down. In the sequel, he becomes the protector and even though he isn't the most emotive guy in the world, we see that he cares about Sarah and John Connor. This made him a character we could identify with, yes, even though he is a robot who kills, leaving a path of destruction.
The design of "Aeon Flux" is interesting and easily the best thing about the film. It occurred to me that director Kusama probably grew up watching films like "Logan's Run" and similar mid-70s attempts at depicting the future, and really enjoyed them. This is her homage to these films. The film looks and feels like "Run", but made with better special effects. Buildings have sleek shapes, built in concrete. Clothes are strange, made primarily of leather and latex and cover odd parts of the body. Food is interesting. It looks as though they took a mixture of the oddest looking things they could find in real life and interspersed them throughout, adding a touch of interest to a strange bleak landscape. At one point, Aeon's sister is cutting into a star fruit, which is supposed to be a futuristic thing, but exists in this day and age. I have heard that much of the film was shot in Germany, presumably to use some of their slightly surrealistic architecture as the basis for this futuristic world.
Is this attempt at creating a new world enough to warrant your time and money? Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no. The film is well-produced, but it is not well-written or directed well. Until the filmmakers can begin to create futuristic characters that experience some believable emotion, which can make us feel for them, don't bother. Without this human touch, these films will always feel like hollow shells of moviemaking excess.