Aeon Flux (2005) begins by sketching details of the history and political society of its story universe. There is an epidemic caused by an industrial disease where only a few million survives it. There is now a monarchy and for some reason, the discoverer of the cure became king and a dynasty resulted. Material prosperity makes the authoritarian political environment acceptable. Extensive survellience capabilities enable the monarchy/chairmanship to maintain almost complete political control without totalitarian conditions. There are unexplained and officially denied abductions, which are a source of discontent. Those claiming to have lost family members are not silenced, so a degree of ‘dissent’ is tolerated with certain boundaries. There is an underground movement seeking to overthrow the monarch.
Initially the movie suggests that it is making statements on political themes of authorianism, but this quickly falls to the background. Instead, the story throws up a series of existential questions. Aeon Flux examines issues related to reincarnation and has a character who seems to parallel the Dalai Lama. It ingeniously brings such questions down from the realm of metaphysics, of religious faith via technological considerations so that these questions now become a matter of practical consideration. It is a brilliant examination of the close parallels between reincarnation and a certain level of technological advancement. Just this part of the story makes it well worth the admission price.
The heart of its examination is the personality identity problem created by reincarnation and past life memories. It changes the motivation of the primary characters in the story and there lies the problem with the movie. It ends with a three quarter empty feel (or maybe more) because the ability of the narrative to explain the personality identity problem is inadequate, virtually absent. The main character will changed her motivation because all of a sudden a personal identity problem she were barely aware of suddenly becomes the centre of her world. There is little explanation of the social problem posed by these sudden personality changes. The explication of this issue is limited to showing Aeon having dream like flashbacks and a dramatic scene where Charlize Theron gets one of her few chances to actually emote for a line or two. The issue becomes a nagging problem but is never resolved in the action of the movie. To go into greater details of these points will require revealing part of the plot and it is done here.
With a running time of about an hour and a half, Aeon Flux could have been longer to work out some of these issues. At the end of the movie, we have Aeon stating that one life with hope is better. This is a sell of the one life then Heaven or Hell metaphysic, that it is less problematic philosophically and practically, and that it is more emotionally satisfying. Hence God, being perfect, would not have chosen this arrangement. Screw politics. Metaphysics rules here. This is Aeon Flux, not Serenity (2005).
Charlize Theron’s largely emotionless portrayal of Aeon Flux together with her stylised wardrobe and action sequences does help with establishing the atmosphere that society in her world is stylish but largely empty inside. This movie could have been another Matrix if it had worked out a way to fully explore the personal identity issues with reincarnation, showing how the problems which would be created for individuals and the society. Pity.
I Originally published this at blog.