Aeon Flux

As happens so often with sci-fi films, the ideas in “Aeon Flux” are more interesting than the movie they’re trapped in. It touches on politics, human genetics, the nature of personality and the purpose of government, and it features a woman who has an additional pair of hands where her feet should be. The fact that a movie containing all of those elements could be as sterile and monotonous as this one is a wonder in itself.

It’s set in: THE FUTURE!! 2415, specifically. It’s 400 years after a virus wiped out all but 5 million of the Earth’s inhabitants. (Bird flu, I assume.) The descendants of those survivors now live in a utopian city called Bregna, governed and protected by Trevor Goodchild (Marton Csokas), whose forebear discovered the vaccine that stopped the virus and whose family has ruled ever since.

Things are good in Bregna, but the government is intrusive and surveillance-happy, and sometimes people disappear for no reason. A group of rebels has sprung up whose goal is to bring down the Goodchild dynasty and introduce, I don’t know, democracy or something. These rebels are called Monicans, for obvious reasons. (They love Courteney Cox, duh!)

One of these Monicans is named Aeon Flux (Charlize Theron), and she becomes quite keen on killing Trevor Goodchild after her sister is murdered by the Goodchild government. Aeon takes orders from a woman played by Frances McDormand who lives in her head. Well, she doesn’t really live there, but when Aeon wants to talk to her, that’s where she goes. The camera whizzes through Aeon’s face and into her brain, where there’s a room where Frances McDormand is hanging out, and Aeon can talk to her. It’s like when Mork would call Orson, sort of.

Anywhich, Aeon gets the order to sneak into Goodchild headquarters and kill Trevor, but as it turns out, Trevor is having second thoughts about his system of government anyway. Not so his Machiavellian brother Oren (Jonny Lee Miller), who likes being the king’s brother and might like to be king himself someday, if you catch my drift. Aeon eventually learns all of Bregna’s secrets from Trevor, including the mystery of why there is a medium-sized blimp floating around the city’s outer wall at all times (apart from the obvious reason, which is that it’s an homage to “The Prisoner”).

Oscar-winner Charlize Theron made an interesting choice in the way she plays Aeon, i.e., she speaks in a flat, emotionless drone. Director Karyn Kusama, of the beloved indie flick “Girlfight,” probably thought Theron sounded hyper-cool rather than boring. But then, Kusama last worked with the mannish and monotoned Michelle Rodriguez in the beloved indie flick “Girlfight,” so maybe it’s just what she’s used to. Maybe she thinks that’s what all tough women are supposed to sound like.

The characters come by way of MTV’s 1990s animated series, which was created by Peter Chung and which (from what I gather) bears only superficial resemblance to the movie. The film isn’t as bad as you’d expect knowing Paramount refused to pre-screen it for critics, but it’s certainly not as good as its source material seems to have been. It feels cold and impersonal, as if it hopes its story alone will entice you into liking it even though the characters mean nothing to you.

C (1 hr., 36 min.; PG-13, lots of hand-to-hand combat and violence, nothing terribly graphic.)