The live-action adaptation of Aeon Flux opens this week—but we can't tell you anything about it. It wasn't screened for critics, which probably means that the studio's hoping that no press is better than bad press.
What we can tell you about is the recently released, digitally remastered Aeon Flux: The Complete Animated Collection; an excellent three-disc DVD set that neatly bundles up the inspiration for the dubious film. Collecting the 10 half-hour episodes broadcast on MTV's Liquid Television in 1995, as well as the show's pilot and its shorter, serialized episodes, the set also boasts a featurette on the show's genesis, reams of production art, and commentaries from the show's creator (and former Rugrats animator), Peter Chung.
Viewed as a whole—and not through the grunge-flavored haze of '90s MTV remembrances—Aeon Flux is a decidedly off-putting cocktail of violence, sex, and technology. Sometimes it feels like a sci-fi/action film, sometimes like a drama, sometimes like an S&M porn, sometimes like avant-garde cinema. Aeon Flux follows its titular character: a sensual, brutal, leather-clad secret agent who sabotages a futuristic fascist society, even as she's in love with that government's leader, the slimy Trevor Goodchild. There are weird aliens, abstract philosophical meditations, and blood-spurting violence, and while the quality of the episodes varies greatly (some are escapist fun, some are frustratingly pretentious, and none approach the visceral and intellectual excitement of the pilot), overall Aeon Flux is a smart, daring, and unique sort of ultra-stylized cool.
In retrospect, Aeon Flux seems an appropriate show for an MTV that was attempting to forge a new identity, one separate from their music videos. But now, it's nearly incomprehensible that MTV (who has since fled to the safer company of Punk'd and Laguna Beach)—or anyone, really—would support a show as bizarre and edgy as Aeon Flux. And judging from both the Tomb Raider-y trailers and the lack of a press screening, one can only suspect that the interesting, animated Aeon probably doesn't bear a whole lot of similarities to her Charlize Theron-played cinematic counterpart. Which is too bad.