An estrogen-energized companion piece to Michael Bay’s The Island, Karyn Kusama’s Aeon Flux (based on the obscure mid-‘90s MTV cartoon) assumes an anti-establishment sci-fi façade in order to promote alarmist slippery-slope anti-science attitudes. In 2415, with the Earth’s surface having been overrun by vegetation and 99% of its population decimated by a super-virus, humanity’s survivors lead blissfully ignorant lives in a walled-off city called Bregna that’s ruled by Trevor Goodchild (Marton Csokas), descendent of those who discovered the virus’s cure. In response to citizens periodically disappearing without a trace, a band of militant rebels (led by Frances McDormand, sporting a tangle of orange hair) dedicate themselves to overthrowing a government they believe is up to no good, but their plans to execute Trevor are sabotaged when their top operative Aeon Flux (Charlize Theron), a sexy, slender, Amazonian hybrid of The Matrix‘s Neo and a ninja, fails to follow through on her assassination assignment. Decked out in black form-fitting, cleavage-revealing futuristic outfits and prone to standing with her legs spread provocatively apart, Theron’s Aeon is a gun-wielding babe in the mold of Kate Beckinsale’s Underworld ass-kicker, and, predictably, Kusama’s camera spends most of its time drooling lasciviously over her fine figure.
From its biomechanical flora imagery to its new-wave Japanese art design, Aeon Flux strives to be a live-action animé, an impression further confirmed by its narrative’s underlying distrust of technological progress as dehumanizing. After refusing to kill Trevor, Aeon—spoiler alert!—learns that everyone in Bregna is a multi-generation clone. Worse, despite Trevor having successfully spawned natural pregnancies, his evil brother Oren (Jonny Lee Miller) wants to maintain the cloning status quo in a diabolical effort to achieve eternal life. With Aeon’s flight over the hellishly sterile city walls into the surrounding Eden-ish jungle portrayed as a “leap of faith” designed to bring about a society where everyone lives “only once, but with hope,” the film reveals itself to be a not-so-subtle screed against stem cell research. That hope is derived from belief rather than knowledge is part and parcel of Aeon Flux‘s conservative outlook, in which genetics is the province of monsters (or misguided fools) intent on transforming mankind into inhuman cyborg “ghosts.” And yet in a truly shocking twist, such an anti-science stance isn’t even the most distasteful facet of Kusama’s lame-brained action-adventure. That honor goes to the sight of an African-American warrior (Sophie Okonedo) with hands for feet, a distasteful vision of the archaic blacks-as-monkeys stereotype that truly takes the repugnant cake.