Saturday, February 25, 2006

"That which does not kill us makes us stranger."

DVD coverÆon Flux - Complete Animated Collection: Director's Cut has been released in Australia, and EoR has been enjoying this animated oddity. Sometimes television comes up with something thought provoking and which doesn't just play to the lowest common denominator (usually about once every five years, in EoR's experience, which isn't a very high success rate).

Æon Flux is the eponymous heroine. Part terrorist, part anarchist, part existentialist, Æon Flux is the scantily clad gun-toting acrobatic star (with an endless supply of ammunition, a foot fetish, and breasts that could poke an eye out) of a series of animated shorts that are full of ambiguity and brilliant cinematic animation (there's a debt to anime, but also with a clear acknowledgement to the best European cartoonists such as Moebius and Druillet, as well as directors such as Kurosawa). Those of you familiar with the Jerry Cornelius works of Michael Moorcock (and other writers) will also be prepared for a lead character who repeatedly dies, and whose world changes frequently without explanation.

Originally a series of six two-minute shorts, there followed a series of five five-minute shorts (in which Æon never spoke - apart from one word - and in every one of which she died), and finally a series of ten half-hour programs (in which Æon spoke more but died less frequently). They are full of clever ideas and thought-provoking images, and the constant interplay between Æon and her nemesis/lover Trevor Goodchild, in a world where reality is a shifting and indeterminate concept (particularly in Chronophasia). EoR's favourite episodes also include The Demiurge (Æon is on a mission to kill a god) and The Purge (Trevor invents an artificial conscience called a "Custodian" - Æon's dilemma is does she have a conscience or not?).

Peter Chung deliberately didn't want straightforward dialogue in the full length series, and this example (from the opening sequence) gives a taste:
Trevor Goodchild: The dream to awaken our world...
Æon Flux: You're out of control.
Trevor Goodchild: I take control! Whose side are you on?
Æon Flux: I take no side...
Trevor Goodchild: You're skating the edge.
Æon Flux: I am the edge!
Trevor Goodchild: What you truly want, only I can give.
Æon Flux: You can't give it, you can't even buy it, and you just don't get it.

We are not what we remember of ourselves. We can undo only what others have already forgotten. Learn from your mistakes, so that one day you can repeat them precisely.

or EoR's favourite
That which does not kill us makes us stranger.

For DVD the series has been remastered: the colour has been improved, some minor CGI effects added and some scenes revamped. Fanboy agitation on the net seems to be mostly negative about this, but EoR didn't mind the new version (yes, he did see the original broadcasts) and, as Peter Chung has pointed out, it's only restoring what MTV (the original broadcaster) wouldn't allow him to do.

In an interview at IGN Peter Chung hints at more Æon Flux to come:
I found the experience of doing the first full half-hour series to be very frustrating in a lot of ways, because I felt like you're working with a lot of time constraints and budget restraints - restraints - and with content restraints, so we are developing Æon Flux animation in another form. I'm not sure what form it's going to take - you know, direct to video or theatrical or what. But yeah, I think how the DVD sells and how the movie does will affect what form that takes.

Unfortunately, the Æon Flux movie is an abomination which all fans will spit on and avoid like the plague since Peter Chung had no hand in it other than at the very initial stages, and Æon is no longer someone working solely for herself, without a past, and without a future. Hollywood adaptations suck - which is something Peter Chung agrees with:
the movie is a travesty. I was unhappy when I read the script four years ago; seeing it projected larger than life in a crowded theatre made me feel helpless, humiliated and sad. I know it's bad form for me to voice my disapproval in a public forum, but it's silly for me, of all people, to continue playing dumb, considering most of the critics have voiced their disapproval using every mocking and condescending expression possible. Maybe the makers didn't understand the source material and thought they were being true to it; or they understood it, but didn't think it would appeal to a wide enough audience and altered it to suit their presumed target. They claim to love the original version; yet they do not extend that faith to their audience. No, they will soften it for the public, which isn't hip enough to appreciate the raw, pure, unadulterated source like they do. The argument for the Catherine Goodchild movie is that an accurate live-action version of the Æon Flux would have been too inaccessible for a mainstream audience. It would not have made money, ergo there's no impetus for the studio to make it. It's a circular argument which attempts to shift responsibility away from the individuals who make the film to the presumed audience. Presuming to know what an audience wants to see and tailoring the product to fit is a method that sucks all the drive I'd have to ever create anything. It's self-defeating disingenuous. The original impetus behind the Æon Flux "Pilot" was a critique of the manipulation of sympathy in Hollywood movies. That method is most transparent in the action genre. Æon Flux was never an action vehicle. The only two episodes in which Æon does much physical fighting are the shorts Pilot and War -- in which her violent actions are portrayed as preposterous and futile. Not heroic. How can anyone watching those shorts NOT GET IT?

Buy the DVD of the original series though. Maybe that will be impetus enough to get the real Æon Flux back in action.

1 comment:

  1. I now have a lot more incentive to buy Peter Chung's stuff.

    After I make sure I'm not about to perform a sunk cost fallacy investing in making my new computer work.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.