Warning: Spoilers.

(Not much, but hey, I warned you.)

So I saw Aeon Flux on DVD the other night. Given the mediocre reviews and lack of box-office love the film, um, enjoyed, I really didn’t expect much. I wanted to see it mainly because of the production design I saw in the commercials. And because of Charlize Theron. And (okay okay) because I’m something of a scifi nut. What I didn’t quite expect was the heart of the story being driven by female characters.

As you know, the norm in sci-fi movies is to have maybe a couple of interesting, perhaps powerful women who have their moments of personal power, but in the decisive cumination leave matters to the (male) hero. Not so in this movie. Aeon is unmistakeably the motivator of just about all the action here, and she’s the one who comes through again and again, all the way up to the conclusion. (And, for the most part, the other major action characters are women as well.)

Charlize Theron brings a lot of presence to her performance. Her intensity practically leaps off the screen right at you. You can see it even in the NLE exports (i.e., raw out of the editing system) used in the making-of featurettes on the DVD. She doesn’t phone in the performance, like some actors would in a similar movie, and she doesn’t go for the easy campy out. She plays it straight, and as a result she carries this movie. Without her and the wonderful-yet-minimalist production values, this would be yet another forgettable B-movie you see only on the Internet Movie Database but never in the store, let alone theatres. She’s also astonishingly graceful in what is an extremely physical performance. I imagine the guys will appreciate her outfits even more. Very skin-tight, boys. But I thought more interesting was what she does, and how she does it.

Aeon is a character of intention and purpose – which, of course, is perfect for a story where all the certainties are not quite what they seem. Still, first and foremost it’s an action movie. The culmination isn’t all that unusual. Explosions, guns – lots of guns (though not the orgy The Matrix offers).

No, Aeon Flux is not a scifi classic. But it’s a heckuva lot better than most of the stuff that passes for scifi on the big screen these days. And it’s nice to see a women’s vision of the future, without the usual phallic imagery and gizmo obsession. (I assume the fact that the producerdirectorstoryboard artist and star are women plays into that.) It’s worth seeing, in my book.

Unfortunately, the website is yet another web 1.0 wonder, replete with Flash domination, un-asked-for music (so don’t go there with your speakers turned up, or you’ll rattle your monitor off the desk) and the usual brochure-ware offerings. If it weren’t for some deliberate search-results skewing by Google, I doubt the site would even merit any pagerank. (Too many generations of website cloning, it seems. Wink wink. It’ll make sense if you’ve seen the movie.)