When it came out there was nothing out there quite like it — it was edgy, humourous, sexy and intelligent; it was a prime example of MTV hitting the nail squarely on the head. It meshed Western ideas of sci-fi with the anime aesthetic in a way no one had seen. The cartoon still seems fresh in a way that the film is never going to.
Why is that? Why did the film go so badly awry? Not that it is the awful spectacle some would have you believe, but still, it is not Aeon Flux. I think it suffered in the same way a lot of similar franchises suffer — they misunderstood what they had on their hands. Some people might say that part of Aeon Flux was its shortness, but there are Aeon feature length cartoons out there that work perfectly well. I think part of it is that it very rarely employed standard narrative techniques — and sometimes it threw logic out of the window in favour of interesting. Film-makers of a certain breed are afraid to do this, and some of that is down to big budgets and studio pressure.
So, they Hollywoodised Aeon: made her all cuddly and caring and loving and dropped the smart sexy, sassiness. They buried the illogical almost Dada irreverence of the cartoon in the most pedestrian of storylines. Another thing is it came out after The Matrix
. Okay, so it may have been an influence on The Matrix
, that much was attested to by the presence of Peter Chung in the Animatrix
collection, but the movie is a different beast, and whereas the cartoon had followers aplenty the film had to doubly prove itself. It plagiarised from a film that was accused of plagiarising from it — it had shifted from the position of innovator to copyist.
The best thing about the movie is that it led to the release of a comprehensive DVD of Aeon’s finest animated moments — all the shorts; the longer pieces; everything. And you know what? Unlike the film, which I shouldn’t keep bashing, it stands the test of time. The cartoon is the stuff of repeated watches; it presents conundrums, asks questions, gives unexpected answers, and it makes you care about the characters. The animation is shit-hot, the ideas seem limitless, and there is still nothing quite like it.
Now playing: R.E.M. – Zither