What is it about the Best (Supporting) Actress Oscar that makes those who win it immediately want to don a revealing costume and beat people up in a daft action movie? Charlize Theron followed in the footsteps of Angelina Jolie (Tomb Raider) and Halle Berry (Catwoman) with Aeon Flux. While the ballet-trained actress exhibits her physical talents in the stunt sequences, this futuristic thriller only ever echoes other cinematic sci-fi tomorrows.
Based on the cult animation series originally shown on MTV, the film is set in the year 2415, where most of the world's population has been wiped out by the "Industrial Disease", and the remainder now live in the walled and seemingly perfect city of Bregna. All is not well in this utopian society, however, and a group of rebels known as the Monicans have banded together in order to fight back against the dictatorial government of Trevor Goodchild (Marton Csokas) and the mysterious disappearances that are blighting the population.
Despite this central revelation being based around a couple of potentially challenging sci-fi concepts, Aeon Flux is essentially yet another tale of rebels taking on an evil establishment, spiced up with brutal kung-fu action sequences and plenty of chances for Theron to dress up in eye-catching fetishistic outfits. These occasionally verge on the ridiculous, from a bizarre, mask-like contraption seen in the opening sequence, to Aeon's decision to mount a dangerous raid on a high-security complex while dressed in an all-white catsuit.
Such stylisations may be in keeping with the kinky, manga-influenced style of the original animation series, but they can't draw attention away from the script's derivative nature. From the portentous council meetings to the bone-cracking fights and the general atmosphere of po-faced seriousness, it's obvious that virtually every member of the production was staring at The Matrix trilogy and taking copious notes, although the result more closely resembles old-fashioned 1990s action blockbusters like Judge Dredd and Demolition Man.
What we're left with in the end is a succession of mildly effective and surprisingly bloody action sequences, which largely consist of Theron tumbling through the air in slow-motion or screaming aggressively as she snaps someone's neck, as well as the sight of a fantastic cast being given very little to do. Like Angelina Jolie before her, Theron mistakes statuesque cool for genuinely engaging heroism, cranking the sex appeal up but failing to inject much life or humanity into Aeon's quest.