I'm a fan of Peter's vision of Aeon Flux. I have been for many years, and I imagine I will continue to be for many years.
But I also enjoyed the movie. Perhaps not in the way the creators would have prefered, but I very much liked it and did take it as a 'Chronophasia'-esque tale. Existing perhaps not as a part of 'canon', but as an Aeon Flux story being told by someone who is not Peter Chung, and thus has their own ideas about the character, for better or worse.
I always interpreted the original series of shorts as brief morality plays, not unlike a kind of modern day Aesops Fables. The series of episode length stories played out as character studies, in my eyes, with the added depth given to the characters by the expanded format used to interesting results.
In this light Chronophasia was one of the most interesting episodes to me, because though it wasn't penned by Peter, we're presented with Aeon acting out her thoughts and learning processes before our eyes, before being placed into an entirely new scenario, for us to observe. And the impressions we take away from it help to shape our whole view of the character (it certiantly veered me away from looking at her as so self serving, years back).
On the level of looking at things as such, I very much enjoyed the feature film as an alternate interpretation of what these core characters could have been in a different setting, contrasting what we know of them and giving definition to them by opposite example.
Even more than that, though, I enjoyed the film on it's own level. Had it not had the Aeon name attatched, it still would have met my personal tastes well, for which there is no accounting, I suppose.
As a Flux movie, I don't agree with some of the changes made to the caracter of Aeon that define her at her core. As has been much brought up, I think she would NEVER align herself with a group of freedom fighters as she did in the film... she IS the edge after all, not existing on either side of the conflict, but somewhere in between, making the choices that she feels are right on an individual basis.
But if nothing else, this movie was SO much better than I'd been dreading it to be. After the last decade I never thought something WATCHABLE would be produced, much less something I plan on buying on DVD eventually.
I don't blame Peter for his feelings, and I have absolute respect for him as an artist and a creator, because to see his world interpreted in a way that disagrees with his own sensibilities about said work must be difficult, and I respect SO much that he was able to let people make a judgement of their own and see the movie before coming out about this. But I don't agree with his views either.
~spike, hopeful to see a directors cut some day, as well.
With complete respect for your opinion and your efforts, I feel I have to say...
I understand your frustration and upset at what the studio probably did to shred this film to pieces. The reviews for Aeon were ridiculous, completely missing the reasons the movie did fail and focusing on a lot of the eye candy (like that was ever the point!) But those reviews never influenced me, I'm taking Hollywood into account, and I still can't really sympathize with the attempt to ring true to...whatever you thought the series was about. I'd looked forward to this movie all year knowing there would be a different story, more 'human', more linear. I was prepared for that.
It was a frustrating adaptation. There was deep potential there, although most of that potential WAS with the "minor" characters. Trevor's relationship with Freya was intriguing, as was Aeon's with Sithandra. (The first issue of the comic was lovely. I still want to get my hands on the other parts.) While I made my comments about a false Aeon, and what a fascinating idea that is, I was equally fascinated by the idea of an Aeon of our time. I don't think Catherine Goodchild as we saw her was that Aeon, but I think again that she had the potential to be. It wasn't so far removed from the original as, say, Trevor.
But that's where you lost me. This was the sole thing I wanted intact, was these characters and their relationship. You could do whatever you wanted to their world, their allies, their enemies, their motivations, and the story, but they and their interactions had to remain true to what originally made them compelling. Aeon was off, but like I said, I didn't feel a complete disconnect. Trevor, on the other hand...
Why anyone felt the need to split Trevor in two, I have no idea, whether that was you or MTV. Trevor's arrogance can be softened. His Machiavellian tendencies can be tamed a bit. Why do I know you can do this? Because A Last Time For Everything already DID it. Hell, The Demiurge and the end of The Herodotus Files did it! There is a perfectly Hollywood version of Trevor that can emerge from all that and I don't see how he wouldn't have been acceptable. He wouldn't be especially complicated. He did not need a Hyde to his perfect Jekyll, he did not need to have any evidence that he can take care of himself removed, and he certainly did not need to have the role in the story that he did. The crux of the Aeon/Trevor relationship is their uphill conflict. They conflict on an ideological level; I don't see how there can be any alternate intepretation to that. Whether or not you think it can be overcome, and I like either possibility, you can't claim to play to the battle between Aeon and Trevor if after about ten minutes in you've removed the battle and they're on the same side. The line about Aeon always being able to 'reach' Trevor would have been beautifully poignant if there was anything to reach him ABOUT. There wasn't.
A lot of press talk was made about making the story more human, but I feel like it was *de*humanized. The original Aeon Flux has some of the most human and compelling characterizations I've ever seen. These two people gave you hope then hit you when it hurt, showed wounds beneath egos and questions beneath certainty. The show also had a sense of humor about itself, something the movie really didn't. I don't know how you could have tried to remain true to the integerity of the series when the core of its story was torn apart. The point of Aeon was never the sci fi for me, so all the references to various episodes in the world couldn't have won me over. Aeon Flux was about two people who loved each other but just couldn't stand each other. That's a very simple concept, and a very rich one. You changed that relationship. So I'm not really sure what you were trying to be true to. And that's where my problem lies, personally.
I'm sorry if the studio was responsible for any of these grievances, and I really respect your defense of your motivations. I remember liking Crazy/Beautiful and from that other look at your writing I respect your talent. But you have your take on what's important in this series and I suppose this is mine.
I really appreciate you coming here and explaining your side. To hear that you suffered through the same content kind of content nazis that plagued the original show is further testament to Peter's complains from the original series.
And at the same time, I was surprised at how much the movie did, as far as capturing some of the weird aesthetic choices involved in the original series. It certainly didn't "fail" along those lines.
But I have to agree with weyrdchic
- there was definitely a loss of the most important facets of what made the show "our show." Trevor and Aeon's relationship needs to be the centerpiece - and to a great extent this film was missing a Trevor and an Aeon. I remember at Comiccon, I was actually pretty hyped up when I heard Charlize Theron waxing geeky about Aeon Flux. She was hitting all the right notes!
But then when I asked
Marton Csokas about Trevor (I was the long haired dork who started babbling about Trevor and fascism during that panel) I got the exact opposite of what I wanted to hear: "I tried to avoid looking at things that were in the series: his downfall and some of the motivation. But then instead what you’re left with is essentially the foundation of the character. So it was almost in conjunction with everybody else, taking certain pieces and twisting them and reshaping them and hint to what happens in the story being told in the film. So it was very much a dry and devised observation of his character."
Whoa, wait a second. He's avoiding his downfalls and motivations? That was the first thing to have me genuinely worried about the movie. Now, I know that this isn't necessarily your fault as a writer... the movie has to go through many, many hands etc. But from my point of view, that is where the movie failed. The characters and their motivations needed to be spot on, everything else could change but those, and it would still be Aeon Flux.
Hell, making "Monica" a chemical state was a damn gutsy move. I totally can dig the idea of people only attaining 'freedom' by entering a private virtual landscape, or a shared dream. whatever! Clearly there's room for interpretation there, and interpretation makes things more interesting.
But the relationship between Aeon and Trevor didn't have that room for interpretation. They, as individuals, didn't have that room for interpretation. Whether that's lack of subtlety from the script, the direction, the edits, or MTV, I don't know, I just know that it's there and it ruined the movie as an "Aeon Flux" movie.
Thanks for your post, Phil. I was actually expecting it, after reading Mr. Chung's take on the whole thing. I agree with some things Peter wrote, I disagree, sometimes wholeheartedly, with many others, and I definetely disagree with the timing of his public attack on the movie. The "bad form" he speaks of, to me, doesn't lie in what he wrote about the film, but in "when" he wrote about it.
The movie in itself is different from Aeon, I wrote that several times, you can spot the editing problems and the studio interference from a mile away and a lot of things don't work and needed to be fleshed out more.
To deny its layers, that are still there, or its ideas is to me, quite ridiculous, unless someone really didn't get what was going on on screen.
As for the relationship between Aeon and Trevor is fundamentally different, yes, but it's not gratuitously different and it goes the core of the identity theme, which I believe was central in the original concept for the movie and that still survives in the studio-mangled version.
Who we see in the movie in the performance of Charlize Theron might not be the Aeon Flux Peter was expecting, but it's not Catherine Goodchild either. Not anymore. She even says that to Trevor, if I remember correctly. He tells the story of their former selves, and she replies with something close to "They were different people".
It doesn't feel that way to Trevor, who's been raised to be exactly like the original Goodchild, as it's been for generations of clones before him, but it sure feel that way for Aeon who-was-once Catherine.
What are we? Are we the sum of our experiences? Do they mold us into what we are? Or does exist something beneath that can't be touched, and that deep down defines us? Is the seventh Trevor Goodchild that we meet in the movie, the same person as the original Trevor? He thinks he is, the whole Bregna's system is based on the assumption that he is, but is he? Would the original Oren resort to kill his own brother, for his own gain?
I also disagree with the concept of "lovers tied up together by fate".
The surge of feelings from the previous self doesn't strike the movie Aeon if not when she confronts him in person. If that is chance or fate is very much in the eye of the beholder. I choose chance. Are those feelings and fragments of dreams infused of strange, unexplicable emotions a supernatural window on the past, or something more akin to that unexplicable bond and empathy that ties, for example, two twins together? Is Aeon "defined" by those feelings, when she starts feeling them? Certainly not. Does she go back to her previous self personality, once she starts feeling them? Not at all. Unless Catherine's ideas of pillow talk was trying to strangle Trevor everytime they had sex. She tries to deal with them as the person she is now.
I see some pretty interesting things there. Are they related to the series? Only marginally, since the film, in my view if it, move more in the vein of Ray Bradbury or Gene Roddenberry type of sci-fi, as I read somewhere else, by people who hit the nail on the head (always in my opnion, of course). Does that make it automatically a negative thing? Not even by a long shot.
I'd be very interested to watch the director's cut of the movie, if Paramount will ever allow that version to be released.
To conclude this very long and boring post, I will add a simple truth: different from the original source does NOT equal worse, or unrespectful.
I didn't just say the movie had potential for lip service. There were a number of concepts that, if they'd been EXPLORED, would have made it a pretty good movie (not for Aeon fans maybe but on its own terms). But even on its own terms, it floundered.
..."They were different people".
It doesn't feel that way to Trevor, who's been raised to be exactly like the original Goodchild, as it's been for generations of clones before him, but it sure feel that way for Aeon who-was-once Catherine.
And that would have been great if we'd even glimpsed at who Catherine was as compared to Aeon. As we have no sense of that, save that she lived in a gentler time, we're forced not only to define her and Trevor by who they are now, but to combine it with that past. We can be TOLD that there's a struggle all we want. We can be TOLD that Catherine's spirit would 'survive' and be able to 'reach Trevor' (again, reach him for WHAT?). But there's nothing there to make us BELIEVE it.
Would the original Oren resort to kill his own brother, for his own gain?
Considering the original Oren killed Catherine for his own personal gain, I'd say either 'yes' or 'a few generations down the line it's the next logical step'.
Is Aeon "defined" by those feelings, when she starts feeling them? Certainly not. Does she go back to her previous self personality, once she starts feeling them? Not at all. Unless Catherine's ideas of pillow talk was trying to strangle Trevor everytime they had sex. She tries to deal with them as the person she is now.
And save for that strangling, which made sense but was executed terribly and seemed out of place, there is no struggle there. Aeon very quickly learns that Trevor has done nothing wrong save try to do the best he can with an unhappy temporary solution. Una's death wasn't his fault, the disappearances weren't his fault (I'm going to assume they were the murders, not kidnappings for test groups, since Una was allowed to live out in the open in peace). For Aeon to 'deny' or 'wrestle' with her feelings for more than a moment in the context of the story makes her look like a narrow-minded idiot. And she doesn't; the conflict is quickly lost. And I never sympathized with it that much to begin with.
The whole movie tells without showing. We never see that Aeon feels inhuman without Una. We never see that Trevor and Aeon have any kind of bond that strengthens or defines them, or is worth fighting for. Nor is it conflicted enough to be compelling. We're told to "think for ourselves" yet "there have to be rules", but the people spouting or being told these sentiments are completely in the dark as to what's going on and nobody ever tries to explain it to them. Their choices in the Monica-Bregna battle seem to be more about whether or not they'll follow their chosen causes or they'll break from them just because someone tells them to with no explaination. That's not independance, that's stupidity.
And there was no ambiguity to their situation. Even when Aeon goes to shoot the Relical down, she reassures Trevor that he'll find the cure again. I remember thinking 'Well gee, lady, what if he DOESN'T? You'll feel pretty stupid then, right?' If they wanted a genuine conflict, try this one: Trevor has never found a cure. Aeon argues that maybe the human race is meant to die out rather than never be able to be individuals again. Trevor refuses to accept that and tries to stop what she's doing - while they fight their feelings for each other yet again. This battle of ideologies is the focus of a good portion of the movie, instead of just five minutes of it. Stick in some hubris on Trevor's part and that's actually starting to sound like an episode. Probably boring as hell if I wrote it, but I'm no Peter Chung.
Deviating from a source isn't disrespectful. But there's a difference between deviating and seperating out so far that it's nearly unrecognizeable. There's a difference between changing elements of a story to make it translate better and breaking down what's at the very heart of that story. At a certain point, you no longer have a source. You have a name that you use to sell your product. THAT is disrespectful to a high degree. I don't blame Phil for that, but I do blame MTV.
2006-01-11 03:31 am (UTC)
"And that would have been great if we'd even glimpsed at who Catherine was as compared to Aeon. As we have no sense of that, save that she lived in a gentler time, we're forced not only to define her and Trevor by who they are now, but to combine it with that past."
But you're supposed to know them as they are now (the "now" of the movie).
I always said that the film needed to flesh out more certain situations, and the past was certainly one of them, (some of the supporting characters was another one). But the audience knows what the characters know. Do Aeon and Trevor VII equal Catherine and Trevor? Trevor VII thinks they do, Aeon is pretty doubtful about that. Does the movie provides an objective answer to that? No. Is that a bad thing? No, it's not, because there's really no objective answer to that.
The bond between the new Trevor and Aeon is alien to them. Maybe not so much to him, but certainly it is to her.
Oren did not kill Catherine, since she died of the disease. He merely refused to clone her. Is that a betrayal and an immoral act? It is (of course, human cloning is considered an immoral act in itself, even if in the movie it actually saves humanity), but it's not the same as murder.
Did other Oren's clones tried to murder his brother clones? No. This Oren did.
The strangling didn't seem out of place at all to me, nor it was poorly executed. Aeon in that moment feels manipulated, and she still has to "digest" if you will, everything that happened. Once she has digested it, she feels that the main motivation she had in killing Trevor VII is not there anymore, and that something more complex is going on. At that point, she might as well not fight those feelings, but rather follow them and see where they lead. She contacts Sithandra to tell her that.
She finds a picture of what it really looks like herself, and it's Catherine, in his lab.
What are the things the rebels are "told to" that made them change their mind? Rebels have a telepathic, drug-induced, link between each other, which is also an emotional link. If you're referring to Sithandra, she has a long history with Aeon. They go back a long way.
When she chooses Aeon over the cause and her direct orders is hardly because she's told to.
And one more thing: Trevor VII does not find the cure in the movie, neither did any of his other clones ever find it. His tests had nothing to do with the fact that some human being began to reproduce again. Oren's killings are not motivated by the fact that he wants to cover up his brother's successful testings. He wants to cover up the fact that Nature found its way to regain what once was its teritory, over science.
Aeon does choose to destroy the Relical, without knowing if Trevor, who now has no lab, no research data, nothing that would allow him to start his work again, will ever be able to find a cure. Therefore in Aeon's choice, there's exactly that element you mention: human race would better die out than not be able to be individuals again.
Then the movie leaves them off the hook as characters, right away, which of course is the easy way out. Human race won't die, because Nature, and not science, found a way to restore the natural balance.
Now, like it or not, there are layers in the movie.
Which is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, is not like the show, and, as I wrote, you can spot the studio interferences from a mile away. Still, I find it a pretty interesting piece of sci-fi, and certainy better and more thought-provoking than many other sci-fi movies I saw recently.
And to write some of the things I read about it, even here, well.........It just leaves me wondering...........
By the way, the anonymous was me. I forgot to log in before pushing the submit button. :)
Thank you for your insightful and impassioned remarks.
I agree with you completely one of the most distinctive features of the original Aeon Flux is, as you indicate, that it's somewhat a tabula rasa, it more suggests than instructs, and what you get from it reflects what you bring to it. But what keeps it coherent is the one constant, the relationship between Trevor and Aeon. Everything else -- even Aeon's life -- is just a backdrop in which to observe the interplay of these two completely different personalities. That gave you and the other writers nearly unlimited freedom, far moreso than in almost any other "adaption" I can think of.
I think the reason the movie failed (and let's be blunt, the movie WAS a failure, both cinematically and financially), is because that one crucial element, the chemistry between Trevor and Aeon, was completely absent onscreen. I don't know enough about the movie-making process to know where things went wrong. The blame may fall primarily on Theron and Csokas for not acting off each other well. The blame may fall on casting, I think the movie would have been far better served with co-stars sharing billing that worked well together (a la Pitt & Jolie in Mr & Mrs Smith) then in finding an Oscar winner to make it HER movie with a far less well known Trevor (while the cartoon is named "Aeon Flux", it's worth nothing Trevor gets more dialogue and often more screen time). Maybe it comes down to direction. Or maybe the script.
At the end when the "Katherine" backstory is revealed, my objections aren't so much Chung's (though Peter makes some very good points) but it seemed tacked on to give reason why either character should give a shit about the other, since nothing else onscreen suggested otherwise. They're genetically programmed too! As a fan of the original I appreciate it's a nod to the almost other-worldly bond between the two, but we (the audience) are being lectured "these two are fated to be together" instead of watching just what makes the Aeon/Trevor interaction so compelling play out. The old "show, don't tell" thing.
You're obviously a fan as are we. It's frustrating that Hollywood idiots still haven't learned to trust the geeks, that adaptions that remain true to the source material and please the hardcore fans tend to rake in the box office (LotR, X-Men, Spider-Man), while those that "reinvent" a mythos to placate the mythical "average movie-goer" tend to tank (Catwoman, the Hulk). Sounds like you did your best to fight "an indifferent corporate monolith" & "the studio's manipulation of what we were trying to do". Thanks for doing your best, it could have been a lot worse, and in someone else's hands it probably would have been.
We all know my take on the movie. Yours is a rather brave post. Thank you for your words.
2006-01-10 04:12 pm (UTC)
Well, I expected my comments would spur discussion. Phil, I sympathize and appreciate your struggles, but I still don't agree with or endorse the results.
My comments are of course no more and no less than my personal views, but I thought I'd be honest and not pull punches. People keep asking me what I thought of the movie. I didn't like the script. I didn't like the movie. That's my honest answer. The studio is partly responsible for the movie's problems, no doubt.
For the record, the original series was not a financial or critical success for MTV when it first aired. Reaction was mixed, in the rare cases where someone bothered to write about it at all. A lot of viewers who loved the LTV shorts hated the half hour episodes. (It didn't help that the first episode they saw, Utopia, was one that even I hated.) That's why the recent flood of mostly good notices for the dvd collection has been so heartening.
Also, Phil is right that I mustn't presume to know what motivated the makers of the movie to take the direction they did. I know how maddening it can be when people misrepresent your intentions.
Q: Are there aspects of the script that are exactly like the show? And what aspects are completely different?
Phil: I think the basic relationship between Aeon and Trevor is very much like the show.
In any case, my comments are hardly going to serve as the final word on what Aeon Flux is about. What I do regret is that for many people, the movie, as it stands, will be.
Now, I know that you're only responsible for the writing, with Mr. Manfredi of course, and this might be a question better directed towards Ms. Kusama, but since I potentially have your eye, I have to ask because this has been bothering me somtething fierce:
Where along the way in the creative process did the word "Bregna" start getting pronounced with a hard 'G'?
Hi, everyone. A quick thank you to all who have responded to my comments. I think the discussion has been fascinating.
Divinus, I'm not sure when the pronunciation migrated. Of course, in the script there is no guide to such things... somewhere in rehearsals, the actors must have settled on the hard G. Maybe because we were in Germany?
All the actors were working so hard to create a somewhat consistent accent (the cast hailed from many different countries)-- this item eluded everyone. Certainly a detail we noticed, too... just one of those things.
Thanks for asking.
2006-01-20 09:36 am (UTC)
But I don't think I'm the only one who was intrigued and inspired by the strange jolt of the vision of Aeon and child in a "modern" world at the end of Chronophasia.
I was always under the assumption that the end of Chronophasia, where AEon became a soccer mom, was symbolizing the worst kind of torture that a character like her should ever endure. How can you say that you where "Intrigued and inspired" by seeing such a strong and independent character destroyed by the stereotypical monotony of modern day?
2006-01-20 04:43 pm (UTC)
Yes, I was intrigued and inspired by that moment: (a common condition to find myself in when watching Aeon Flux). I'd submit that there are many, many ways to look at that moment at the end of Chronophasia. I don't think she was "destroyed" in any way. I think how one sees it maybe says something about what one thinks of the idea of unified subjectivity and unified consciousness, versus fragmented subjectivity and scattered consciousness.
Where is the essence? Where is the "personality" and where is the person? What is the character and where does it reside? These are the kind of questions watching the show raised in me... for Aeon operates as both a unified character with a somewhat stable (but incredibly complicated) personality, and as a necessarily fluid part of a fluid land- and time-scape, who survives the (frequent) destruction of her body and thrives in a milieu outside of linear time.
I look at Aeon in that moment as embodying infinite possibility. I don't think she is "reduced" to anything. The so-called soccer mom can't be reduced to that stereotype, no more than Aeon Flux can be reduced to "killing machine" or "freedom fighter" or "terrorist" or "dominatrix" or "acrobatic mind-fucker" or "occasionally fatally clumsy provocateur" or any of those tropes.
The exciting thing was seeing those seeming contradictions juxtaposed. If Aeon Flux, or a shard of her, or a version of her, or a dream or memory or fantasy of her can survive in such a trope-- one many disdain and dismiss-- well, I think that's cool. I think it hints at the chaos inside of every human. As for the mundane modern world, what about the interior world? To me, there's nothing mundane about that.
Regardless, I for one never saw this as literal. I don't think Aeon would ever be really be "trapped," whether in a cell, an experiment, a history, or a role (or a screenwriter's interpretation!). To me, she is free. That's her nature: the condition in which she exists.
2006-01-31 01:00 pm (UTC)
Blah, blah, blah
Know what? If you want to make a movie called Aeon Flux, you have an obligation to the creator and to the fans of his/her work to translate that work faithfully to film. If the creator of the work is horrified by the result, just accept the fact that you screwed up somewhere.
For example, the idea of a writer/director "reinvisioning" this type of story or movie is nonsense. The person has a vision, of course, a set of themes and styles he/she wants to convey, but one doesn't simply get to disobey the source work because they have a special way they want to do things. If you have to write a completely different story that has nothing to do with the source, guess what? Come up with your own characters while your at it and leave the original work alone. Reinvisioning is synonymous with bastardization. The truth of this is evidenced by the movie's pathetic earnings.
Actually, this serves as a plea to movie makers everywhere: If your going to completely murder an established and loved work, just leave it the hell alone in the first place. Come up with your own sandbox to play in and stop "borrowing" from everyone else.
2006-02-02 12:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Blah, blah, blah
Well, it's hard to really give much credence to someone's opinion when they won't put their name to it.
Since your subject heading ("blah, blah, blah" indeed) suggests you have no interest in the discussion taking place here, and probably no interest in hearing from anyone who disagrees with you (whoever you are), this is probably not a fruitful path.
So, I suppose, your tone and choice of words will speak for themselves and on we go...
2006-02-25 12:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Blah, blah, blah
I should just say this right now - I don't know anything about Aeon Flux. I kinda knew it existed, and now that it's coming to Holland, I thought I'd check out the movie with an open mind. Lord knows, after reading all this, that'll be a little harder!
But being an amateur screenwriter (by hobby at least), I just wanted to take a quick moment to refute whoever it was who made the "bla, bla, bla" statement - that they don't know a thing about how movies (or shows, for that matter) get made.
I'll also be the first to point out that I was pissed when I heard Lucas making changes to Star Wars - how DARE he change what is 'our' film. To a small degree, I still stand by that. But for the most part, I accept the fact that none of these shows are truly 'ours', at least in the sense that we created them. We just enjoy the fruits of labor of those who struggle to get their voices heard.
In regards to 'leaving' something like Aeon Flux alone, that'd be next to impossible. Hollywood, sadly, is more about making money than about making 'art' or staying 'faithful' to previous adaptions (it is, after all, a business). When a producer wants to make a new movie, it's a LOT easier to take something that already has an established fan base (and thus, name recognition) and/or an already established story (thus, they know that the story at one point in time made some money) and recreate it for a new audience. If you really want to get 'original' stories, you're stuck either watching the few truly independant movies that sneak through the system (usually through backdoors such as foreign film awards) or watching a writer/director who has been given a blank check by the syetem and can make whatever they want (though even this can turn out bad movies - I submit M. Night Shyalaman and Peter Jackson as Exhibits A and B, who made some classic movies... and who screwed the pooch when nobody was looking).
As far as Aeon Flux is concerned, I do believe the writers tried their best to come up with the best possible story they could. That the creator and the writer have differences of opinion is inevitable. The fact is, though, that the fans aren't the ones responsible for which movies get made and which don't. They just have to accept whatever they get and hope for the best (and it seems there ARE some fans who still liked the movie as it is anyway).
For me... I'll be seeing it this week (it first premiered this past Thursday in Holland, where I live), and I'll be watching it not as a fan pissed that someone dared to try and make a new story out of what is 'mine' - but as a movie fan, who hopes to be entertained for 2 hours.
2006-03-02 01:23 pm (UTC)
Re: Blah, blah, blah
Yeah, I'm the guy who wrote Blah, Blah, Blah. My name is Joshua Gayou, I live in Mira Loma, CA and I'm a 27 year old software engineer. Not quite sure how this information lends credence to an opinion, but whatever.
I'll admit that I know nothing about how movies are made and, judging from what gets released these days, I'm probably lucky for that ignorance.
For Barry, I'll say this:
"The fact is, though, that the fans aren't the ones responsible for which movies get made and which don't. They just have to accept whatever they get and hope for the best (and it seems there ARE some fans who still liked the movie as it is anyway)."
That's not entirely true. Fans vote with their money. In the case of Aeon Flux, the movie budget was an estimated $55,000,000. Gross USA earnings thus far are around $25,857,987. (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0402022/business)
Given your earlier argument that Hollywood movies are about making money (and I wholeheartedly agree with you on that), this entry wasn't much of a performer.
I would argue that there is (these days) a direct correlation between the quality of the movie and the amount of money it makes. Quality is something that is defined differently for each movie, however you can make a few assumptions. For romances, or horror films, etc, you have an idea of certain key aspects that you need to satisfy in order for the audience to accept the film and therefore poor obscene amounts of money into it. For films that are based on existing works, you have the problem of satisfying at least two audiences: one being your type, wherein the emphasis is not on congruence with the original work so much as it is on entertainment, and two being those who are fans of the source work.
In the case of Aeon Flux, the source work was already such a specialist piece that the majority of your existing fan base can be assumed to be die hard fans that don't want you screwing around with the original.
Now, if these factors are ignored and the crew essentially just runs off and makes whatever they feel like, that's certainly their choice to make. However, if the movie fails (and it's true we have yet to see what Flux does in DVD sales), I wouldn't expect members of the staff and crew come back and try to explain why the movie should have worked. Just except the fact that it didn't - a miss happens all the time - learn from the mistake, and try again. Don't, however, keep making the same error repeatedly. That's just silly.
2006-03-02 01:30 pm (UTC)
Re: Blah, blah, blah
One other thing:
"When a producer wants to make a new movie, it's a LOT easier to take something that already has an established fan base (and thus, name recognition) and/or an already established story (thus, they know that the story at one point in time made some money) and recreate it for a new audience."
That doesn't seem to be the case with Underworld, budgeted at 22 mill. and grossing 56 mill as of 2004. That was original story, characters, plot, etc. Why is it that so many movies that are based on original works have this major barrier to get through in regard to keeping faith, whereas the new stuff never gets slapped with this stigma?
My guess is if you want to base a movie on something, you better get it right because you'll be held to a higher standard, thus negating any time/effort saved by not coming up with your own stuff in the first place.
2006-03-10 02:44 pm (UTC)
Re: Blah, blah, blah
Well, Joshua, I'm glad you have identified yourself. Look, the only "problem" I have with anything you have said is the seeming desire for silence from people who don't share your perspective. The reason I've been in here talking is first to clear up misconceptions and things I consider to be innaccurate assessments, and second, because I think the type of people who are on this site might be interested in some of the finer points of the dilemmas of cultural production. I think the discussion has been interesting. More discussion is surely better than less, no?
I just discovered this wonderful site, and just wanted to say I greatly appreciate both Peter and Phil taking the time to clarify things. I too absolutely loved the animated series
, and was generally saddened with the recent film (moreso with the back half where the rationales for the characters and plot broke down than the front half). I definitely agree that Aeon and Trevor were significantly alterered from the original series (unlike some, the changes to Aeon bothered me more than the Trevor changes). However, I'm probably more saddened that Phil and company didn't really get a chance to show their original intent on the screen. While it may have been different (and maybe still disheartening in some of its differences from the original - especially to Aeon), this doesn't necessarily mean it would have been without merit, or uninspired - this only implies difference. I really would have liked the opportunity to judge the changes - they truly may have had merit even though they were different.
Phil, regarding the DVD release in April, should we be expecting the original DC you all were intending or is this just going to be the TE edition?
2006-03-29 11:17 am (UTC)
Re: Blah, blah, blah
Appreciate your comments. The April 25 DVD release is the theatrical edition. Matt and I do a commentary track where we try to illuminate some of the differences between the director's cut and the theatrical cut, so hopefully that's interesting. We're all trying really hard to get the DC released in a year or so, if there seems to be a demand.
You really got to the heart of it, for me, in that all any of us really wants is for people to be able to judge our work in the form we intended it. If they love it, fantastic, if they don't, I'll gladly take my lumps. Unfortunately, it rarely is that pure.
Thanks for asking,
p.s. Enjoyed your site!
Hi Phil, I might go so far as to say it's almost never that pure. It is a rare film at a major studio that ends up looking anything like the original intent. Most of the recent great scifi films are now made overseas.
But regarding a terrific example of a wonderful film that veers away from the original intent of the writer, look no further than Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell
. Oshii made some significant changes from Masume Shirow's work (GITS: SAC is far closer to Shirow's stuff), but in so doing, created a ground-breaking work that will be remembered for generations (and yes, some Shirow fans like GITS: SAC better - this is fine too).
And thanks for the comment on my site :). Now that I know the DC isn't coming out soon, I may not need to wait for the DVD to do the review (or who knows - maybe I will if only to get some different screencaps from what's already out). Let me know if you want to have a commentary page linked from this, maybe discussing how the DC would be different - if publicising it helps in garnering support for the DC production I'd love to help, if only to see the intended product.
2006-03-31 11:00 am (UTC)
Re: Blah, blah, blah
Thanks. Agreed on GHOST IN THE SHELL...
Thanks also for the offer to link to your upcoming review. I'll likely take you up on that.
Cheers and we'll speak soon,
Not even sure if you're still in here... but you get points from me for mentioning Foucault. :)
And there were some things I really liked about the movie. (I'd never have bought the DVD of the show if not for it, actually.) I thought the world you invented was fascinating, and the plot was a good one. Didn't really square with the show but still was a great way to get people thinking. What would it be like to know you're a copy, to know you're a regular old human with the regular old fear of death yet you've lived several radically different lives? And I liked the dreams, too. I wish there had been more time for exploring them. Like, does one dream about each successive life, or does one tap into the first? Why does one have such dreams, anyway?
The thing I didn't like, and I didn't like it even before I saw the series, was Trevor. He just seemed like some boring scientist who just happened to know what was wrong and have a few clues how to fix it. I don't know if it was the part or the acting, but he had no edginess to him at all for me, and I think he needed it -- and, of course, the original Trevor has it in spades, maybe even more than Æon does.
As far as Æon goes I actually really liked her. I share Peter's reservation that just having her disobey some central authority (which no other Monican does, except Scafandra at the very end -- at which point all the others do too. What? Why are the Monicans suddenly a centralized unit? That I don't like either.) doesn't really mean all that much; that's a cliché of most action movies, and I think to make it work there needed to be a lot more there. But I like the character. I like the way she seems cool and collected and yet is massively confused and wandering through the world not knowing what's going on. I thought Charlize Theron did a great job of creating this compellingly cool character who, once reality gets turned upside down, becomes something else too.
I think the characterization wasn't nearly as good as the plot or the cretaing of the world (unlike some people, I see the sets as less "Hollywood being fancy" and more as "a brilliant way of creating a setting and world that intrigues us and matters to us") and that's why the movie wasn't amazing. I think it actually could have been if the movie Trevor had managed to hold my interest (sorry, Mr. Csokas!) and if the movie Æon had been a little tiny bit less prone to cliché.
2006-11-30 05:43 pm (UTC)
The bigger picture..
I know this is an old, dead thread but reading Peter's interview and then Phil's comments sparked something in me to want to comment on it.
I think Peter might misunderstand the audience that made his series popular. In a historical perspective, as someone who was 15 at the time the first shorts aired on Liquid Television, what made Aeon Flux an instant hit was exactly what it gave to MTV's target audience of male teens, a scantily clad chick who did a ton of acrobatics while kicking ass with some bizarre sexuality thrown in. It was also an amazing form of animation for a generation that was spoonfed blocky, lazy and unispired fare.
Peter goes into great depth in explaining the nuances behind the Goodchild and Flux relationship and how the movie didn't come close to grasping that, but the bigger picture is that the narrative form of Aeon Flux had no audience and was a failure. The MTV teens wanted more of what the shorts provided and immediately tuned out what they got instead in the half hour versions.
So while it is great there's an adult audience that can look back on these shows and appreciate their rich, deep texture, Peter tries to ignore the audience that made it popular enough in the first place to make a movie out of.
So arguing about how much of a "travesty" the movie was seems silly to me. Add to this that somewhere very early in the process, Peter gave the rights to Aeon Flux away, throwing artistic control out the window anyways. It just seems to me he is bashing the mainstream audience which made his series popular in the first place. The bare bones visual character of Aeon Flux is what drew an audience, not the narrative behind it.
2007-06-29 04:29 pm (UTC)
Re: The bigger picture..
Seconded from 7 months later. I got into Aeon Flux, when I was barely a teenager, mostly due to the creepy imagery and the violence. Granted I haven't seen War in about 6 years, but back in the day I never really looked at it as anything but an expression of gratuitous violence writ large.
Æon and Trevor’s relationship in the film is fundamentally the same as that of the series; they are ideologically opposed, yet attracted to one another. The difference is that this attraction is purely sexual in the series and Trevor is, at day’s end, a dictator who walls in his subjects with deadly/maiming instruments. The filmic Trevor, by contrast, has a noble goal, somewhat driven astray by his brother, and this surely plays a part in Æon/Catherine’s love for him. She is drawn to a good man in this iteration; how so very upsetting!
There definitely are elements of the script that I wish had made it into the film, but their existence on the page, as well as Phil’s comments here, prove that he and Matt took the job seriously and set out to make a thoughtful, engrossing experience. Departing from the source material is not a sin, and Gene Roddenberry at least paid lip service to the desire for others to take his universe in different directions. I hope that Peter can do the same someday, if not now.