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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog


-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Screenplay Review: Aeon Flux

Obligatory (minor) Spoiler Warning

I read Aeon Flux, by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, based on characters created by Peter Chung, back in January of '04. Interestingly, the draft I read was dated 2-20-01, already highlighting the long journey this property has had in coming to the big screen. This is underscored by the fact that even since I read the script, nearly two years have passed! I suspect that the script has changed somewhat, but based on the trailers, it doesn't seem that different.

First, my logline:

A rebel assassin walks a line between following orders and discovering the truth about the problems plaguing her semi-utopian society.
Now, let me say that I read this script as a sample for a specific other project that my company had in development (which I have X'd out in my review below), so my comments were geared primarily towards that. So though I will give you those comments, I'd like to first throw out some comments about the script itself. It was somewhat formulaic, but overall a pretty solid sci-fi actioner. Certainly above average, I felt. At the same time, the advance buzz seems to be suggesting this film might not do so well. There really just doesn't seem to be a lot of excitement about it.

I think in large measure, this will have to be due to the long time it took arriving in theaters. Back in the day, Aeon Flux was definitely one of the more popular animated series on MTV's Liquid Television. But now, it has largely lost its core fanbase. Furthermore, the poor showing of The Island -- a film not really related to this, but still in the same genre -- might further hurt Aeon's box office, due to lowered expectations.

Still, Aeon looks great, and the story really draws more from Blade Runner than a film like The Island. That being said, here's what I wrote about it:

Hay and Manfredi have shown themselves capable of writing a somewhat taut and exciting Sci-Fi adventure. Though not extraordinary, this is certainly a decent sample of writing. They are certainly worthy of some consideration in general, but other samples may be warranted, particularly in relation to their promise for XXXX. That project will require a good amount of inventiveness, but since Aeon Flux is based on previously produced work, it is difficult to fully ascertain how much of the cleverness in this script is the product of Hay and Manfredi'’s creativity, and how much has been kept from the source material.

Aeon Flux is a good example of a clever Sci-Fi adventure that has enough inventiveness to separate it from many other similar stories. The relationship at its core (Aeon and Trevor) is a characterization that adds a unique drama. And the Sci-Fi gadgetry and back-story are not just contrivances; they more or less work organically with the story and don't distract from the plot. Still, much of this (if not all) may be found in Chung's original source, and therefore may not show a particular adeptness at invention in Hay and Manfredi as writers. To better determine this, one should look at the original source material and/or other samples from these authors.

Still, the authors have shown some of the skills necessary for XXXX. They have written an exciting adaptation, which will be one of the keys to XXXX. Furthermore, though a somewhat simplistic storyline, overall Aeon Flux still flows generally well. Furthermore, though the characters are generally older than the main characters of XXXX will probably be, Hay and Manfredi still show a recognition of the hipness that can sell a character to today's youth or teen market. In many ways, Aeon is reminiscent of Lara Croft, for example.

In the end, Aeon Flux proves a promising though inconclusive sample of Hay and Manfredi's work, both in general and specific to XXXX. Certainly, however, they warrant further consideration for this and/or other projects.

I was a fan of the animated series, and the film looks pretty cool. So I'm rooting for this one to do well this upcoming weekend!

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Blogger Chris said...

As a big fan of the series from back in the Liquid Television days on MTV, I have to say I'm not hopeful. At ComiCon this past summer, Peter Chung intimated that he was throwing out pretty much the whole character as she existed in the shorts. http://www.aintitcool.com/display.cgi?id=20772

Also, I don't think Charlize Theron was really the best casting. How could Carrie Ann Moss not be the one you go with for the long-legged Aeon? And they got rid of the skin and covered it up with what looks like spandex. But I have not read the script myself, so I can't say for certain that something of what made the originals so compelling did not remain.

7:46 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

My thoughts...

I just read that Aint It Cool post, and found nothing too disturbing there. Maybe I was just a quasi-fan of the original, not a rabid fan. But I think Charlize is a good choice, even if not the supremely best choice. And of course it wasn't going to be as sexual or naked!

8:05 AM  
Blogger Marc in MD said...

I'm not able to comment intelligently on the movie or its spiritual antecedent, but I would like to echo previous posts regarding Joel's coverage examples. They're absolutely fascinating. I don't know if any of the myriad screenwriting texts use this approach, but it's worth its weight in gold. For example, the conclusion that the Aeon Flux script is not overwhelming, but demonstrates the writer's potential for other projects, is worth the price of admission all by itself. Thanks, Joel!

4:04 PM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Thanks Marc. To be fair, I must reiterate that I was reading this script specifically for the purposes of judging the writers on their writing skills. And even more specifically on how those skills might work for a specific project that was in development.

In the parlance of a coverage, what I was saying is, "this is a decent script, and since you don't want me to be a bit more open with my coverage, and less strict, I'll say they are worth taking a second look at. However, it is really hard to tell how much of this came from them, and they are not great, per se. So while they are worth considering, they don't get a RECOMMEND or even a STRONG CONSIDER based on this script alone."

So basically, it was middle of the road with an edge of positivity.

5:47 PM  
Blogger writebrother said...

I don't feel they've marketed the film very well at all and I think it's going to be a bit of a disappointment at the box office. Besides hardcore fans and sci-fi/comic geek types, this project has very little buzz. I can't risk wasting $10 so it's going onto my Netflix queue.

12:04 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Right you are, WriteBrother. That's what I meant by "the advance buzz seems to be suggesting this film might not do so well."

9:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

carrie anne moss? come on, like they weren't already flirting with looking like a matrix rip-off...and why would she want to essentially repeat a role she's already repeated twice?

although the article mentioned above may not be a harbinger of doom, drew's quotes here don't sound encouraging:

flux any good?

''They haven't done any test screenings, they haven't done any critics' screenings," says Drew McWeeny, West Coast editor for the influential film website Ain't It Cool News. ''This movie will play out in a week and a half, and it'll be over. It's the sacrificial lamb this Christmas season. . . . The advertising and the release pattern make it clear that they're gonna toss it out there and let it die."


''In a feature film with live action, you're losing 90 percent of what made it interesting in the first place," McWeeny adds. ''I don't understand what Paramount is doing with this movie. They're aiming at a very narrow audience, and I don't even get the sense of anticipation from that audience. I genuinely don't know what they're expecting, but I think it will be a pretty epic disaster."

chung himself isn't exactly gushing in the sci-fi wire article:

sci-fi wire chung

"I honestly [was] very against it, because I wanted to do an animated movie, and I thought that was the best way to do it. It took me a long while to get adjusted to it, and then eventually I said, 'OK, if it's going to get done, it will get done this way.'"

"I guess we'll see," Chung said about the film. "It's a different casting, a different interpretation of the character.

but i for one hope it's good - it certainly looked promising just from the original comic-con teaser...

1:37 PM  
Blogger screamwriter said...

Looks like the curse of the female action flick strikes again.

8:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, I just read that screenplay from the link in your "Careful Where You Write..." entry. How could you possibly think it was boring? Do you have a problem with anything that makes you think about what is scary, instead of just showing you?
It is certainly rare to read something that actually makes me jump, and look behind myself while I am at the computer. And you liked the screenplay for Aeon Flux? As of late, I go to the movies and think, “Who actually decided this was good enough to make? Are they just looking for the same plots over and over again?” Now I realize, we have been desensitized to anything of substance, and are uncomfortable if the end isn’t completely obvious in the first 10 minutes of the movie. Don’t you want to be turned on?

7:17 AM  

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