Predictable as Ever?

December 03, 2005
A thought by James Berardinelli

From my review of Aeon Flux: "I'll never understand why studios sometimes choose to withhold films from critics. The lack of advance screenings of Aeon Flux establishes an expectation that the film is likely to be tough to sit through. It's the studio's way of throwing in the towel. It's a declaration of 'no confidence.'" One wonders whether Paramount, by "hiding" the movie from critics, created a self-fulfilling prophesy. Aeon Flux has been receiving some savage reviews, but I have to question whether the critics are really reviewing the film, or whether they're making a determination based on the simple mantra: If there are no advance screenings, it sucks. Call it the Gigli factor. That movie was mediocre, but it achieved a reputation of such badness that many critics felt duty-bound to eviscerate it.

Aeon Flux is flawed, but I had a better time sitting through it than I did a couple of recent, high-profile movies headed to multiplexes for the Christmas season. (Those titles will be revealed in due time.) One reviewer stated that he couldn't figure out what was going on. Huh? Had he fallen asleep? Aeon Flux isn't all that complicated, although it requires a little bit of thought. A complete brain shut-down is not a requisite. If someone was unable to figure out what was going on, that says more about the reviewer than it does about the film.

Something else may be at work here. Critics are human. We have good moods and bad moods. This can color our impression of a film. Any critic who denies this is a liar. This isn't a secret; it's one reason why a good publicist will go out of his/her way to make a critic feel welcome and comfortable. Critics do not like having to venture into a theater on opening day, pay their own money (regardless of wheter it's later reimbursed), and endure the usual indignities of the multiplex experience. I happened to be in a reasonably good mood yesterday; it didn't bother me. But it appears that some who saw Aeon Flux may not have been as upbeat.

Anyway, this is just food for thought. Is Aeon Flux really that bad, or is it getting slammed in some quarters because of marketing and release strategies selected by Paramount? I think it's the latter, but that's just one man's opinion, and I stand by my **1/2 rating.