Peter Chung's Director's Cut of Aeon Flux; The Complete Animated Collection is finally here. For fans of the series the wait has been far too long and oh yes, I am huge fan if the score is any indication. The film set to arrive in December is a mixed blessing, the material can easily be abused at the hands of Hollywood. But fringe benefits like this wonderful DVD release make it worthwhile even if the movie turns out to be a stinker.Aeon Flux started life as an animated feature by Peter Chung on MTV's Liquid Television, a weekly mélange of short animation. The format appealed to many young adult MTV fans when it aired in 1991 but Aeon Flux soon emerged as Liquid Television's key feature. From the opening frames of Aeon Flux's weekly intro you knew you were about to watch something that was unlike anything you'd seen before. A fly gets caught in the tendrils of what seems to be a sort of Venus Flytrap but when an eyeball rolls around to look at the fly we realize it was caught in the deadly eyelashes of Aeon Flux.Aeon was the name of the main character -- a leather clad femme fatale who raised a mountain high body count from the first episode. The world she inhabited was a nightmare future where science, technology and even natural phenomena took a turn for the surreal. Chung drew Aeon as a nimble but fallible assassin who was known for suffering as a casualty at the end of many story arcs. But she never seemed to really die because she would be there starring in her series again the very next season. Years after Liquid Television was cancelled the fan base for Aeon Flux was loud enough to get MTV to release a dedicated show in 1995. Aeon Flux became part of MTV's foray into animation that spawned other features like The Max and Beavis and Butthead. US premium cable network HBO also jumped on the mature anime bandwagon in the late 90s with Todd McFarlane's Spawn animated series. But it all started with the success of Aeon Flux on Liquid Television.
Nobody had a voice in the original episodes, there is no talking save for incoherent mumbles to express emotion. Fast paced action and clever visual direction are the tools Peter Chung used to tell his early stories. Each episode is a challenge to the viewer, the stories are often confusing but you're not always supposed to know exactly what's going on. The talkies that aired in '95 helped to illuminate the world only a little, the surreal mystery was still a critical element. Bizarre or surreal with many strange sexual overtones are all fair ways to describe the stories. It may seem to take place on Earth, but it's surely some otherworldly realm inside the imagination of Peter Chung.
Peter Chung's animation may have lacked some fundamentals in human anatomy but this was more than compensated with his unique outlook and direction. Chung was a true visionary against an anime status quo, he borrowed heavily form Japanese sources but added a unique flavor that set him apart from Japanime. His signature style consists of agile, sinewy images moving at blinding speeds toward a despondent and usually futile outcome. He used perspectives that simply weren't possible on film back in the 90's. Chung would use perspectives that float with characters, around them or shift from one to another. The leather clad assassin name Aeon Flux left a clear impression on the Wachowski brothers who were fans of Chung's work. The Matrix borrowed from Chung's bag of perspectives and esthetics right down to the black clad sexy female who could leap from buildings or through windows firing weapons with reckless abandon. Aeon Flux was a predecessor to bullet time, the clever use of point-of-view that went on to influence film and video games for years. Chung would regularly play with perspective showing us weapons fire from inside the barrel of a gun or you might follow a spent casing as it fell to the ground. The Matrix established the when film caught up to Chung's anime. It's poetic that Chung would be asked to do an episode of the Animatrix, a collection of animated shorts that give insight into the nightmare future world in the Matrix. It's also fitting Chung's episode “Matriculated” would be the last one on the disc but it's also the most surreal, loved and hated episode of the Animatrix.