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AEON FLUX – Graeme Revell

December 2, 2005 Leave a comment Go to comments

aeonfluxOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

I sometimes feel quite sorry for film music composers, and what they have to put up with. Un-cooperative uninformed directors, clueless meddling producers, insane deadlines, technical glitches – it’s a wonder certain scores ever turn out as good as they do, considering the difficult circumstances in which they were written. Aeon Flux is one such project: a troubled film from the day it was given the go-ahead, it suffered everything from last minute script re-writes to multiple composer changes. Originally Theodore Shapiro was on board, but before he could record his score he was replaced by Australian/German electronica duo Reinhold Heil and Johnny Klimek. However, AFTER they had recorded their score, the producers from MTV decided they were still dissatisfied with the finished product, and brought in Graeme Revell to save the day, with just a couple of weeks until the film’s premiere. Revell has been in this situation before, of course, being the last stop on the Tomb Raider merry-go-round back in 2001. That Aeon Flux is this good is testament to his professionalism and time-management skills. That Aeon Flux is this disappointing is testament to more film studio indecisiveness with respect to the part of the process they continually seem to understand the least – the music.

Aeon Flux is a sci-fi action thriller based on the cult animated TV show of the same name, which aired on MTV’s Liquid Television in 1995. Directed by Karyn Kusama, it is set 400 years in the future, in a time where disease has wiped out the majority of the earth’s population, with the exception of one walled, protected city-state – Bregna – which is ruled by a congress of scientists. Charlize Theron stars as the titular character, a mysterious and amoral assassin who works for the underground Monican Rebellion, a covert organization intent on overthrowing the Bregnan government. When Aeon is sent by her commander, The Handler (Frances McDorman) to kill a leading governmental figure, she initially sets out to carry out her duty, no questions asked. However, as she delved deeper into the history of her civilization, she uncovers a world of secrets which cause her to question her motives. The film co-starred Marton Csokas, Jonny Lee Miller, Sophie Okonedo and Pete Posthlethwaite, and actually did fair business at the box office, despite scathing reviews from mainstream film critics. Obviously, the sight of Charlize Theron in a succession of sexy, revealing futuristic costumes is a bigger draw than a good screenplay…

Broadly speaking, Revell’s score is an electronic/orchestral hybrid, light on themes and motifs, heavy on atmosphere, samples and textures. The opening cue, “Bregna 2415”, sets the standard for things to come, with lots of heavy beats and synthesised sound effects overlaying a small string section and a sampled piano. Occasionally some of the smooth ‘grooves’ make for pleasant listening, and there is an agreeable Asian/middle-eastern string and vocal vibe to some of the sound design, but beyond that there is very little of note to make it stand out from the crowd of the multitude of other fusion scores flooding the market.

The ethnic string element returns during “The Panopticon”, “Good Boys”, “I Remember”, and several others, at least giving the score something of a recurring element to make the disparate cues sound as though they belong in the same score for the same movie. A dreamy, almost psychedelic piano element emerges during “The Kiss”, one of the few tender and thematic moments of the score, but it disappears almost as quickly as it arrives, and has no real bearing on anything that came before it or occurs afterwards. One interesting cue is the strangely hypnotic and oppressive “Cloning Discovery”, which hints at what Revell may have come up with for the score had he been given more time. On the other hand, the pure action elements – “Torture Garden”, “Grenade!/Monorail Chase” – bubble and burp and wander around like a musical refugee from a 1990s rave party without leaving much of a positive impression.

But, beyond these few moments of note, Aeon Flux simply passes the time. It fails to assert itself as score with its own personality, instead remaining part of the anonymous blob that tends to pass for a science fiction score these days. Far too much of it is little more than sound design augmented by rhythms. Faro too much of it sounds like it was composed in a hurry – which, of course, it was. Ultimately, Aeon Flux is a disappointing score, the latest entry into a long list of major Hollywood productions to be hamstrung by its own need to succeed. The circumstances surrounding the creation of Revell’s score were difficult at best, and in the end I suppose this is the best end result one could have hoped for when taking all that into account. I doubt whether Aeon Flux will be regarded as anything more than a minor footnote in the composer’s filmography – its lack of scope and ambition renders it obsolete almost from the word go, and it’s lack of any truly memorable material simply adds to the problem.

Rating: **

Track Listing:

  • Bregna 2415 (4:45)
  • The Panopticon (2:31)
  • Una Flux (1:12)
  • Torture Garden (2:37)
  • Monican Mission (1:12)
  • Good Boys (2:39)
  • The Kiss (3:17)
  • The Relical and Keeper (4:19)
  • Cloning Discovery (5:14)
  • Grenade!/Monorail Chase (3:49)
  • I Remember (1:37)
  • The Cherry Orchard (3:50)
  • Oren Goodchild Dies (3:39)
  • Destroying the Memories (4:01)
  • Aeon Flux (3:32)

Running Time: 48 minutes 48 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6707 (2005)

Music composed by Graeme Revell. Conducted by Tim Simonec. Orchestrations by Tim Simonec, Dominik Hauser and Larry Kenton. Recorded and mixed by Mark Curry. Edited by Ashley Revell. Album produced by Graeme Revell.

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