In one of the great ironies of art and commerce, Peter Chung initially conceived of his animated series Aeon Flux as a send-up of Hollywood action films. “I always felt guilty about enjoying them,” he admits. “They are visceral, but I always thought that the main character was the hero because the director chose to position them that way, not because of heroic acts or a heroic character. I didn’t like the idea of the victims of the hero as less than human. So I wanted to subvert those movies.” Now his creation has been adapted into a live-action, big-budget movie vehicle for Charlize Theron. But a simultaneous DVD release of the original animated series offers a chance to consider his deconstructionist vision alongside the mass-media remodeling.
The son of a diplomat, the Korean-born Chung moved around quite a bit. As a result he was exposed to varied styles of comic books and animation. “I was a big fan of AstroBoy and I especially liked Tiger Mask for its graphic quality and moral ambiguity. By day he was this sweet orphan, and then he went into the ring and beat the crap out of people. There were a lot of European comics I liked, as well.” Though he began to draw for fun in the fifth grade, it wasn’t until some years later that he felt these influences synthesize. “Aeon Flux was my way of bringing it all together.”
The series originally took the form of a 12-minute short, which was then chopped into two-minute segments for a late-night alternative animation showcase on MTV. “Liquid Television was itself a parody of TV and media,” says Chung, “so it made sense.” Since his contribution was only a small part of a larger grouping, he decided to push the envelope. “We wanted to get it to stand out, so we added shock value. Like the way they dressed. It wasn’t the point, but it was a way of getting viewers hooked.” And it worked. The show grew a devoted following that continues to clog the Internet with fans sites.
Perhaps what truly sets the tale apart is Chung’s approach to storytelling. “In a film, I’m not interested in getting into the author’s head. I hate films that are about characters sitting around talking. I want to see it translated into events where what’s going on inside these characters is the action. It’s physicalizing the internal.” Just how much his aesthetic will be carried over into director Karyn Kusama’s adaptation, Girlfight, remains to be seen because Chung wasn’t involved with the film. “I’m as curious as anyone to see it. I’m not saying I’m down on it. I hope people will like it and it might give the animated version a new life.”