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For a viewer to think the custodian was trying to break free is the exact opposite of what the scene was supposed to convey. There is nothing gained from that kind of ambiguity. Ambiguity is not desirable or meaningful if it confuses an issue that is meant to be clear. This is the challenge of making a film that communicates but doesn't talk down: a lot of viewers and studio execs (and directors) hold that ANY ambiguity is the result of the filmmaker's failure. I disagree, but I also hold that, in order for ambiguity to be effective, certain things NEED to be unambiguous.

For example, if it wasn't clear that Judy on the stage is the same character as Judy who'd invited Aeon to the Hostess' lair, then that's just bad execution. If the episode had been finished and seen in a version say, where we don't see her face drawn correctly, and viewers weren't sure it was the same character, they may wonder about things irrelevant to the story's themes, such as "do the custodians alter the appearance of their hosts", or "Trevor is masquerading a different person who is playing the role of Judy on the stage", etc, all of which does not help the story. Thinking that the custodian had a will of its own and wanted to break free is the same type of undesired speculation.

I am going to go into an area which I've been reluctant to in the past, so if you want to hold onto your reading of the episode based on your original viewing, DON'T read on...

The original script also included the following which I decided, for various reasons, to cut from the film. They were storyboarded but never animated. The ensuing action WOULD have helped make the custodian's motions clearer, but would have added too many twists and muddled the impact. More convolutions do not necessarily make a story richer in meaning. Many options are considered, tried and rejected during the process. I hope you'll agree that the episode's existing ending is superior.

An uncanny moment in time as Aeon just stands there and watches this machine push the lever down - over and over again -- hypnotizing -- we are under its spell. In a trance...

An then suddenly the Custodian stops moving --- It looks down and then looks up as if something were about to fall on it---


Out of the darkness within the aquarium drops a lead pyramid, landing directly on top of the Custodian.

SLOW MOTION : The aquarium explodes under the pyramid's weight... A cul de sac of fluid, glass and metal.

Covered in fluid, Aeon stands knee-deep in the ruin. A few moments of silence before Aeon looks down and then looks up as if something were about to fall on her--- (just like the Custodian did a few moments ago)



The bottom face of a lead pyramid HURTLING TOWARDS US as we




A SMALL BOY plays in the construction site where Aeon confronted Bambara in Act One. He is pretending to operate the control panel. He notices the lever Aeon failed to pull that would have brought the weight down on Bambara. Looking around to see if the coast is clear, he pulls the lever. Instead of releasing the weight, the lever triggers a small hatch to open in the ground. Out pops a small mechanical BUNNY, which plays an old MUSIC BOX tune.



Peter Chung, Saturday, 21 January 2006 19:24 (fifteen years ago) link

Well, that's it. I'm not sure if this exercise was useful, interesting, or a waste to those taking the time to read it. I think I'll return to my stance of not trying to clarify meanings and intentions. It seems that the more I try to clarify, the more it elicits confusion. I'm not sure if it's because the ideas themselves are complicated, or I'm doing an inadequate job of expressing them. I got drawn into this discussion as a result of the process of recording commentaries and trying to explain the corrections made to the rereleased episodes..

For me, however, it's always valuable to hear the thoughts of viewers who have looked closely at the episodes. The episodes were truly experimental-- that means I was willing to try methods I wasn't sure would yield the intended results. Measuring the results of the experiment involves listening to the responses of viewers. Thank you.

Peter Chung, Saturday, 21 January 2006 20:18 (fifteen years ago) link

It's been busy since I was here last!

At first I thought that the ambiguity at the end of The Purge was good, because it left the watcher to interpret whether Aeon was implanted or not. My friends and I would debate whether the custodian was mimicking her or demonstrating control. For some reason I thought that making the connection more obvious took away from that freedom to interpret, but it doesn't at all. It just makes it clear that the custodian was making the same motion that she was. So, in retrospect, I apologise for saying that it dumbed down the scene.

But back to U/D, which is the episode of discussion here. =)

I did catch something on the DVD release that I don't remember noticing during the MTV or VHS releases. Clavius' documents are all one page of a document about UN peacekeeping forces in Cambodia. Let me tell you how odd it was seeing the words "President Clinton" in an episode of Aeon Flux!

Most Breen documents (almost all writing) we see are in non-linguistic dingbats or scribbly pseudocursive, most notably in Isthsmus Crypticus. Why use an actual document for this scene instead of scribbly-gook?

Divinus, Sunday, 22 January 2006 12:48 (fifteen years ago) link

My thoughts on The Purge: It was apparent to me from the first viewing what the Custodian's motions were implying (copying Aeon's motions), so when I saw the new DVD change I was a little taken aback as well - but I suppose if others were confused, than I can understand the choice. It remains my favorite episode.

Also, thanks for posting that cut from the end of the original script - it was really interesting, but I think you made the right choice in leaving those twists out. The "more open" ending is more satisfying and interesting, I think.

As for U/D, I was one of those people who had a negative reaction to the dialogue upon first airing, but I continued to watch the show anyway (which I'm glad I did, as I love many of the other episodes). I still don't really like that episode anyway, especially for the plucky ending. The new dialogue is better, but it doesn't quite fit in because the actor's reading sounds noticibly different from the old lines... like it's not even the same man. I don't mean that in content, I mean it really doesn't SOUND like the same guy.

Some elements of the episode are still pretty cool and interesting, particular Clavius and the "body suit", and I was actually pleasantly surprised when I saw that show up in the movie recently. Still, it's probably my least favorite of the ten.

Nhex (Nhex), Sunday, 22 January 2006 17:17 (fifteen years ago) link

Well, yeah, now I'm more confused about "The Purge," but confused in that good Aeon Flux way.
Just out of curiosity I was wondering what the creater thinks about the ability to go back and digitally enhance anc correct old work like this. In the commentaries I remember you saying that the work is never done, but at some point you just have to stop. Now, with digital technology and rereleases and special director's cuts and anniversary additions and whatnot it's possible to revisit a work multiple times. Does this create more problems than it solves, or do you welcome the opportunity? I get the feeling from your posts that you enjoy the renewed interest, but at the same time you're frustrated by certain trivialities that people are focusing on that used to be a dead issue.
Would you ever do the retreatment thing again, either for this show or any of your other work, if you had the opportunity?

Logo, Sunday, 22 January 2006 20:21 (fifteen years ago) link

There has been so much focus on things have been changed, people seem to disregard the fact that most of the episodes have been left the way they first aired because I thought they were fine. Except for the added visual effects on the Pilot, the LTV shorts have been left untouched. Otherwise, I only made corrections where I found elements of the original versions unbearable.

" it really doesn't SOUND like the same guy."
Nhex-- not sure what you're referring to. Trevor's voice doesn't sound like John Lee? Or Clavius' voice doesn't sound like the old Clavius? Trevor's new dialogue was recorded by John. Clavius was recast with Japhet Asher doing the voice. The original voice actor was wrong. None of the old Clavius lines remain, so it's all Japhet. Yeah, it doesn't sound like the same guy; it's not supposed to sound the same; the old voice was no good. I don't understand the complaint.

As for the text being legible-- that's what happened when we transferred the film onto high-definition digital video. You can actually read the words now. Improved video resolution has some unintended consequences. We originally didn't worry about the content of the text, figuring it wouldn't be legible on TV, so some random text was used. Please do not read any hidden meaning into it.

In Reraizure, when Rorty discovers Aeon's secret photos, and at the end, we had to composite the images onto the photos because they'd been left blank. Blank was OK for vhs, but not DVD. It plays much better now.

Peter Chung, Sunday, 22 January 2006 22:00 (fifteen years ago) link

I should've been clearer, I was referring to John Lee's opening monologue. I realize it was the same man - that's what made it all the more baffling. His performance for the redubbed lines didn't match his performance as Trevor Goodchild whatsoever. It's really apparent when the switchover from old to new dialgue happens. OTOH, I didn't have a problem with Japhet Asher's takes at all.

This is mostly nitpicking anyway, I just brought it up because this episode is being discussed. Overall I absolutely loved the DVD box set and didn't really notice many huge changes, as you said, and it was really fun to back and watch this great stuff all over again, without the wearing out of my old VHS tapes.

The funny thing is, actually, I have a much better understanding of cinema and visual storytelling in general since I watched these years back (I was just a teenager back in those days), so I feel like I've got an even better appreciation now than I used to. I really can't say that for most TV shows I used to enjoy, it really speaks to the depth of Aeon Flux.

That unexpected consequence of higher definition video quality though, that's funny. I wouldn't have expected something like that to happen.

Nhex (Nhex), Sunday, 22 January 2006 22:48 (fifteen years ago) link

I agree with the dumbing down thing at the end of the purge. I understand that having ambiguity at the end would confuse the rest of the episode unnecessarily, but still, I can't help but feel as if I was the guy who sat down a week before school to learn arithmetic, then on the first day of class everyone else receives a calculator. I know this is a personal thing, but the change also feels a little cheap in a way, kind of like if you tried to draw a picture of someone depressed and he turns out looking stoic, but then so all the viewers understand, you write on his forehead "I'm sad:("

Damn, I'm hot on these analogies tonight. I do agree that the other ending isn't as good as the one that made it through, for the most part because it doesn't make sense to me. All that construction site stuff happened before Aeon was even aware of the custodians, is that to say she was possibly always implanted? And why would the weight fall on either the bottled custodian or her? Maybe a representation of karma is the only thing I could guess, especially since the episode is so laden with different conceptions of morality.

As for the changes in U/D I actually didn't notice them. FOOLISH ME. But I liked the representation of it on the DVD, as I've already said, and I disagree that the separate Trevor recordings stand out like a sour thumb as the above man mentioned. They may for him, but I didn't notice.

I don’t agree with all the changes made, but I think you did a good job to release them the way you wanted. It’s better to put out something you’re satisfied with then try to cater to the appetites of the largest crowd, or I suppose in this case a ravenously devotional preexisting crowd. Plus, regardless of a lot of the bitterness over the changes I think people are over all happy to finally have the collection on DVD.

Joshua Aldridge, Monday, 23 January 2006 01:57 (fifteen years ago) link

On the Custodian's action: even a lot of the most dedicated AF fans didn't get it without being told.


I wrote that scene, knowing it would be a challenge for me to animate. I animated it myself, partly to test my ability to convey a complex idea with only the movement of a stick figure. I'm deeply gratified that people are coming on here to tell me it worked for them. That's not the impression I usually got from showing the episode to fresh viewers, however.

It isn't "dumbed down" so much as the older version was "unnecessarily obscurantist". My original intention was to make the connection of their PHYSICAL movements as clear as day. It wasn't. Now it is.

There is still plenty of ambiguity about what it means.

I'm not following your comment on the construction site. What does Aeon's not knowing about the custodians at that point have to do with anything? She made a moral choice then, just as she made a series of them throughout the train-- just as you or I do throughout our day.

The weight falling after the lever-pull of the custodian was another way to help the viewer understand that its movement was pulling a lever. It would have made recognition of the movement easier, and it was originally written that way. With that part cut, the gesture by itself was misundertood. It was cut partly for the reason you mention.

...kind of like if you tried to draw a picture of someone depressed and he turns out looking stoic, but then so all the viewers understand, you write on his forehead "I'm sad".

That's exactly what MTV did to Aeon in the Demiurge by adding VO "I don't want to see" "I don't want it." etc. At least that crap is gone now.

Peter Chung, Monday, 23 January 2006 10:17 (fifteen years ago) link

Whatever people think about the changes, I'm just glad to have the whole series on one DVD set. It is ironic though that it's the people who love the show the most who are most critical of the changes, minute as they are.

What's a Luvula?

Logo, Monday, 23 January 2006 10:56 (fifteen years ago) link

I should mention that the clarification MTV wanted in the Demiurge is "dumbing it down" because the point that Aeon is opposed to the Demiurge WAS the element that viewers were supposed to "get" by interpretation.

Peter Chung, Monday, 23 January 2006 15:33 (fifteen years ago) link

For my part, I'm happy with the fact that changes were made (I can't say yet whether they were good or not, because I haven't seen them, but from the sound of it I think I'll be happy with them). While I may have nostalgia for the "original" versions, that's really all it is, and actually the idea of looking at freshly rennovated episodes excites me.

Logo mentioned that Peter's explanations were as confusing as the episodes themselves, which I disagree with. I think you were pretty explict in what you said here, Peter, maybe too much as you seem to think (but of course, from a fan's perspective, it's like paydirt -- especially the parts concerning the creative process).

Anyway, just wanted to say thank you Peter, for taking the time to write.

You mentioned Sylvester and Tweety. On the topic of Warner Bros. cartoons, I always thought the short "Gravity" had (and please forgive me for saying this) somehow the feel of a Roadrunner cartoon. Maybe that's what sparked those executives' imaginations (er, if you can call it that)?

Matt Rebholz (Matt Rebholz), Tuesday, 24 January 2006 07:10 (fifteen years ago) link

HAHAHAAHahahahah, roadrunner. I never thought of that. Hahahahaha.

Joshua Aldridge, Tuesday, 24 January 2006 22:33 (fifteen years ago) link

When I first saw it, I thought maybe it was a parody of that kind of cartoon on some level, though now I'm not so sure. But surely you could interperet it that way. The Coyote dies so often in those things that it no longer begins to matter, and you just start to get interested in how he dies. Aeon seemed to follow a similar plan in the second series of shorts. Only in her case, in "Gravity," you start to develop an empathy for that kind of character that you'd never usually get. We don't usually follow the Coyote on his trip down the canyon, but this time, with Aeon, we do.

Matt Rebholz (Matt Rebholz), Wednesday, 25 January 2006 03:31 (fifteen years ago) link

Regarding the lever action in the Purge discussed earlier in this thread:

1. The single lever action of Aeon is to be contrasted with the multiple levers action of the "judges". Aeon is again Peter Chung, whose one-lever-that-doesn't-work represents Peter's clout (namely, he doesn't have any). The "judges" are the studio executives, whose levers do work. They have plenty of clout--they are the ones with the money (Reference an earlier scene with the piggy bank).

2. The lever action is also to be contrasted with the actions of Hostess (Twinkie?) Judy. MTV produced another top quality animation series called Daria. Daria has a taller friend named Jane. When we see them walking together, we see a subtle difference in their gate and arm swing. Contrast this with Fred and Barney: those dirty little carbuncles.

Ray Lee, Saturday, 4 February 2006 20:27 (fifteen years ago) link

Additions to the above:

1a. Having watched the series a few more times, I forgot that the two blond girls also have levers that work...Kid Power.

3. An important issue in the final segment is whether or not Aeon is implanted with the custodian. Despite the medallion in her navel, I believe she hasn't. But she is being threatened with it.

Aeon: I don't have a conscience...you know what I mean.
Treavor: That's not important. What's important is that you know.

Aeon, being ever defiant and independent rebuffs the threat: "Man alive, Goodchild, you give me the hinks!" (Reminds me of the "Nuts" response at the battle of the bulge). The final scene where Aeon sees the custodian mimicking her lever movements is still that same threat. Now, with Treavor no long present, she takes the threat seriously.

Ray Lee, Sunday, 5 February 2006 17:34 (fifteen years ago) link

three months pass...
I just came across these articles. The second one is uncannily relevant to this thread in that it ties together the social engineering mechanisms of both U/D and the Purge.



Peter Chung, Friday, 12 May 2006 07:28 (fourteen years ago) link

In fact, Mr. Freitas' whole article reads practically like a dissertation on Aeon Flux.

(I should mention also, that Mr. Freitas seems to be quite bonkers.)

Peter Chung, Friday, 12 May 2006 08:13 (fourteen years ago) link

"(The Purge is, and always will be, my favorite. I thought adding the overlay at the end dumbed it down a little, but that's another topic. I love all the other edits, I promise!)"

Aha, so I'm not the only one who felt a bit bothered by making the ending of the Purge so intentional with the silhouette. I also never realized that it was doing the same movement that Aeon had done earlier before. This changed my whole hard scrabbled previous theory of the ending.

I thought it was just displaying bizarre mechanical behavior as a comment on the validity of applying artificial conscience to the human condition (Drew seemed to say something similar in the commentary, “rote behavior”).
Now the ending seems to imply that Aeon was indeed implanted, and her act of defiance was not actually her own but the custodians.
Or, it could mean the custodians are programmed to imitate observed behavior, and were now imitating what they saw Aeon do as an example of an unaltered human. Which ironically would be once again similar to my previous theory for the original ending; even if not preprogrammed, is imitating observed behavior the same as actually having a conscious?

The third theory is actually similar to the first definition of “rote” on dictionary.com:

1. A memorizing process using routine or repetition, often without full attention or comprehension: learn by rote.
2. Mechanical routine.

I’m not terribly offended at the change, but it did seem a bit ham-handed for such a wonderfully ambiguous episode and series. And I do still have the original, so the new version is just more new Aeon for me to enjoy.

Back to the subject,
I thought UD had some very intriguing visual concepts. Such as the Clavious’s stomach cavern and his being mad and powered through an extension cord. The shiver vest. The surreal moment in the beginning where Aeon enters one door and instantly comes out another on the other side of the screen was a pleasant reminder of her silent days. And of course the nude interviewer is one of the more beautiful inhabitants of the series.
But those were really the saving graces for me, as I wasn’t particularly drawn in by, or understand the rest of the episode. Of course understanding Aeon was never necessary for me to be entertained by it. But U/D just didn’t grab me. I would put it about in the middle of the final series as far as its quality. Last time, Reraizure, Chronophasia, and End sinister would be below it.

chas, Saturday, 13 May 2006 02:06 (fourteen years ago) link

"...is imitating observed behavior the same as actually having a conscious? "

^^^ That should spell conscience.
(I can do as bad as grammer check without it sometimes)

chas, Saturday, 13 May 2006 02:30 (fourteen years ago) link

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