When a big-budget film starring an Academy Award-winning actress opens during the prestigious holiday season, one would expect its studio to do everything to trumpet its arrival in theaters.
That's mostly been the case for the action film ''Aeon Flux," which stars Charlize Theron as a futuristic assassin, except for one notable difference -- there have been no advance screenings for critics.
To be accurate, the film is scheduled to screen 10 p.m. Thursday in Boston and other cities, which is too late for most reviewers to make Friday edition deadlines. When studios decline to make a movie available for review prior to its opening, it's generally taken as a de facto admission that the film is a dud.
And often that's been the case, especially with schlocky horror movies like ''Seed of Chucky," dismal comedies like ''Man of the House," and general misfires like recent stiff ''In the Mix," starring Usher. That Paramount Pictures, the studio behind ''Aeon Flux," would avoid potentially unfavorable reviews on the day the film opens has led some to question Paramount's faith in the movie.
''The studio must not be very confident in the film," says Chris Gore, publisher and editor in chief of filmthreat.com. Paramount officials did not respond to requests for an interview.
''They haven't done any test screenings, they haven't done any critics' screenings," says Drew McWeeny, West Coast editor for the influential film website Ain't It Cool News. ''This movie will play out in a week and a half, and it'll be over. It's the sacrificial lamb this Christmas season. . . . The advertising and the release pattern make it clear that they're gonna toss it out there and let it die."
That would be an inauspicious end for a film rumored to have cost between $55 and $75 million. Created by Peter Chung as an animated short, ''Aeon Flux" became a cult hit when it premiered in 1991 on MTV's experimental late-night show ''Liquid Television." It's set 400 years in the future, when most of the population has been annihilated by disease. Theron plays Aeon Flux, a renegade operative in an underground rebellion who uncovers dirty dealings when she's sent to kill a government leader. The film version is directed by Karyn Kusama, who helmed 2000's ''Girlfight," and also stars Frances McDormand, Sophie Okonedo, and Pete Postlethwaite.
McWeeny asserts that ''Aeon Flux" was most interesting when it was a series of shorts on MTV with very little dialogue. During that incarnation, the episodes were ''surreal and strange, and they were completely removed from reality."
''In a feature film with live action, you're losing 90 percent of what made it interesting in the first place," McWeeny adds. ''I don't understand what Paramount is doing with this movie. They're aiming at a very narrow audience, and I don't even get the sense of anticipation from that audience. I genuinely don't know what they're expecting, but I think it will be a pretty epic disaster."
Renée Graham can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.