Review: Vexille

From the creators of Appleseed comes an anime movie that has a lot of squandered potential.

Ready for a strange way to find out about a movie?
Some time ago, I discovered one of my favourite video games had a song by The Prodigy (one of my favourite bands), but I had trouble finding the song. Later I found it included in the soundtrack for Vexille, and having liked the soundtrack, I gave the film a go.

Unfortunately the film isn’t that good.
Set in the heady year of 2077, we follow a young American military agent named Vexille as she investigates the mystery behind Japan’s development of humanoid robotics, a science banned by the UN.
As you would expect from a country devoted to technological advancement, they left the UN and became a walled, impenetrable island. No one knows what is happening inside.

I watched Vexille with the original Japanese audio and English subtitles (because I have no problem with subs) which brought up an irritation of mine with anime; the film follows American agents, yet they speak Japanese. I know, I know, it is a Japanese animation so it is in Japanese, but wouldn’t these things be more compelling if the Americans were American with Japanese subtitles? It happens in Ghost in the Shell too, which also weirds me out; they travel to England, where everyone speaks Japanese.

Anyway, that is neither here nor there!
Vexille has all the style of Appleseed, instead of traditional 2D animation the film is entirely 3D rendered. Sometimes there are moments of greatness, a certain shot will be animated perfection… but I really do prefer the artistry of Studio Ghibli (for example) over this. This looks like a video game cinematic.
What really bothers me in Vexille are the characters. The theme of the film is quite compelling, much like Ghost in the Shell and Appleseed, it reflects on the future implications of robots and the affect they will have on humanity, as well as the possibility of our loss of identity with an abundance of technology. But, the characters here are hopelessly uninteresting. There are far too many of them; the film has a dozen characters that it does nothing with, killing them off liberally and we have little or no sympathy for them.
In a film about humanity and the loss of humanity, we don’t sympathise with the humanity lost…

There’s a very cool concept buried beneath monotonous tech-jargon and constructed plotholes. What the film does with Japan is very interesting thematically (I cannot spoil it; it is probably the only reason to watch it) but I hate to say it might not be worth the effort. The human element is missing here.

If you loved Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell, give it a go, but don’t expect the latter’s complexity or integrity.

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