Sep 14, 2008

Movie - Vexille (Possible spoilers !!)

The film has been release over a year ago, but more on that later.Vexille is a 3D anime movie about a dystopian world in the future, something like the Appleseed films, so be prepared for some comparisons.

In year 2067, the UN declared a ban on robotics and cybernetics research. Japan, under the influence of the Daiwa Industries, protested against the ban and subsequently shut off all contact with other nations by means of a high tech physical and electromagnetic barrier around the archipelago country. A decade later, a US police task force named SWORD was alarmed by an android incursion and a secret meeting between US politicians and a representative from Daiwa Industries. They decided to infiltrate Japan, the country that has now become an enigma to the outside world.

The titular character is the female protagonist of the movie and a member of the SWORD team. When her team is seemingly wiped out and she finds herself in the custody of an underground resistance group in Tokyo, she discovers the horror that has beset the nation of the rising sun since the isolation.

The basic premise presents an epic and intriguing setting, even if it bears some striking similiarity to Masamune Shirow's works. Unlike Appleseed or Ghost In The Shell, however, the flick fails to develop the Vexille as the main character that we are suppose to empathize with. The relationship between Vexille and her lover Leon, who is also her team leader echoes that between Deunan and Briareous in Appleseed. Unfortunately, the romantic aspect was severely underdeveloped even when it was one of the main motivation for Vexille's actions in the film. In fact, I wouldn't know that they are a couple if not for a scene of them in bed together early in the film.

On the other hand, there's also this Maria character who is the leader of the resistance and has a history that was far more interesting than Vexille's. The film could've been named Maria and it would've made more sense.

In terms of visuals and animation, it's a mixed bag. Generally, I find the quality to be a slight notch above Appleseed, though the motion captured actions and facial expressions are somewhat lacking, if not disturbingly stiff in extreme cases. The shading is a hybrid of regular smooth shaded and cel shaded with anatomically correct character design, though I prefer Appleseed Ex Machina's stylized characters and the painterly look. However, what won me over was Vexille's art direction, cinematography and the AMAZING attention to detail (IMHO easily put Appleseed to shame). In many cases, it was the cinematography that saved an otherwise zombie-like motion captured scene.

All in all, I thought it was a solid production. Back to the topic of the film's release: unlike Appleseed, I did not come across any marketing materials related to this movie. No trailers, no nothing. Ironically, I only came across this movie when I was looking up information on Ex Machina and has been looking for a while before I finally bought it. Considering the production value, I'm surprise nobody bothered to come up with a decent marketing campaign!

On a very unrelated note: I also just watched M.Night Shyamalan's The Happening. What a mess. Ever had one of those conversation where you're sure you're talking about a specific subject, but the other guy keep rambling and mumbling on and off topic incoherently? This film is like that.

I cannot imagine how much worse his films can get.

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