More holes than a country full of Jags

Vexille: Getting eaten by a Jag so soon was not in the cards

Vexille could have been longer. Not the movie itself — which could have been shorter — but the story contained therein, which could have used an OVA to explain such things like the ability of a pariah nation to wield political influence on the world stage.

And the Jags.

A cross between the Borg and the sandworms of Dune, Jags have the dubious distinction of being at once horrifying and utterly misplaced. These spontaneously self-organizing tubes of metal are mindless tornadoes of destruction, leveling whole mountains for their metal content.

They are also perpetual machines with no apparent power source, and despite seemingly ripping apart the terrain by their constant burrowing and leaping, there is no sand for vehicles to get stuck in. Someone also forgot to consider the fact that humans have some metal (i.e. iron), which becomes relevant halfway to the end of the whole thing.

Vexille: Could use a spare fuel tank

Speaking of longer, someone should have spent a little longer thinking through some of the details in this movie: the need to deploy a transmitter on land as opposed to using a transmission buoy; vicious retaliation over said transmitter while the backup was not; no extra fuel tanks; Jags that conveniently outrun any vehicle when it really matters; tunnel operators that conveniently go deaf, again, when it really matters; a supposedly subservient android that turns out to be not so mindless.

The more one thinks about it, the more inconsistencies and arbitrary decisions that can be found in Vexille, which is a shame because there are some things worth thinking about. Vexille is in many ways a darker imagining of Appleseed, which may not be too surprising considering the director of the former was the producer of the latter circa 2004.

Trade bioroids for more conventional sounding androids, an open and free Olympus for an isolationist Japan, and the transition between the two is made. Splice in the paranoia of North Korea, replace “nuclear weapons” with “androids,” and you have the starting premise.

We are exposed to two worlds, one where humans are surrounded by machines and feel less than human as a result, and the other populated by human-machines trying to live out their last days as humans. The glimpse of the (deceptively) free world of the future is fleeting, but is more than compensated for by an extended stay in a shanty town that is certainly deceptive in its liveliness, for there runs an undercurrent of fatalism and quiet horror as the residents face one of two paths: to become but one cell of a ravenous Jag, or to become a slave to the last standing corporation on the face of Japan. Vexille’s portrayals of Jags and the final android metamorphosis are absolutely visceral, and drive home the fact that neither is pleasant.

What we are witness to is the final stages of extinction of a race. If all those glossed-over details had not marred this fact, it would have been very powerful.

Vexille: Human-machine shield

Along the way, there are moments of brilliance. None of the relationships are adequately fleshed out, but when the movie decides not to lecture us, it can produce short scenes like the above.

Vexille: Missile squad reporting

And then, there are moments of badass. The missile squad looks like something from out of Command and Conquer, which is kind of funny considering that Germany’s anti-gore laws forced Westwood to make all CnC 2 infantry units cyborgs that bled black blood…

Such scenes can be viewed two ways, as in “Dude he just cut off his own leg to avoid capture!” versus “Oh my God, he just cut off his own leg to avoid capture!” The carnage is beautiful to behold. Jags, for all their terrifying qualities, are amazingly detailed and flow like you might expect a couple kilotons of metal to flow, probably thanks to a supercomputing cluster working out the physics.

I think the next frontier is to get faces down, because I find myself giving a more goodwill to renditions of inorganic surfaces than to human ones.

There’s also Paul Oakenfold, if you happen to like Paul Oakenfold.

Vexille: Awaiting the inevitable

Vexille got a few grand things right, but so many little things wrong. It’s not something I will soon forget, but probably only because I watched it through human-tinted glasses.