Review for Vexille
Here’s an idiot’s dilemma... If I have something on DVD, I’ll want to upgrade it to Blu-ray if possible. But my opinion of it might have changed since the last time I watched it. While I might have enjoyed it 5 years ago, I may not feel the same today. I really should watch it again just to make sure I want it in HD. But if I watch it again on DVD now, my need to watch the Blu-ray will have vanished. This is why I took a chance and bought the Vexille Blu-ray in a convenient sale. Of course there’s a slight problem buying the Vexille Blu-ray as it hasn’t had a UK release. There were two US releases from Funimation; the first full-price release was locked to Region A, while the budget re-release is Region B compatible. Rather than take the risk of getting the wrong disc, I imported the Australian release instead, which repackages the second Funimation release in a case with obscenely large ratings logos.
Vexille is set in one of those future utopias, where everyone lives in sky scraping metropolises, everything is clean and shiny, all bright lights and chrome detailing, and mankind can sit back and relax as we’ve all got robots to take care of everything for us. Of course it’s Japan that is at the head of this technological revolution, but the problem is that they wanted to take the revolution too far. When the sciences of biology and robotics began to drift closer together, the United Nations passed a few hasty resolutions to prohibit the forced technological evolution of humanity. In response, Japan closed its borders, kicked out all the foreigners, and threw up a screen to stop prying eyes and meddling spies. That was in 2067. In 2077, the situation is unchanged, although Japanese robots from the Daiwa Company are ubiquitous.
The UN’s S.W.O.R.D. group is alerted to a meeting between some notable political figures and a Daiwa representative on US soil, a meeting that is rumoured to have ominous overtones. The team sent in head straight into a combat situation, and the Daiwa executive, Saito is willing to sacrifice parts of his anatomy rather than be captured. It’s analysing that leftover piece of management that sets warning bells ringing. It’s apparent that Daiwa have taken robotics in wholly illegal directions, and it becomes imperative to find out what is actually happening in Japan. A S.W.O.R.D. team led by Leon Fayden is sent in to penetrate the EM shielding and reveal to the world what has been happening behind closed doors. It’s a trap! The sole survivor is Lt. Vexille Serra, Leon’s lover and she’s rescued by Maria, the woman who has been tipping the UN to what has been happening in Japan, and who also happens to be Leon’s ex. If that isn’t tense enough, Vexille will be thunderstruck by what has actually been happening in Japan.
Vexille gets a 1.78:1 widescreen transfer at 1080p resolution, and it’s pretty much par for the course for a Funimation disc. It’s clear and sharp throughout with strong colour reproduction, decent levels of detail (the cityscapes are stunning, as are the Jags), but the film suffers from the usual blight of digital banding, and I did notice shimmer on fine detail in one scene. However that might be by design, as it was an image displayed on a monitor in the film. But the real disappointment is in how quickly the CG has dated. What was a watchable feature film in 2007 now looks wholly like a videogame cut-scene.
You have the choice between Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround English and Japanese. The Momentum release in the UK lacked for a dub, so this is one step up over the UK disc. Funimation have provided a quality dub for the feature film, with actors suitably cast for their roles, and giving strong, emotive performances. The lip sync is pretty good too, given that the CG animation allows for lip movements approaching reality, rather than the simplicity of 2D animated lip flaps. The surround is excellent, bringing out the action sequences with impact, while showcasing the movie’s techno music soundtrack. The Japanese voice actors are suited to their roles, but unfortunately this is one of Funimation’s early Blu-rays, with the thin white subtitle font which is easier to lose against busy backgrounds.
Hold onto the UK release from Momentum, as those DVDs harbour extra feature gold in the form of a Jonathan Clements audio commentary, easily the best thing about that release. It’s not on this Funimation disc.
You get one disc in a Blu-ray Amaray, with some nice, cyberpunk artwork on the inner sleeve. The disc boots to an animated menu after autoplaying a trailer for a Dragonball Z double feature.
The video features are the same though.
There is a list of 15 mini-featurettes accessible from the extras menu, broken down from the Vexille: “The Inside Story” featurette on the Momentum disc. The total runtime is 61:05 480i.
The Secrets of Vexille is the same as the Making Of from the Momentum disc, running to 50:28 480i NTSC on this Blu-ray.
You get 3:31 of Original TV Spots & Previews, again in 480i.
Confusingly, there is a Play All option at the top of the mini-featurettes, and you might suspect that it applies to those alone. But when you check the runtime at 115:05, it becomes clear that it plays all of the extra features aside from the Funimation trailers.
Those trailers include Hana, another Dragonball Z double feature, Samurai 7, Darker Than Black, Aquarion, Dragonball GT, Burst Angel, and Glass Fleet.
Time is the great leveller when it comes to CG animation. Unless the story is strong, and the characters are rich enough, the eye-candy sparkle of shiny new CG will rapidly fade. Vexille’s looks just don’t cut it anymore, and the weaknesses of its narrative now stick out even more so than when I reviewed the DVD. It’s still utterly derivative, furiously homaging other movies and videogames with abandon. Its structure of constantly flashing back invokes more tedium than before, but what really galled me this time is just how cheesy the script is, just how much the dialogue makes my teeth itch. This is a story that doesn’t invite deep thought, as it only takes a minute to realise that its internal logic just doesn’t exist.
This was true back when I reviewed the DVD, but I could give it a pass then as the action sequences were brilliantly set-up and choreographed. While the middle act could have your eye-lids drooping towards somnolence, the action sequences in the movie served as a great wake up call. The opening attack sequence on the manor and the Death Star trench run towards the film’s climax were great to watch, driven by a pulse-pounding music score. Only today, with the CG looking older than I am, it all feels like a videogame that you’re not allowed to play, only to watch while someone else has all the fun.
Back then I said, “Vexille is fun and entertaining, but it’s all flashy bodywork and expensive detailing, there just isn’t anything under the bonnet.” Well, now it’s no longer as much fun or as entertaining, and the bodywork is suffering from rust, the detailing has faded, and the bonnet’s missing, revealing the absence of an engine to all. The moral of the lesson is that I should have just re-watched the DVD.