Speech Therapy: How to not kill the protagonist


Keeping with the theme of this branch of Speech Therapy, I was watching the end of Vexille and realized that I had seen this scene before.

Yup. This is pretty much the end of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children where Cloud is the helicopter and Yazoo is… Vexille… Maybe?

Anyway, in Final Fantasy VII, Cloud’s survival works. It’s consistent with a major theme in the movie, it’s a relief after a suspenseful moment, and it’s believable. Vexille’s survival is more comical than anything. You’d think it’d be easy to let the protagonist live, but there’s more to it than blowing them up and having them emerge from the rubble.

So why does Cloud get to live and Vexille doesn’t?

Vexille, the protagonist of Vexille, works for a U.S. Navy special operations force. While she has fighting skills without it, most of her strength comes from the use of a mechanized suit of armor. There’s nothing that gives Vexille superhuman abilities or sets her apart from normal humans, but that doesn’t mean she can’t survive this explosion. The movie can still set what kind of damage the humans, androids, robots, and mechanized armors in it can withstand. It’s possible that in the world of Vexille a human could live through a helicopter explosion… if the movie set it up right.

Vexille is shown being hurt only once… kind of… We see her being shot at and then jumping into the ocean while in her mechanized suit, but we don’t know what exactly happened to her. Later, we find out that after the encounter, she slept for two days. As soon as she wakes up though, she starts running around and shouting at people. She’s either very resilient or was only taking an extended nap. So Vexille isn’t any help in gauging what damage she can take.

Fortunately for us, almost everyone else in this movie dies, which should give us plenty of information. From these deaths we can conclude that… there’s absolutely no way that Vexille should survive this. Without any information from the movie, we would probably suspect that the most durable things would be robots. These battle droids were probably built to withstand lots of damage.

These guys look tough.

But even they can’t stand up to an explosion. Vexille herself reminds us of this right before she takes out the helicopter when she explodes two robots. Perhaps the androids can withstand an explosion. No.

In fact, androids seem as fragile as humans. This android dies from blunt trauma and road rash.

What about humans in those mechanized armors? Nope.

Let’s take a look at a statistic. Of Vexille’s twelve companions that were on the ship to Japan and in the battle against the Jags, nine of them die in explosions. If Vexille lives through this helicopter crash at all, she should emerge from the rubble with survivor’s guilt.

The only explanation for Vexille’s survival is that she’s the protagonist. To make this scene more ridiculous, Vexille isn’t the only one who survives. The pilot and antagonist, Kisuragi, survives, too. Of course, he couldn’t die because Vexille’s companion, Mariah, had to hobble after him and die exacting her revenge for what he did to Japan first.

But you know… this movie is consistent in one way. We never see a human without mechanized armor die in an explosion. The machines were the problem the whole time!

Before I talk about how Cloud can survive the final explosion, let me clear up one thing. He didn’t survive because he’s invincible. Advent Children shows that Cloud can be damaged and even suggests that he can die. He spends a portion of the movie lamenting that he’ll die of Geostigma before he can live a full life for his deceased friend Zack. In the very first fight scene, he’s shot in the face and carries a scratch for the rest of the movie. He has doubts. He gets tired. He feels pain. He gets stabbed. He gets shot. He explodes.

Yes, Cloud goes through everything short of dying, but it’s not his own power that allows him survive all these injuries. A theme that runs through this movie is that it’s only with the help of Cloud’s friends that he can survive and thrive. He overcame his depression only after Tifa and Marlene hunted him down and yelled at him. His friends had to make a friendship tower for him to defeat Bahamut. Aeris and Zack appeared when he fought Sephiroth in Advent Children Complete, and memories of his friends empowered him to finish the fight in Advent Children. The three things most likely to have killed Cloud were Geostigma, Bahamut’s energy blast, and the final explosion. On all three occasions, he receives divine assistance from his friend Aeris. If Cloud’s friends didn’t help him, he would probably be dead.

This scene still manages to have some suspense. Cloud’s life is in Aeris’ hands. She could always choose to return him to the life stream instead. Also, the scene simply leaves us guessing as to Cloud’s state for more than fifteen seconds. But of course Cloud has to live! He has a second chance to live his life to the fullest and to make up for neglecting his friends.

These two reasons for living alone are more than I can say for Vexille. By the end of the movie, the Japanese race has been annihilated, many of her friends and colleagues are dead, and the only thing she has to look forward to is returning home with her boyfriend, who she doesn’t seem to care about. But Vexille’s indifference towards her love interest is a subject for another video.

For now, if you’re thinking about not killing a protagonist anytime soon… think about what you’re doing first. Talk at you next time!


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