Category Archives: Vexille

Speech Therapy: How to not kill the protagonist

Transcript:

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!

Speech Therapy: In a world where everyone is dead

Transcript:

The one thing that Vexille does well is create an interesting world. Japan has become a wasteland ruled by Jags, which are pretty cool creatures. Everyone in the country has been forced to become androids. They’re doomed to lose their minds and become slaves for DAIWA Heavy Industries, the evil company behind the country’s transformation. DAIWA has managed to keep their actions a secret from the rest of the world for the past ten years via high tech isolationism. And America is dependent upon the robots that DAIWA and its slaves produce.

But the most interesting aspect of the movie is one that’s talked about the least. Humans spend more time interacting with machines and their computers than they do each other. In a way, they’ve lost their humanity. Perhaps this is part of the reason why they’ve grown to hate machines. Meanwhile, the androids of Japan are more alive than the humans are. Of course, it’s pretty easy to make something livelily than business meetings and death. A bustling marketplace is infinitely more alive than Captain Borg furrowing his brow in a dark room.

Even though the characters don’t talk about their loss of humanity often, this theme is present in nearly every character, most especially the protagonist. Vexille’s character is largely a mystery to me in that she doesn’t act like any normal person would. The first thing we see her do is blow bubbles before a dangerous mission. This suggests that she’s a jokester, she doesn’t take her job seriously, or perhaps she’s relaxed. For the rest of the movie, however, she takes her job seriously, freaks out about everything, and yells at everyone. Perhaps I just can’t relate to yelling at the nearest person as soon as anything goes wrong, but even Vexille seems confused by her strange behavior, often dwindling off into awkward silence when she realizes what she’s been shouting about.

Her romantic relationship with Leon is also perplexing. Vexille’s major motivation for fighting DAIWA Heavy Industries is to rescue Leon from the company’s grasp. This suggests that Vexille loves him enough to risk her life for him. The movie, however, never shows Vexille giving him any affection. EVER.

In every scene with Vexille and Leon in it, she never touches him. On five occasions, Leon touches her. He jumps on her to protect her when a building explodes, he hugs her and apologizes when she shouts at him for no reason, he pulls her to safety to prevent her from doing something stupid, he touches her shoulder with concern after a helicopter explodes on top of her, and he holds her comfortingly after the genocide of the Japanese people. On all these occasions, Vexille doesn’t touch him back.

Sure, Vexille looks at him when his back is turned and they make eye contact, like, three times, but for god’s sake, film is a visual medium! And a look from Vexille could mean anything!

“I like that ass.”

“I like that knife.”

“God you’re ugly.”

By the end of the movie, Vexille’s indifference towards Leon reaches comical proportions. Vexille spends most of the movie obsessing over rescuing Leon. As soon as he’s freed though, she ceases to give a crap about him and goes running after the bad guy she just met. For all we know, Leon is already dead or he could be scarred from whatever he’s been through in the past few days or he could have minutes left to live. And Vexille just runs off!

She leaves him to Mariah, Leon’s previous lover, who was tragically separated from him years ago. Mariah is an android, technically less human than Vexille is, but she actually shows Leon some affection. As soon as Leon sees Vexille though, he casts Mariah aside and runs to her. Vexille hasn’t seen Leon for days and even thought he was dead. She has no idea what condition he’s in or what he’s been through. But the first thing she says to him is…

[Where’s Mariah?]

Vexille is more affected by the deaths of two androids she just met than she is by Leon’s presence.

And yes, I’m certain these people are supposed to be in a romantic relationship! One scene takes place in assumedly Vexille and Leon’s apartment. Here, we see both of them naked and in bed. When Vexille gets up, she seems to know where she is, which suggests that they didn’t get drunk the night before and do it on a whim. Even in this scene, we don’t see Vexille interacting with Leon though.

Leon blindly loves Vexille even though she gives him no reason to and Mariah acts more human than both of them by being appropriately shocked and hurt. Is this the product of genius script writing? As much as I’d like it to be, probably not for two reasons.

First, this theme isn’t applied consistently. For example, Vexille’s human friend Zak explodes right in front of her. This is a friend she ignored when he was obviously injured earlier in the movie. She responds to his death with the same level of emotion that she does for the deaths of her android friends. This suggests that she only really cares about people, not when they’re machines, but when they’re dead or when she wants them dead.

Second, the characters never strive to change their questionable actions and behaviors or even recognize them. If Vexille were a better movie, this probably wouldn’t be necessary. Vexille’s quirks, for example, could simply be an interesting detail, something to give her character an extra twist for those who notice it. The problem is that, for me at least, this loss of humanity is by far the most interesting aspect, and by not exploiting it, the film comes off like a B-horror movie. All the characters are assholes, and by the end, everyone is dead or mentally scarred.

If humans worked towards caring about others within the course of this movie, it could do loads for creating an emotional attachment between the audience and all these dead people. As it is, Vexille does most of the work in telling us how we should feel, and I don’t know about you, but I can’t understand her, let alone feel her pain. Imagine if in the short time Leon and Mariah spend together, Leon recognizes what he’s missing in his relationship with Vexille and remembers the love he had for Mariah. Imagine if Vexille was more affected by Zak’s death and realized she should cherish her time with Leon. Imagine if Vexille’s experience with the androids inspired her to become more human. Mariah’s death might affect the audience. Vexille’s reunion with Leon might be rewarding. The extermination of the Japanese race might mean something.

And Vexille’s interesting world might have more than dead characters in it. Talk at you next time.