The 3-D animation here embraces a hyper-realistic style, creating a look comparable to that of Grand Theft Auto, or, other, similar video games.
This movie premiered in Cannes 2007. It played several festivals before getting a very limited release, thanks to FUNimation. Originally recorded in Japanese, the DVD, which was released in May 2008, received a brand new English dub. The special Blu-Ray edition will be released on Nov. 4, Election Day. The Blu-Ray edition includes two hours of special features.
For most fanboys who are into Japanese anime, this movie is just another blip on the radar. It's no big deal. Movies like Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004) and Appleseed (2004) have already shown the brilliance that 3-D animation can bring. My only concern is that American animation companies still seem to fall behind.
Not to say that American animation companies aren't doing great work because they are! It's just that for the most part, American animator still regard it as a kid's game. Most, if not all, of the American-made animated films have been solely geared for children, most films never wanting to be rated higher than PG.
Many Japanese animated films don't. There are still plenty Japanese cartoons that do rate mainly for youngsters, but there's also a good, if not equal, amount that's rated R. In the United States, you don't get R-rated cartoons in theaters, only late night on Adult Swim.
Not that this film is R-rated, but it's a lot more adult than most American animations. That's probably because the film is centered on adult characters. It takes a very serious tone. Even though it's science fiction, it tries to approximate a real-life sensibility.
VEXILLE feels at times like it's in the same league as Blade Runner or the original Star Wars. Remember that feeling you had the first time you watched Alien or The Matrix. That's the same feeling you get here, a well-told, sci-fi thriller with some dynamite action.
Vexille is the name of a female U.S. Navy Special Forces officer in the year 2067 who realizes a Japanese plot to build cyborgs and androids. The reason, it's a plot under investigation, is the United Nations has sanctioned the building of cyborgs and androids illegal.
The story involves Vexille and her team of operatives, known as SWORD, sneaking into Japan discovering who is behind the android plot, and stopping them. Androids are regarded as a threat worse than nuclear weapons. Think the Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Assimilation is the objective and resistance is futile.
The opening sequence, which is definitely a wild ride, contains a lot of cursing and bloodshed, something you're not going to get in a Nickelodeon or Pixar movie. The animators employed cel shading over 3-D character designs with a multimedia backdrop, which gives the film a rich and jazzed up look.
The characters still look like video game characters you'd play on your PlayStation and XBOX, a little wooden, but they appear more fluid and like talking bobbleheads, as you'd see in American animated films. In fact, Vexille looks a whole lot like a young Jodie Foster or Carrie Ann Moss.
The Los Angeles depicted here is reminiscent of the futuristic cityscape in Minority Report (2002), or that of Coruscant, the Jedi capital planet seen in The Phantom Menace (1999).
The contrasting depiction of downtown Tokyo is not a bustling, highly advanced metropolis. Tokyo is instead shantytowns surrounded by desert. The Japanese are facing near genocide. Why?
The movie makes a point about where mankind's dependence on machines and machines' dominance over mankind. It's a less comical point than the one made in this summer's animated hit Wall-E (2008). It poses thoughts about evolution and where the race might be headed.
It reminds us also that "as long as we have our spirit, then nothing can take away our humanity." That might be difficult when you have a Jag, which is a mutant mechanical incarnation of the sandworms from Beetlejuice (1988), chasing you, but the characters here try.
There's intellectual depth, as well as kick-butt action. The animated film is also complemented with a very hip soundtrack. The original score is by Paul Oakenfold whose techno music has appeared on dozens of movies and TV shows in the past decade. The rest of the music includes contributions from Basement Jaxx, Boom Boom Satellites, DJ Shadow, and M.I.A. A song of note is "Together Again" by Korean pop singer Mink.
Four Stars out of Five
Rated PG-13 for violence and language
Running Time: 1 hr. and 49 mins.