Identity is in the eye of the beholder…
What used to be a ongoing trend in adapting anime/manga series into sub-par Hollywood movies may have finally been broken by Alita: Battle Angel. Though not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, this film has successfully broiled down the essential nuggets of several arcs into a cohesive and energetic film filled with action, likable characters, and heart (both literally and figuratively speaking).
The eponymous hero of the film, Alita (Rosa Salazar), is a discarded cyborg discovered one day by Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) on one of his scavenging trips to the trash heap that is dumped from the floating city of Zalem above. Dr. Ido gives Alita a new porcelain doll body and attempts to use Alita to cope with the loss of his own daughter. Alita is thrust into a world she doesn’t understand as she falls in love with a scavenger Hugo (Keean Johnson), regains her lost memories as she tries to find new meaning in an alien world, play in big league sports and discovers a conspiracy that dictates the society they live in – you know, average teenage cyborg shenanigans.
What is most eye-striking about this world is how colorful the world itself and the character design of its cyborgs- from Alita’s own anime-inspired eyes to some of the most inventive and indicative cyborg designs seen in recent film history. Everything from hulking brutes with the tiniest shred of humanity to insectoid, viciously bladed thugs are on display with the imaginative vigor you would see from some dystopian cyberpunk video-game or animated series.
The film uses a smart move to make Alita look alien with her CGI eyes, capable of a wide range of emotions and to help her and the other cyborgs look more seamless as CGI creations and inhuman. This is one of the few films in recent memory that uses extensive CGI for style rather than a cost-alternative method of film-making, and I highly suggest seeing this film in 3D to heighten the scope of the fighting scenes.
This film could make a silhouette out of its character’s and you would understand exactly who and what these characters are by design alone. Visual prowess is king in cinema and it helps that many characters can act as they appear instead of bogging down the story with introductions that drag and postpone the momentum (and time-length) of the story.
Which leads to a dance on a precarious blade for the movie, where Alita and her small family group are giving the most characterizations than even the big bad -whom is interesting in his own light but left ambiguous and mysterious for the purposes of a sequel hook. And even when Alita excels in condensing the prime story arcs it is adapting, it ever-so-closely almost fails to catch enough breath to continue to run with its characters needs and wants.
But it ALMOST fails, just delivering enough of an understanding from plot point to plot point and enough breaks to breathe in Alita’s and her world’s needs and wants that it never feels like an incomplete story. By condensing the narrative arcs into a singular unity tied together by themes of identity, individual vs. society, & family. This is a high-concept film that feels grounded and charismatic in presenting such lofty themes with the cool concept of seeing a badass girl kicking cyborg parts.
Having some big-name actors such as Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, and even Jackie Earle Haley (in a cybernetic role you may not even recognized him as) in villainous roles brought a weight and presentation to the film that isn’t bogged down by their presence but heightened by their charismatic and devilish charms. They are not show-stealers but bring just the right amount of chemistry and characterization to their roles that it was a delight to see them pop in and out through-out the film.
Though the relationship presented between Alita & Hugo may be unrealistic or cheap to some, I must admit that I didn’t see some of the directions they begun to develop Hugo in the 2nd half that leads to a satisfying conclusion in the final 3rd. And I recall when watching, that I was hoping that I wouldn’t see Dr. Ido suffer a tragic father death that happens so often in dystopian or young adult fiction so often – he was such a quirky but human father-figure that made me want to see where his character would go.
All in all, if you are looking for spectacle, fun, and outstanding cyborg designs with a little optimism in your life, I highly suggest seeing this film in theaters as soon as possible. If we want smarter, funnier, more fun and more cohesive adaptations of media-to-film, we need to support such off-the-wall and sincere projects such as this film. You will pull your heart out for Alita: Battle Angel, and it won’t cost you an arm or a leg to do so.
Release Date: February 14th, 2019
Starring Voices: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Eiza Gonzalez, Lana Condor, Keean Johnson, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Casper Van Dien, Idara Victor, Jeff Fahey, Derek Mears, Sam Medina, Leonard Wu, Elle LaMont, Marko Zaror, Rick Yune, Hugo Perez
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Audience: Teens & Family
Runtime: 2hr 2min
Official Website: www.FoxMovies.com/Alita-Battle-Angel
Official Social Media Pages:
IMDB Page: @Alita:_Battle_Angel
Wiki Link: @Alita:_Battle_Angel
Michael Foster| Writing Contributor
B.A | TV, Film & Media Studies | CSU – Los Angeles
Receiving my Bachelor’s in Film, Media, & Television, I have been writing freelance articles for a start-up company located in Los Angeles. As an aspiring writer and love of narrative media, I find the hero’s journey as a reflection of the best and most ideal of human ambition. A lover of Disney alongside various video-games from Super Mario Bros. to Resident Evil, I keep both my mind and body busy with running and reading. | Instagram @ThenNerdMichael | View My Articles
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