Alita: Battle Angel is a movie adaptation of an anime and manga series 'Gunmm' by Yukito Kishiro. Directed by Robert Rodriguezand produced by James Cameron, Robert Rodriguez, and Jon Landau, this is the best western movie adaptation of a Japanese anime to date.
GUNNM (1990) and Battle Angel Alita (on sale now).
The movie centers around a cyborg called Alita. She was rescued and repaired by Doctor Ido who found her in the scrap yard. Having lost her memory, Alita tries to remember her past life as she explores Iron City with the city of Zalem flying overhead. This movie shows her journey as a cyborg who started from zero experiencing all the threats and wonders she will face in a harsh world a few hundred years after an interplanetary war.
Alita, found by Dr. Ido in the scrapyards under Zalem.
First, the world setting. The vastness of the world can be felt through the amazing scenery. A wide shot of the world just gives a lot of information to behold. The separation between two worlds, the society that lives in them and the boundaries that sets them apart.
The floating city of Zalem and the Iron City below.
Most of the movie happens in Iron City, the place where the impoverished work and supply goods for the rich and elite living on Zalem, the floating city above. The people that live there are really diverse, as people over the world come to Iron City aspiring to reach Zalem. In the manga, Iron City was made out to be a tough and cutthroat dystopia. However, the movie choose instead to show a brighter picture, highlighting the bustling working class from all walks of life instead.
Don’t be upset with the watered down dystopian setting. This movie needs that PG-13 rating.
Iron City is not without its dystopian dangers though. Thieves, robbers and burglars, all arm with tech can make anyone’s life a nightmare. And with the advent of cybernetics, the evil that lurks in the shadows are even more fearsome. In response, bounty hunters of similar tenacity and grit are employed to maintain the fragile peace. Still a dystopia.
Cyborg villain Nyssiana (Eiza González). God Damn. Anyone that comes across her will be dead.
Now, onto the characters. Alita, played by Rosa Salazar is the shining centerpiece of the whole movie. Her character is entirely CG with Rosa acting with a motion and facial capture suit. The CG completely capture and translate Rosa into Alita perfectly and her portrayal of Alita is absolutely stunning. Alita is visually expressive, displaying her innocence in her first interactions in Iron City. She also possesses a headstrong attitude, making her more attracted to action, a callback to her past identity. As the movie progresses, Alita steady gains more experience, even mimicking the personality growth from a child to an adult.
Rosa Salazar in a motion and facial capture suit with an initial render of Alita in CG.
As for the other characters, Christoph Waltz’s performance with Dr. Dyson Ido is phenomenal. Dr. Ido became a caring father to Alita, a huge step up from a possessive father who is obsessed in keeping a ‘perfect girl’ as portrayed in the manga. Yup, originally, Dr. Ido is a bit crazy. That’s a change in the movie I can accept. Keean Johnson played Hugo, Alita’s love interest and the actor did an ‘okay’ job. Hugo has an interesting story himself and the movie did a good job showing that. However, if it is someone who is a fan of the manga, Hugo’s story is a bit bare bones.
Robert Rodriguez directing Keean Johnson (Hugo) with a suited up Rosa Salazar (Alita).
Mahershala Ali, who played the movie antagonist Vector, did superb work with the character. Vector actual feels like the tyrant king of Iron City. It is a shame that he played a small role in the movie. Chiren, played by Jennifer Connelly, also suffered the same treatment. She is one of the major characters in the manga but only she is only present in scenes that pertain to the plot. As a result, she is perceived as a shallow throwaway character.
Vector (Mahershala Ali ) and his collaborator Chiren (Jennifer Connelly).
Lastly, the cyborgs in the movie. Oof. Calling them amazing is an understatement. The actors for the cyborg all wear the motion capture suits so CG have free reign in changing their appearance. Heck, the actors can sometimes be unrecognizable! Jackie Earle Haley who played Grewishka, I hardly recognize him! He was Rorschach in Watchmen back in 2009. Grewishka is a huge cyborg! The gap between the actor and CG is ridiculously huge!
Grewishka. Actor Jackie Earle Haley on the top right.
These cyborgs are not just eye candy. Like their CG appearance, they are made for the movie’s crème de la crème, the fight scenes.And HOLY Shit, are the fight scenes good. Start with cyborgs in a cyberpunk setting, then no humans involved in the fights, and the actors playing the cyborgs are all CGI. WOW, 2019 graphics is amazing. With nearly all of the human element removed, the human limitations went with it. Since there no need to account for a human actor in the scene, the studio just went all out. To sum it up, cyborgs fight like cyborgs. Super speed, fast reactions, insane robotic attachments that no human can wield and every hit that connects feels incredibly heavy. The fights are brilliantly choreographed and go by so fast that I can imagine any normal human just get absolutely shredded if they just so happen to get caught up in that. And above all, Alita’s fast reflex and melee. First thing I thought is ‘Give her webshooters and she can replace Spiderman any day.”
All the fight scenes feature Alita and BOY does she put her past life experience to great use.
As for the story, not much can be said. The movie’s plot is based on the manga which is a behemoth of a story by itself. So, only two arcs in the manga are used and interwoven together to make up the movie’s plot. As for my impressions, the story is well made and every scene serves a purpose in developing the characters and progressing the story. The movie wraps up nicely, hinting at a sequel with a cliffhanger. There are so many things from the manga that are yet to be used, so here’s hoping for a sequel.
The complete series of GUNNM or Battle Angel Alita. I recall there are additional comics and spin offs as well.
There are some cheesy and campy moments that unsettled me. However, those moments are directly lifted from the manga for fanservice. The culture of the 90s is way different from 2019, so it’s understandable. Furthermore, the romance between Alita and Hugo is super awkward. Even though I rooted for them, I still feel uneasy at how mismatched the pair was. Then I realized that Alita just started her life with a childlike personality a few days ago. So this romance between her and Hugo is just teen romance. And teenage romance is super awkward. I’m not sure if the movie is showing off how their romance is supposed to go but I feel really old.
Ugh.. They look like teenagers. Is this jealousy? I feel old.
While the movie is an amazing experience for me. After the fact, I do notice that it is lacking in some areas. The side characters like Chiren, Vector, Koyomi have little screen time that their characters are barely fleshed out. Koyomi is the most egregious example as her screen time is literally seconds in the two hour movie. Koyomi is a major character that shows up prominently in the manga! In the movie, she only introduced herself in one scene and gave exposition in the next! The sequel will no doubt feature Koyomi as a main character and giving her scraps for screen time in this movie is an injustice.
Koyomi on the right. I barely knew her in the movie. Even forgot her name halfway through! I only learned her name (again) and her major role in the manga while I was writing this post!
Now, another problem which is actually a non-issue for me but is the biggest drawback to the public is Alita's appearance in the movie. Specifically, her eyes. Her eyes is significantly bigger than human eyes. So big, that reviewers attribute it to the uncanny valley. Some even try to be edgy and claim that Alita's appearance is made to appeal to the weeb demographic. Boo! To fall for that shallow mindset. The movie's source material is literally a manga and anime series! It already appeals to the anime and manga demographic from the start! All in all, her big eyes is unsettling and brings the viewer out of the movie experience. In my opinion, I think this problem is very overblown. Alita is featured in most of the movie and her charming character outshines her uncanny appearance.
Even if it is in your face.
The only time that her large eyes brought me out of the experience is when she is not moving or talking and her face is shown from the side. The sclera of her eyes surprised me and I thought "Her eyes are really big at this angle." Instances like that are rare. In fact, I can only recall that one instance of an uncanny feeling caused by her eyes. One uncanny moment (or two) in an amazing two hour movie. I can get over that.
To be honest, I was in the ‘uncanny valley’ camp when the first trailer dropped. I forgot about it and when I watched the movie, I was blown away.
If you're looking to make any sense for why Alita's eyes are like that, then maybe her big eyes are much powerful optical equipment compared to the average cybernetic eye. Knowong her history, it make sense. Furthermore, I believe Alita's appearance is purposeful in making her stand out from the other augmented humans. Among the cast of characters featured in the movie, a great number of them are cyborgs that are just as augmented as Alita. Alita's appearance may have been done to separate her from them because she is the heroine of the story.
Look at this guy. There are many full body cyborgs like him so it is important for Alita as the main character to stand out from them.
Now, a more significant problem I found about the movie is the way Alita behaves in some of her scenes with Ido. I barely notice them the first time I watch the movie. However, on my second watch, I notice that Alita can come off as a spoiled brat in her later interactions with her own father figure and savior. She is rude when Ido is worried for her. Heck, she even threw a tantrum when she did not get her way. She eventually mellows out towards the end of the movie which led me to believe that Alita is just progressing from a child to an adult throughout the movie. So, the abrasive and rebellious Alita would be the teenage phase of her maturation cycle. It makes sense and it gives a new meta to Alita's growth, but Alita's teenage phase is just bad experience to watch. All I got from those scenes is how much of a brat Alita was and how saintly Ido's patience is. There are good, well-mannered teenagers too!
Yes, she might be excitable because of her personality and her experience from her past life. But her past life also taught her about teamwork and cooperation.
I do hope this movie will be successful in the theatres. I would love to see a sequel greenlit. Unfortunately, the movie critics hold a negative bias against Alita's spouting opinions that are indeed shallow. In spite of that, the public’s opinion showed overwhelming praise for the film. Nice to see snooty critics, get one upped once in a while.
I highly recommend watching this movie. The entire experience is amazing as I watched it on the big screen. This movie is a must watch as a cinema experience. Only on the big screen, can the movie’s brilliant detail and riveting audio perform at its best. I know that I’m really fucking late in suggesting it now that some cinemas has cycled Alita out of its screening. God Damn It. I’m sorry. BUUUT! If you have a good home theater system, maybe buying a physical copy of the movie can give a similar experience. This movie is good. Coupled with the cinema experience, this movie gave me more than the slightly overpriced ticket. When that cliffhanger happened at the end, I was surprised and then frustrated. I am confounded at how fast two hours just fly by. If a movie entertains me so much that I lost the sense of time and is left stunned at the time, it’s a really good movie in my book.
That stance of strength! Oh How I wish for a sequel!
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