Film Review

Film Review: Alita Battle Angel

Alita Battle Angel
Watched on 03/14/2019
Grade: B+

It took me awhile but I was finally able to find time to watch Alita: Battle Angel. I understand why it had mixed reviews among the movie going public and fans of the anime. I get the feel that the film was well received by the people for which it was made. The uncanny valley element is something the viewer needs to be able to shrug off or if you’re not able to do that you may as well save your time and money. It’s there and it’s not going anywhere. Only the youth that has been bombarded with this level of CGI could completely shrug off the awkwardness of some of the models.

I was able to shrug off the half animated half real life Alita played by Rosa Salazar, whose eyes were “fixed” after the initial trailer and fan reaction but still didn’t sit 100% right during my viewing. But I’m at a film like Alita: Battle Angel to have fun watching a cool cyberpunk science fiction story from Japan (that should have included more Japanese people).

Alita is a warrior cyborg that fell with the scraps from floating city called Zalem onto the surface in place known as Iron City, where she was found by Dr Dyson played by the ever present and every talented Christoph Waltz and reassembled in his lab. Throughout the course of the film we hit many of expected plot devices: discovery of powers, love interest, conflict that stems from secrecy. And while all of these are vanilla and standard they all hit the right notes at the right moments and they are never over or under presented. The film is fully aware that we’re all here for the action and the slow burn of caring Alita and rooting for her throughout her adventures.

A big win for the film is that it left a lot on the table for future installments and it didn’t try to stuff multiple seasons of the anime into one two hour film, although the film contains elements from more than just the first volume. Alita: Battle Angel previews future villains and the city in the sky becomes only slightly less mysterious by the end of the film.

People that end having liked Alita: Battle Angel will cite the creative action scenes of cyborg on cyborg violence. I gave the film a strong B+ in part because I was so impressed by two of my favorite actors Christoph Waltz and Mahershala Ali, who are both able to succeed at handling roles in silly low brow science fiction films and the artsy roles they are also both famous for.

I could see an anime fan both liking and disliking Alita. If you’re someone who loved the anime and/or manga hopefully your nose isn’t too high in the air for this type of adaption. Live action films are made for a wide release and have to hit different notes. It’s important to know that something can still be good without being better than earlier forms of the story.

As someone who both enjoyed this film and is trying to open up to manga, that I will be picking up a copy Alita: Battle Angel Volume One from the library.

Those who didn’t like the film will cite that the movie as still 70% animated and that we already have an animated version of Alita told over multiple episodes and volumes that doesn’t have the cartoon on human feeling of Roger Rabbit set in the future. And I agree with the sentiment even if though I was able to find a way to shrug off that uncanny valley feeling, sit back and enjoy myself.

File under anime as film
File under Robert Rodriguez
File under Christoph Waltz
File under Mahershala Ali