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Film Review: 'Alita: Battle Angel'

Updated on March 6, 2019
RachaelLefler profile image

I've studied anime, manga, and Japan for over a decade. My favorite anime/manga are sci-fi and seinen (mature).

Alita: Battle Angel has been seemingly pitted against Captain Marvel in a debate over which is the best "strong female protagonist" of this year. The majority of critics have not liked Alita and will probably give rave reviews to Captain Marvel.

But should these movies even be directly compared or put into the thunderdome against each other like this? They're very different movies. Alita is fringe and edgy, underground, and for a mature audience. It's a cyberpunk, dystopian sci-fi adaptation of one of the most gruesomely violent (yet still somehow, oddly beautiful) manga in existence.

To compare that to Marvel's next "safe bet" action blockbuster movie seems incredibly tone deaf, only looking at superficial similarities. That is, both have female protagonists with superhuman powers. I don't like artificially pushing rivalry onto movies that come out at the same time - it's quite okay to like both. I'm giving you permission.

For anime and manga fans like me, Alita: Battle Angel is something longed for - an unflinching, uncompromising, beautiful live-action American adaptation. I would argue that we got a decent, better than the SJW witch hunter crowd would like to say we got movie out of 2016's Ghost in the Shell. But that movie was just glamorous spectacle, a series of pretty pictures. It felt like a fashion spread in a magazine themed around the original movie, with tidbits here and there based on Innocence and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.

Alita: Battle Angel is a much better adaptation than that, not shying away from the gritty, dark aesthetic of cyberpunk manga, but also giving us a hopeful and triumphant heroic, awesome little girl to root for. I haven't seen Captain Marvel yet, but I know I'll probably like it less than this one.

Plot

Alita is a female cyborg who doesn't remember her past. She was rescued from a junk heap by a doctor who specializes in fixing cybernetic humans. A boy named Hugo introduces her to a dangerous sport, Motorball. But the doctor who is raising her, Dyson Ido, is fearful for her safety and protective of her in a fatherly way.

She finds out that Ido is a "hunter-warrior", a bounty hunter. She decides that she wants to be a bounty hunter as well. It seems that violence is part of who she is. Ido wants her to stay away from it, but she feels drawn to fighting. At her Motorball professional debut, the guys at the top try to have Alita killed. She survives, realizing that going after the elites in her harshly stratified society is the only way to learn who she really is.

Info

Title
Alita: Battle Angel
Studio
20th Century Fox, Lightstorm Entertainmen, & TSG Entertainment; Distributed by 20th Century Fox[
Year
2019
Producer
James Cameron & Jon Landau
Director
Robert Rodriguez
Writers
Screenplay by James Cameron & Laeta Kalogridis, Based on Manga by by Yukito Kishiro
Cinematographer
Bill Pope
Music by
Tom Holkenborg
Main Actors/Actresses
Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, & Keean Johnson
Run Time
2 hours, 2 minutes
MPAA Rating
PG-13
Box Office
$351.3 million

Review

The movie is never dull, always doing something interesting. Some people did not like Alita's character design with the CGI being used to give her large eyes. But when you actually watch the movie, you get used to it, and it makes sense because she's a cyborg - and her body is different even from most cyborgs in that world.

I like Alita because it's a cyberpunk story about challenging the social order from below, kind of like Aeon Flux. Lots of popular movies are about billionaire or otherwise seriously privileged heroes, so it's kind of refreshing to see a movie about a kid who rises up from the bottom of a scrap heap.

The heart of the movie is the conflict between Ido wanting to protect Alita, and Alita wanting to be a badass and fight bad guys by herself, unleashing her full potential as a force for good in the world. I think that's what made this movie emotionally powerful - otherwise it ran the risk of being another beautiful, but empty, spectacle, similar to Avatar. Although I felt that to get more of the beauty of the emotional impact of this story, it's probably best to read the original manga. But as adaptations go, this one is very great.

Rating for 'Alita: Battle Angel': 8/10

© 2019 Rachael Lefler

Comments

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    • John Plocar profile image

      John Plocar 

      8 months ago from Weatherford

      @Rachael

      Mainstream critics are usually harsher when it comes to genre films, they just are for some reason. That and they've always been mixed on this particular director's work, Robert Rodriguez. So I'm honestly not surprised about it. They probably saw the first movie with the slightest similarity between them being the female protagonist and tried making a bigger deal out of it than what it really is so they can strengthen their own opinions in their writing in the most shallow ways.

      That's just me guessing though, I don't really know this for a fact. I've avoided reviews for 'Captain Marvel' so I can go in cold for my own take lol

    • RachaelLefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachael Lefler 

      8 months ago from Illinois

      "Alita looked and moved very naturally." Yeah, I really liked the visuals and how the animation of the CGI and live action was so seamlessly integrated. It gives you the fun and fantasy of an anime, with the real sensory experience of a live action film.

    • RachaelLefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachael Lefler 

      8 months ago from Illinois

      Yeah because one is an adult, in a big-budget mainstream action movie, and Alita is a child, in a dystopian death world full of roving cybernetic bounty hunters.

      I've noticed this weird trend that whenever there's a female protagonist, they want to make a show of how progressive it is, even though other films have female protagonists. It's never as ground-breaking as the SJW camp seems to think it is, to have a strong female protagonist, and a strong female protagonist is not, for me, a selling point by itself. I'm much more interested in if the story is good than finding this social justice checklist. I just don't really get why the Rotten Tomatoes critics hated this movie in general, even though it's been successful and a huge percentage of fans liked it. It's one of the biggest fan/critic disparities I've seen in a while.

    • Sam Shepards profile image

      Sam Shepards 

      8 months ago from Europe

      Thanky you. Going to the see it tomorrow. Really hope it is better than most of the shallow Marvel and other similar movies these days.

    • John Plocar profile image

      John Plocar 

      8 months ago from Weatherford

      I also enjoyed the movie, I found it to be a lot of fun even though I'm not familiar with the source material. I had no idea that there was some weird comparison being made from critics between 'Alita' and 'Captain Marvel', seems like a rather odd and unwarranted paralleling between dissimilar heroines. Granted, I too haven't seen the new 'Captain Marvel' movie yet. But from what I can tell, there's nothing really to compare. Maybe the similarities are being drawn about how they are two female leads with a case of amnesia while discovering their own powers? I have no clue. From the 'Captain Marvel' trailers it seems like the lead is suffering from not remembering her past much like Alita. Maybe that's why critics are comparing them both? I honestly have no idea. Seems silly regardless.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      8 months ago from Chicago Area

      I thought it was definitely entertaining. The visuals were extremely well done. Alita looked and moved very naturally. Maybe because it's by James Cameron, but I thought some of the cyborgs had a Terminator look to them. :)

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