Animated Movie Alita: Battle Angle Movie Review Cheak
ALITA: BATTLE ANGLE MOVIE REVIEW MY OPINION ABOUT ANIMATED MOVIE
Up front, it's a good movie. It could be good enough to get that sequel they setup for. The compromise is that it has to be much more widely accessible than the original. Otherwise it won't make enough money. Dredd is a good recent example of a great live action adaptation that just plain didn't make enough money to get a sequel.
Based on the source, Alita Battle Angel should look and feel a lot more like Dredd than the Hunger Games, Divergent, etc feel it has. But the movie needs to make that shift to attract a large audience. Alita is similar to Hit Girl from Kick Ass but Hit Girl was too gleefully violent to build a real franchise around.
So the live action Alita goes straight from “who am I?" to “I fight for the users” with nothing in between. The manga Alita is much more of a chaotic antihero than a paladin. Movie Alita is in control of how pure her soul remains. Manga Alita suffers a lot more at the hands of fate and actually pulls back from heroism.
The good thing is that it isn't hard to rewrite the story so Alita is a straight hero. She's basically Superman crossed with Ironman. The world she lives in is absolute trash so a few tweaks which simplify the story also streamline her motives. The majority of the manga can easily be summarized as Alita battling evil doers.
If they do get a sequel I'm not sure they'll be able to keep Desty Nova's karma motivation. They might be able to turn it into a basic fate/freedom argument with Alita heroically battling for people's right to determine their own destiny without being abused.
Anyway, the movie seems to suffer from acute whogivesashititis. The core arc is Alita, the secondary arc is Hugo, but they're both by the numbers. Ido basically doesn't have an arc. He just passively follows along from one obvious beat to the next, giving up on the last thing he said without any fuss like it really didn't matter to him.
I'm actually annoyed at how they nerfed Ido. In the manga Ido is a badass. He's a brilliant cyber doctor who does mostly pro bono work for poor people when he isn't risking his own life hunting down criminals. Manga Ido is athletic, clever, and educated so he can fight cyborgs, and win! Movie Ido is a sitcom dad who likes toys and looks lost a lot. In the manga, Ido's badassness is part of what inspires Alita to walk towards danger. She sees that a regular human can beat cyborgs, so it isn't too much of a stretch that a tiny girl can do it too. In the movie, Alita just lets herself be puppeted by her instincts.
One of my favorite lines from the OVA is when Alita gets in her first fight, her opponent escapes, and she's talking to herself saying “…one more second and he would have been MINE.” and Ido is listening to her with a shocked expression like who the fuck is this? See, in the manga, Alita LIKES winning. Sure, she likes protecting the defenseless too, but the motivation that allows her to win against extremely dangerous opponents is that she just plain wants it more than them. Desty Nova gets interested in her because she keeps destroying cyborgs he created and she does it without turning cruel or evil. She just really really really wants to win. Like, imagine wanting to win a whole lot. Alita wants it a million times more than that. At the end of the day, when the chips are down, Manga Alita is doing it for herself. Movie Alita is doing it because opposing evil is the right thing to do.
Alita as pure hero is illustrated when Movie Alita follows Gurishka into the sewer. Manga Alita did that because there was a baby down there. Movie Alita does it because she “doesn't stand by in the presence of evil.”
Since they nerfed Ido, they couldn't keep the father/daughter dynamic as an important relationship. All of the power is sucked out of it. Ido is just there to deliver exposition and plug Alita into new bodies. There isn't even enough of Ido there for Alita to rebel against. She basically pats him on the head, same as the dog, and goes off to be unjustifiably heroic. Ido's like “I'm worried” and Alita is like “That's nice … I'mma go be a hero now.” In the manga, Alita really embraces the artificial, perfect life Ido creates for her. Manga Ido fights to keep her as a doll, uncorrupted by the trash heap they live in. And Manga Ido is not okay with Manga Alita running off to explore danger. Manga Ido even conspires to beat Alita so badly she comes crawling back to live as his daughter-doll. Movie Ido doesn't have a strong opinion about anything.
So Hugo becomes the primary relationship in Movie Alita's life. Movie Hugo is just a Romeo. He's a boyfriend who's destined for tragedy because the hero doesn't need baggage. They also Nerf Hugo, in that they turn the obsession with reaching Zalem into a meter goal. So Manga Hugo does a lot of things that make sense when you're obsessed, like murdering lots of people and taking suicidal personal risks when the plan falls apart. Because Manga Hugo would rather die than live in the scrapyard, even with Alita. Movie Hugo does most of the same things, but he isn't actually obsessed, so it doesn't make sense he would go to those lengths. At the end of the day Manga Hugo is a sociopath and Movie Hugo is just mixed up with a bad crowd. There's no reason Movie Hugo would actually be desperate enough to climb the cable to Zalem. Manga Hugo was suicidal. Movie Hugo would have just run off into the forest he's already very familiar with and tried to avoid the Factory and bounty hunters as long as possible. Manga Alita made a mistake when she fell in love with Manga Hugo. Movie Alita made the right decision, she was just a little too late to save Movie Hugo, in multiple ways.
They also nerfed Motorball. This is best illustrated when Movie Ido warns Alita that all of the Motorball players are trying to kill her. So, apparently, in Movie Motorball, the players AREN'T always trying to kill each other. How friendly. For comparison, Manga Ido actually teams up against Manga Alita in Motorball and conspires against her, although ultimately he isn't trying to kill her.
They also nerfed the Factory. Instead of deckmen running around everywhere, delivering exposition, adding character, and generally classing up the joint, we have the totally madeup Centurian crab tanks. This change means that the Factory has zero administration. It just sort of exists. There's one terminal deep in the middle of a crab tank parking lot where you can exchange heads for cash. Literally like a coin machine. The Manga Factory was so dangerous, and so necessary as the administers of the city, Manga Alita didn't try to fight them. Movie Factory is powerless to stop Alita from destroying their tanks, smashing their one terminal, and assassinating their human CEO. Maybe they had to make the Movie Factory so passive and incompetent so that it wouldn't be perceived as evil, because then Movie Alita would have to destroy it instead of joining the system to play Motorball. The Movie makes it out like Vector is responsible for all of the evil that Desty Nova isn't responsible for. Even that gets kind of questionable when it turns out Vector is literally being puppeted by Nova, either directly or indirectly, in an obvious “do bad things for me or I'll do bad things to you” kind of relationship.
There are some strange choices in the adaptation. Like they completely invented the crab tanks and gave them a cool name. But they kept the name “hunter-warrior” for the bounty hunters. It's weird and distracting. It's obviously an awkward translation from Japanese which is fine in a manga or anime, but it grates in a live action Hollywood movie. They even changed the name of the property, from Battle Angel Alita to Alita Battle Angel, but they kept hunter-warrior. They also sucked all of the significance out of the Damascus blade by having Alita basically mug another hunter-warrior and take it. They wasted a lot of time on Alita going out to a crashed, but functional, spaceship exactly one time, finding her berserker body, and then never going back to the ship ever again, despite her curiosity about her own origins being a huge part of her motivation. They skip past how heavy the cyborgs really are, treating them like they're almost weightless. The cyborgs are designed too much like Transformers and they're too similar, which is lame since the source material has dozens of extremely different cyborgs to choose from. The city is too bright and sunny and clean and feels too much like an intimate neighborhood. There are mining machines doing farming, for some reason.
The weirdest thing is how Alita's heroics come out of nowhere. There's no setup. Alita just starts executing heroic plans without any warning. Even the audience doesn't know she's planning something heroic.
So, the movie is much less than the manga, which is to be expected. The movie is also kind of blah. The visuals are great and the world building is good. I don't identify with this version of Alita, but it seems similar to popular YA female protagonists, so maybe enough other people will identify with her that we get more Alita movies.
I'm looking forward to seeing Edward Norton play Desty Nova although I'm worried Nova might be nerfed just as hard as Ido was. Based on this version of Alita being a pure hero, I'm not sure how they can include characters like Jashugun without nerfing them as well. They probably won't even bother introducing Figure Four. It looks like Alita is going straight up the Zalem “ladder” without following Nova into the desert, since they only setup Zalem and Mars in this movie.
Overall I found the movie boring. Multiple times I was distracted by thinking that it really should be more compelling than it turned out. An illustration of this problem is that there are exactly three jokes in the whole movie. I counted. It was easy to count because the jokes land harder than the giant cyborgs. It’s not a fun movie. For comparison, Guardians Of The Galaxy is a fun movie with just as much science fiction action spectacle. But in Alita none of the people in the movie are actually living in the world. They’re just following the script. You can tell when filmmakers really truly loved the story, world, and characters because they fill up the movie with all sorts of little details; the fruit of thinking and feeling the events like they were actually happening.
A problem throughout the movie is that nobody has the right amount of mass. They do a good job of showing that Alita is physically smaller than most of her opponents, but none of them move like they have different weights. For example, when Hugo grabs Alita and moves her out of the Centurion’s way, he isn’t at all affected by the fact that her body is heavier than his body. In the Manga and OVA Hugo tries to move Alita, fails horribly because he didn’t expect her to weigh that much, and Alita has to pull some split second ninja moves to save Hugo instead. That would have been a great detail to keep. They could have the camera over the Centurion’s shoulder as Hugo dives to push Alita out of the road and then have Hugo bounce off Alita who’s umoved, then Alita grab Hugo and move him out of the road instead. Imagine how much more meaningful the conversations about “hardbodies” and “does it bother you I’m not completely human” would have been if Alita had already picked Hugo up like a baby and carried him out of danger. Imagine the Zalem cable sequence where Alita fails to physically save Hugo if she’d already physically saved him before. That part of the OVA , when Alita screams “Hugo” into the empty air, is actually the most haunting moment I can remember from any anime I’ve ever watched. All they had to do was copy it but instead the movie falls flat.
Another example is during the Motorball sequence where Alita is striking cyborgs 10 times bigger than her and sending them flying. LOL WUT? She weighs 1/10 what they weigh. She doesn’t have enough momentum to change their trajectory. She should be flipping around all over them taking them apart piece by piece, not uppercutting them into next week. She should be winning through speed, agility, and cleverness not raw power. Imagine how much more significant it would be that Alita wins when you see her unable to actually move her opponents. What’s the point of even being enormous if all that extra weight doesn’t give you an advantage in most fights? Alita should win only because she has all that Panzer Kunst training hidden inside her, an ancient martial art specifically designed to take down cyborgs.
Another example of how the world feels hollow because none of the filmmakers lived in it is when Alita first tries her plasma there’s a closeup shot of her finger glowing blue-hot, and her giant anime eyes, and there’s no reflection of the bright plasma in her eyes. The plasma doesn’t even cast light on her face. In the source Alita had to earn her plasma. Her body only produced it when her intention was crystal clear, so she has to do some internal work. It’s okay that they just gave it to her, but they could have implied some depth by having her at least concentrate for a minute, maybe have the plasma sputter, then have that strong bright flame reflected in her eyes, showing that something happened internally. Then she could even switch her gaze to the far distance with a look of concentration again, then maybe even scene change to Vector, showing that Alita is going to beat Vector just like she beat her plasma. Ugh, so many missed opportunities to add a little depth.