‘Alita: Battle Angel’ // Film Review

Adapting a popular anime/manga to the big screen in Hollywood doesn’t always have everybody cheering for joy. Sometimes it’s very difficult translation everything into a two-hour movie. And not every adaptation succeeds with flying colors. Just take a look at Ghost in the Shell two years ago. But after trying to develop Alita: Battle Angel to the big screen for over a decade, producers James Cameron and Jon Landau has teamed up with director Robert Rodriguez to, hopefully, please fans in the process.

Set in the year 2563 after a post-apocalyptic war called “The Fall”, Alita (Rosa Salazar) is a cyborg who awakens inside a new body with no recollection of her memory. She was built by Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz), who repairs cybernetic limbs, after finding her in a scrapyard. Little does she know that she’s able to have these extraordinary fighting abilities and is hoping to find a new life in Iron City.

Rosa Salazar in Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

Of course, this is based on the 1990s Japanese manga series Gunnm (Battle Angel Alita in English) by Yukito Kishiro, and I’ve heard this was a pretty stellar manga to read. Though I was curious to see how this big-budget cyberpunk action film was gonna turn out by the end. It’s just that wasn’t thinking this was gonna be good. Not only was Cameron’s involvement in this project took him a long time to get going, but this was pushed back twice last year and was dumped into February. But I say out of all the manga adaptations, Alita: Battle Angel is perhaps the best we’re gonna get for a while.

Rodriguez knows how to make a comic book series come to life. Just watch Sin City and see for yourself. But he does seem to try his hardest in replicating moments from the manga onto the film that’s isn’t all that bad. Not trying to be like everything else where the people behind other manga adaptations just seem to care. I sensed that Rodriguez and Cameron were trying their hardest to make Alita: Battle Angel competently well-made.

Salazar’s performance was really good. She’s playing a character who doesn’t know anything about herself and is experiencing new things along the way. Alita is somebody that I truly cared about from start to finish since she comes across as this positive person. All of this was from a motion-capture suit, which I didn’t even know beforehand. At first, her luge eyes were gonna end up becoming a distraction, but it wasn’t noticeable after a while. I also liked the father-daughter relationship with Waltz.

Rosa Salazar, Keean Johnson, and Shannon Kee Haymond in Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

On a visual level, I was completely shocked by the amazing CGI work that was put into this. Shouldn’t come as a surprise since Cameron’s name is involved, but the film’s visual style of Iron City and the action is astonishing. Props to Weta Digital for not only the motion-capture work from Salazar but the entire world-building of the city itself. Everything might’ve been on a green screen, and it’s just seamless.

All of the action sequences really except me attention. There’s was something about how it was filmed and how quick everything came to be when Alita is fighting anybody in her sight. The best moments in the entire film comes down to the anything revolving around Motorball, this huge futuristic sport where cyborgs fight against each other, and it’s absolutely amazing to watch.

But Alita does have bumps into why it isn’t all that amazing in its two-hour runtime. Sometimes the story doesn’t become all that important when there isn’t any action going on. And that’s because the screenplay by Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island) lacked a strong narrative that isn’t all that focused, and it ultimately makes the pacing during the middle a little lackluster. There’s also this romance between Alita and Hugo (Kean Johnson) that felt weak and wasn’t needed and just didn’t came as nonexistent. And then you have Jennifer Connelly and Mahershala Ali kind of being wasted with their respective roles.

This is coming from someone didn’t know about the source material before the first trailer came out. For the record, I don’t have any interest in reading or watching anime. So, I don’t know what has been drastically changed to make it better, but those who are hardcore fans of Alita might be able to look past it and enjoy it for what it is. From my perspective, it’s alright for someone coming into this fictional world cold.

After Alita: Battle Angel was finished, I was surprised that this wasn’t a painful sit through. Though the story should’ve been way strongest in terms of a better emotional core or a tighter narrative, there are no complaints when it comes down to the engaging action, stunning visual effects, and Rosa Salazar’s performance as the titular character. Will I be up for a sequel, if it possibly comes around? Depending on how it does at the overall box office, I would be up for one if Fox decides to do it later on.

Grade: B-

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