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Alita: Battle Angel Review

I saw Alita in “Expensive-max 3D” over opening weekend and had time to let it sit with me. The long wait and anticipation is over and it’s time to review it.

There is a lot I want to say but I’m going to start general and go deeper after. I saw this with my mother, and we both agreed that you don’t need to see it in IMAX 3D. Next, and this will be very telling, if you look at Rotten Tomatoes, (at the time of posting this) the critics’ score is at 59 and the audience is at 94. My mom gave it a 6/10 and I would give it a 90. In short, if you think you’ll like it, you will probably love it, but if you think you might like it, you’ll like it enough. It’s that simple. The movie is everything it set out to be; the only question is how much will that satisfy you?

I could go into why I think thee is such a disparity in review scores, but I think the short of it is that 1) it's a movie for younger people and 2) there's not a lot of "critique"-ability, since the movie is heavily stylized and doesn't focus on actors or dialogue, which I'll get to.

The movie is refreshingly violent, which I was very happy to see. It was also beautiful to look at, as much as a garbage city can look. The action scenes were fantastic! You’re able to clearly follow the fights and the motorball sequences. I only wish that the movie had a score that wasn’t completely forgettable.

Let’s talk about the acting. The actors were fine, including Hugo, which I was worried about. Ultimately, the movie is not an actor’s movie, which is fine, because movies like this rarely are. I’m still going to use this space to talk about a few characters, starting with our damsel in distress, Hugo.

Hugo doesn’t suck, even though he still kinda sucks. You know what? Hugo is a sucky dude, and anything good in his life happened because of Alita. I guess it makes sense that you can’t expect him to pull a 180 on his entire life, just because a cute robot girl fell into his life. But given his prospect-less life before meeting her, why not throw it all away?

Alita was cute and doe-eyed without being annoying. Alita switches from child-like to warrior on a dime, since she fights instinctively. I’m saying that not as a gripe, but as a matter-of-fact. That’s part of Alita the character. Rosa Salazar was able to pull both sides off to where it felt as natural as a cyborg could be.

Ido was surprisingly full of heart. He is Alita’s overprotective father, mentor, and, well, “Gepetto”. He is still the only one not to want to go to Zolem. Oh, he also sports a rocket-powered war-hammer! He’s like a bad-ass dad, too!

The dialogue was a little odd. Ido is “Mr. Explainy-pants” and it’s as clunky as you would expect for having to explain a future dystopian world that was also originally an anime to you, the viewer. On another note, bad guys would tease Alita during a fight like how they would in a video game, and there were a bunch of oddly-put lines. The thing is, I didn’t really care that much by the end of the movie, because it’s not that kind of movie either.

The movie’s plot is very simple: Alita is a girl in a world. The girl is fun and you root for her to succeed, closer to how you root for Superman. She always wants to do the right thing. The world is well thought-out and you understand how it works as much as Alita has to know, which is the tried and true way of introducing new worlds to audiences through characters.

Alita: Battle Angel shines in the action and it’s a heavily stylized movie. Robert Rodriguez is good at showing action and James Cameron is good as visuals and world-building. Those are my favorite parts of movies and I was thoroughly enjoyed.

Now let’s go deeper. I have not read the manga but I have seen the Anime, which covers about one third of the movie. As far as the movie goes it is very faithful to the source material. It left out a few things but also it filled in key things that the anime left out. (I’m sure it was in the manga, but I’m not talking about that). For example, If you remember my review of the anime, I mentioned that it wasn’t clear how Ido and Shireen knew each other. It is now.

On the other hand, there were some odd choices of where some revelations were put, especially when compared to the anime. Like, they cut out Hugo’s back story and his real reason for wanting to go to “Zolem”. Also, in the anime there was more emphasis on a serial killer roaming about and we find out who it is near the end during an impactful moment. In the movie, it’s kinda just shown who it is really early on and I think it would have been way better if that scene was cut, especially because the music is all dramatic when the killer is “revealed” the second time.

People are hating on the movie because it “sets itself up for a sequel”, but I disagree. The movie has a clear beginning, middle, and end. There are a few loose ends but I don’t see how that’s different from A New Hope or the first Lord of the Rings? I understand the feelings here, but I still disagree in this case. Regardless, I really hope that this gets a full trilogy and when you watch all three, it tells a full narrative and that feeling of “sequel baiting” disappears.

Let's address the eyes again. If you still think that Alita has big eyes because anime has big eyes, then you still don’t get it. The eyes play two distinct roles in Alita’s character. First, it emphasizes how she sees the world from a newly born, literally doe-eyed perspective. That’s why it’s just her with the big eyes and not everyone. Second, it’s a very subtle reminder that no matter how you feel for Alita, she still is a cyborg. She may not look all scrappy, like all the other cyborgs, but you still can’t help from feeling that she is one, too. You start to feel for her, but she’s never a “self-insert” character. You always know that she is her own character, even when you get used to the eyes. Maybe you didn’t pick up on that, but your brain did.

In the end, I was thoroughly enjoyed and can’t wait to watch it again. This is undoubtedly the best anime adaptation to film yet and I am very proud of you, James Cameron. Good job!

(Please work on this, and not Avatar.)

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