Movie Review: Alita – Battle Angel (3D, Spoiler Free.)
After checking out the IMAX 3D Premier of Alita, I can confidently say: Robert Rodriguez got it right.
Alita is out after ten years of production hell and a three month delay to tweak certain elements. Usually those bode ill for a film. Thankfully, Robert Rodriguez’ adaptation of Alita- Battle Angel delivers the goods and was well worth the wait.
Battle Angel is a property near to my heart: I fell in love with the early 90’s animated adaptation on VHS, and devoured the manga by Yukito Kishiro. I wanted this film to turn out great. Having seen the early premier in 3D, I’m happy to report that Alita shines on the big screen, and for more reasons than just its jaw dropping visuals.
Alita – Battle Angel (2019)
Doc Ido (Christoph Waltz), a brilliant cybernetic doctor living in Scrap Iron City, discovers the upper half of a young female cyborg. Despite the damage, she is alive, and possessed of advanced tech that hints that she may be older than she appears. Rebuilt and renamed Alita, the young woman (Rosa Salazar) seeks to uncover her past. After a brush with danger awakens memories of a deadly martial arts, she becomes a bounty hunter, protecting the innocent while chasing the ghosts of her past.
Early reviews are praising Battle Angel’s visuals and I can see why. The extensive CG that brings Alita and many denizens of Scrap Iron City to life is top notch. Every little detail is immaculate: the texture of her skin, the way her hair moves, how she interacts with water and wind. You can even see the tiny hairs in her nose when she’s in her coma, and her tongue looks natural when she yawns. Much was made of her large eyes, but they’re not distracting in the moment and add a ton of emotional expressiveness to her character.
They didn’t just spend all the money on Alita either. The rest of the motely crew of cyborgs is the same. Villainous Zapan (Ed Skrein) and Grewishka (Jackie Earle Haley) are expressive and reinforce their character tropes with their bodily movements. The minor characters all display a high level of polish and feel natural, even when their body types are far from human.
More Than a Tech Demo.
Alita is more than just pretty rendering and expensive tech. The human element shines through, especially in the love story between Alita and Hugo (Keean Johnson) a young man trying to scrape together enough money to escape the dystopian city. There’s a nice chemistry between the two characters, and Alita’s expressive features enhance their interactions. Fans of the manga know that their story is a giant fulcrum for the series, and Robert Rodriguez does it justice here.
Similarly, there is a nice emotional tension between Waltz and Salazar, as they navigate a pseudo father-daughter dynamic that eventually involves Jennifer Connelly’s character. While the visual spectacle is always in the forefront, Battle Angel doesn’t neglect to tell a human story about longing and belonging.
In the 3rd Dimension.
The implementation of 3D in Alita – Battle Angel is done well. It doesn’t just throw things at the screen to get cheap thrills. The setting and shot composition comprehensively incorporates the technique. There’s always something in the foreground and background that gives depth to the shot in subtle ways. In the big action sequences, the settings come to life. I’m interested in seeing the film again in 2D just to see if those scenes have as much heft and dynamic force without the added layers of visuals.
I thoroughly enjoyed Alita – Battle Angel. For fans of the series, it brings to life the dark and twisted dystopia of Kishiro’s work (in surprising ways, given it’s PG-13 rating.) The characters feel true to the material, and the stories are adapted in such a way that the emotional core remains while certain bits are elided for narrative clarity. For fans of sci-fi/fantasy action films, Alita is one of the best I’ve seen in while. The ideas and tropes may not be as fresh in 2019 as they were when Kishiro dreamed them up in 1990, but they still resonate in the right places.
Robert Rodriguez brings his story to the screen with gorgeous visuals and visceral action sequences, leveraging the best of current tech. With so much material, he does a deft job of bringing casual fans into the world. There’s a bit of verbal exposition that is clunky, but the heart of the story comes through loud and clear. I’m thrilled with the final product, and hopeful that new fans will get to enjoy Alita’s journey on the big screen.