This was a pretty fun movie. I went in with mixed expectations. Half of me hoped it would be a ‘kick-ass anime based’ movie, while the other half was worried about a forced emotional metaphors injustice (like many futuristic films starting cyborgs). What I received was a pretty great blend of the two. The 2019 film, directed by Robert Rodriguez and produced by James Cameron, is based on of an anime with the reversed name “Battle Angel Alita”. I specifically went and saw the 3D version of this movie in theaters, I can honestly say that any person who is interested in that format should go and see this movie. The cinematic quality is some of the best I have seen in years.
The artists, art directors, production designers, special effects and visual effects departments worked their fucking asses off for this one. Those credits are rarely the most known or glamorous, but those heroes are why I loved this movie. There are a lot of qualities to this film but the greatest by far is the computer graphics; it’s damn near awe-inspiring. Everything from the fast motion complex fight scenes to the soft and subtle twitches in the facial muscles are perfect. Alita is a testament to what the technology film departments are using today and what they can accomplish. In one specific scene, the main character Alita and a live human actress were interacting, and other than those big bugged out eyes, I couldn’t tell the difference. When a team puts that much care into the visuals you see on-screen, it makes the robot on robot fight scenes a true spectacle.
The brutal fight scenes were hinted in the trailers. Actually they were damn near guaranteed. So they set the bar pretty high for themselves, and I think they met it. I’ve been burned before on robot CG messes like Transformers, where the audience can barely tell what is even happening on-screen. Alita: Battle Angel handles it very well. Some moments I was sucked in and lost in the choreography. With this fantastical unrealistic set of characters, I got to see types of fighting that you just would never get to envision in a live action movie. For example when a man has buzz-saws for hands, or what a praying mantis style fight would look like with actual blades for hands…. okay, not everything was about what kind of weapons were replacing hands (though now that I think about it, it was a common theme). I won’t spoil it for you, but there is a very specific part I am thinking about and when you watch the “Fuck your mercy” part, you’ll know. I really do think there was a great blend with the fighting being separated throughout the film. When Alita was in danger, I was actually worried. That is how an action movie should be, not just amazing kick-ass action, but a story that gives the fighting context and purpose.
Rosa Salazar was the actress that played the model for Alita. Just because the character was composed graphically on the screen, does not rob Rose of the incredible job she did. I commended the artists for capturing her perfectly, but the original actress had to be capable of conveying those little gestures for the team to capture in the first place. The rest of the cast played their rolls. Christoph Waltz was a surrogate dad/doctor that was using Alita to fill a hole in his heart and although his character ends up being more complex, I never saw the rest of it being as believable and that base emotion. Jennifer Connelly was… in the movie. Honestly I don’t know if it was the writing or the character but she could have been played by anyone. Counter to that, Mahershala Ali, probably one of the greatest actors of the generation, kills it. I don’t understand this guy. He will take any role and make it amazing, even a cartoon villain like in this movie. There were many other recognizable cast members but I want to specifically talk about the love interest. Hugo, played by Keean Johnson, was probably the only real emotional drive for the main character. The classic “boy sees a robot girl with no memory of who she is, and immediately falls in love to an almost sickening point”. For real, he forces himself on her so fast that is grossed me out. Now that being said, once the relationship was established, it was good for the story. The two’s challenges and overall arc do not go the way you would think. And in the end, the payoff is more satisfactory than what I was anticipating. That goes for majority of the movie. All the characters and their interactions actually had me interested in the world and the lives of the people in it. That is why I was so disappointed in the ending.
I liked the film a lot, but holy shit was I frustrated with the end of it. I’m breaking my no spoiler rule; so turn away if you must. The movie ends on a cliffhanger. A pretty giant one in fact. This wasn’t even one of those ‘the individual story was wrapped up and now we can see her on her next adventure’ or an acceptable ‘it turns out someone else was the bad guy the entire time.’ No. Instead I get no closure at all. The way this world works, with the rules they placed for the limitations for life, I can’t trust anything that I saw in individual final scenes. And then they don’t answer any of the questions or plot directions! I’m getting heated just writing this. There was so much brought up and in true anime fashion I got, Next Time On Dragonball Z’d. Of course I will go see the second or even third movie, but don’t make me go into it frustrated and demanding answers.
That rant aside, I really enjoyed the first 98% of the movie. And as I said in the beginning, I very much recommend seeing it in 3D. I personally do not enjoy 3D movies for the most part. I can only count two other movies I saw in 3D that were worth the ticket price. One was the first Pacific Rim, the other was Avatar. James Cameron’s involvement on the film must have contributed in that department because this movie really utilizes the technology. Movies like this will keep the theaters alive. With more and more streaming services and original in-home content filling our lives, we need movies like this to survive The Snappening and keep the experience of sitting in those uncomfortable red chairs and eating the candy we snuck in, alive.
Movie watched and review written by: Troy Smith