Alita: Battle Angel
Premise - 95%
Plot - 80%
Cast - 85%
Script - 80%
Audio - 95%
Visual - 100%
With only the occasional slightly flat dialogue to complain about, Alita: Battle Angel presents a well constructed and delivered story. That, combined with action sequences that are visually excellent and superbly choreographed, make this one of the most entertaining sci-fi movies in recent memory.
“A woman’s eyes cut deeper than a knife”
– Robert Jordan
Imagine a woman with big eyes and a big knife…
I’ve got to be honest here, when the first trailer for Alita: Battle Angel came out, her eyes freaked me out a little. As a fan of anime (I haven’t really read much manga), I could get what they were going for, but something about it had me a little uncomfortable. I wondered if that aesthetic choice would detract from what seemed like an interesting, though a little familiar, premise.
I hadn’t read the manga, so I didn’t really know what to expect – except for the fact that manga doesn’t tend to translate too well to Western cinema. But I had hoped for this to be different, especially with the esteemed influence of James Cameron (Terminator 1 and 2, Avatar), Jon Landau (Avatar, Titanic) and Robert Anthony Rodriguez (the Mexico trilogy). The manga Gunnm (also known as Battle Angel Alita), by Yukito Kishiro, is the basis for the movie which is set in a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk future, following an event called The Fall. It follows the story of a young cyborg girl as she rediscovers who she is and what her destiny holds.
Rosa Salazar, who plays the titular heroine Alita, is exceptional. She captures the essence of the character perfectly: there’s a sweet, youthful naivety about her, but also a stark contrasting intensity inspired by her conviction to find out about her past. Having gone in a little unsure about her disconcertingly disproportionate eyes, I came to understand the decision early on. It works. Where I thought it would be distracting, it never was – on the contrary, it created a unique emphasis on her expressions and allowed me to connect with her emotions (I’m sorry I ever doubted you Mr. Cameron). Her supporting cast also appeared to feed off that magnified emotion, and while the tone in some areas of their conversation felt a little lacking to me, the content of their interactions did well to build the lore of their society. It’s a nice touch that you’re learning about the world at the same pace that she is.
I was really impressed by the clarity in the story-telling. Set in an authentically dense and supposedly desperate Scrapyard world, is a consistently engaging narrative that is well paced throughout. Not a scene is wasted, each feels significant for character growth and plot progression. And while parts of it did feel a little familiar at times (particularly hints of Astro-boy and Solty Rei – the latter, to be fair, came out much later than the Alita manga), it was complex and combined enough not to feel cliché. In the end, the movie felt like it could have gone on for another hour without relinquishing any immersion or the quality of story-telling.
The CGI definitely warrants a 3D viewing and while we were unable to watch it in IMAX at the pre-screening (damn you customs!), I imagine that to be the optimum experience for appreciating the cinematography. Even if you’re unable to watch it in IMAX or 3D, it is still a visually stunning movie where the cybernetic influence flourishes. In addition, the sound was great and the score created a natural atmosphere.
The stand out feature however, is the movie’s action sequences. There’s a realism in characters’ capabilities when in combat and the choreography of the fight scenes is superb. There’s also a good use of slow motion, it’s deliberate and emphasizes just when you wish it would. The combination of these leads to a level of seamless, exhilarating and unpredictable combat that I have not seen for some time. There’s no reliance on big, loud explosions, it’s all about gesture and the CGI lends itself to that – Alita’s movement is gracefully deadly. It’s fast, intuitive and just plain badass.
All in all, It’s an exciting action movie with loads of subplot in between to keep you entertained. Definitely one to check out when it officially launches on the 14th of February.