Alita: Battle Angel (2019)
February 14, 2019 10:47 AM - Subscribe

A cyborg discarded from a floating city struggles to remember her past life. As she adapts to her new existence, she learns to play a sport, falls in love, and starts a career.
posted by prize bull octorok (22 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
So this wasn't perfect but I liked it. It's surely the best Battle Angel movie we were ever going to get. The main cast was great, especially Rosa Salazar, or more properly, the Salazar-adjacent human/CGI hybrid thing that played Alita. She owned that uncanny valley. I thought the giant eyes would take me out of the movie, but I got over them pretty quick.

Some of the story felt dated, which isn't surprising, because it was faithful to the (fairly dated by now) source material, for the most part. Where it diverged the most was in the timeline, rolling out flashbacks very early on and working in some other plot stuff that don't think was covered in the manga until much later. About halfway through I started to wonder if they were really going to try to cover the entire manga run in one movie (they didn't).

I liked the set and cyborg design a lot, and I'd like to give a little shout out to the extras. It seemed like a lot of effort went into making Iron City feel real and lived-in.

Anyway. Out of all the random anime videos I rented and watched a million times in the 90s, this is one of very few that has stuck with me through the years, and I was sort of terrified that I would hate this movie. I am so relieved that I did not.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:38 AM on February 14, 2019 [5 favorites]

I thought this had come out already? I seem to recall a trailer at least a year ago, possibly longer.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:41 PM on February 14, 2019

It was delayed twice (Oct - Dec, Dec - Feb I think) so it wouldn't have to compete with various franchise installments.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 8:51 PM on February 14, 2019

>So this wasn't perfect but I liked it. It's surely the best Battle Angel movie we were ever going to get.

This was my exact reaction to Del Toro's Pacific Rim. It's the best Giant Robot v. Giant Monster movie we're ever going to get.
posted by mikelieman at 4:13 PM on February 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

Fanwatch: It’s essentially a live action version of the OVA with a few later story bits pulled in.

Normieview: bright colors interspersed with some pretty graphic violence, a lot of Alita’s emotional beats don’t really feel earned/make sense (maybe director’s cut is better), Ido’s casting was pretty good.

So much of the characterization and plot are so regressive and it’s a shame there wasn’t more effort to take the core idea and really really run with it.
posted by curious nu at 7:54 PM on February 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

Ido’s casting was pretty good.

TBH, this is the first movie I've seen Christoph Waltz in since Inglourious Basterds where he didn't feel weirdly miscast. He had the exact right level of warmth-to-slight-creepiness that the character demanded, although I would have liked for him to have a bit more interaction with the Jennifer Connelly character -- it was easy to forget their relationship with everything else going on.

All in all, I really liked it even though I have only the vaguest recollection of the source material. It's a literal crime that I'm not able to download and play an officially licensed Motorball video game right now, and that's only the tip of the iceberg WRT Fox's bungling of the marketing on this movie. I feel like it could play to exactly the same audience as the big Marvel movies and such, but for some reason they didn't get out in front of it and build some awareness first.
posted by Strange Interlude at 3:08 PM on February 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

The story was pretty much a big mess but the fight scenes were well done and I liked the city even though it's now about the 45th ripoff of Bladerunner's look. There's got to be a vision of the city of the future that's not a neon-lit rain-slicked ghetto.
posted by octothorpe at 7:55 PM on February 16, 2019

I excused a lot of her emotional beats based on cyber-hormones. There's a real strong adolescence metaphor running through the movie and one of the themes is Alita's wanting to test the boundaries of her newly-remembered abilities vs Ido's rational concern vs Alita's naivety vs Ido's projection of his daughter onto the robot girl he just found.

Anyway I quite liked this. It's dopey but coming-of-age stories are like catnip to me, and this one's in a very 80s dystopia with enough moving parts that it's always got something new to get to.
posted by Merus at 8:54 PM on February 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

I saw it last night. Visually pretty stunning, but even if I hadn't known it was taken from much more extensive source material, I could have guessed. There were like four or five plots going on, and the ending might as well have had "SEQUEL HOOK" blinking in giant neon. I enjoyed it, but I'm glad I only paid half-price.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:47 AM on February 18, 2019

I'm not sure why I'm still thinking about this movie since it doesn't really deserve a whole lot of pondering but the tonal shifts in it are so jarring that it feels like they either filmed a three hour movie and cut it down to two or maybe just wrote a much longer story and only filmed two hours of it. It's sad how badly James Cameron's skills as a screenwriter have degraded since at least T2; his work used to be both economical and just so quotable while this feels both bloated and anonymous.
posted by octothorpe at 4:40 AM on February 18, 2019

Less practice, surely. He averages a film every five years, by this point he's probably forgotten a lot of what he knew during writing T2.
posted by Merus at 3:55 PM on February 19, 2019

It's been 9 years since Avatar and that was 13 years after Titanic, it's a lot more than five years between films.
posted by octothorpe at 6:26 PM on February 19, 2019

If you could hook the movie's fight scenes and characters up with a well told, complete story, then Alita might have been an enjoyable watch.
posted by rdr at 1:03 AM on February 22, 2019

I don't want to diminish a film with a strong female lead that actually got to be the hero and rescuer for once but all I could think the whole time was "grimdark Astro Boy"*

*I have only seen the 2009 film and approximately the first 10 episodes of the original anime
posted by brook horse at 8:21 PM on February 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

I went in with pretty low expectations and was surprised with how fun it was. It felt very much of a piece with Ready Player One: basically a video game, broadly telegraphed cliched emotional plot points, nonsensical backstories. But for me this held together better. Maybe it was having a female lead who was discovering herself. I kept whispering to her: "Honey, you can do better than Hugo," and I kind of cheered when he bit it. The fights were actually well choreagraphed and fun. I tend to hate big superhero CGI fights, but these were the best I've seen and I never looked at my watch during them. I'm not sure why at this point you have cameras and actors for a film like this: the whole thing felt more like a Pixar gig than live-action. I laughed when the credit rolled by: Filmed in the state of Texas.
posted by rikschell at 2:27 PM on February 24, 2019 [4 favorites]

Just watched it today. The pacing was definitely off towards the end and I felt that much more effort should have been put into the writing of the secondary characters. However, I still loved it because it was Robert Rodriguez on a James Cameron budget told to go make live-action anime—who could refuse that? The visuals and world design are impeccable with judicious use of 3D, the battle and sports scenes are great, and Rosa Salazar's performance is very good.

It's not the best movie that I've ever seen, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and was happy I spent the money to do so. That's good enough for me.
posted by redct at 6:54 PM on February 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

I agree with my partner's assessment: Needs fewer stray-dog boyfriend/father-figures. Needs more cyber roller derby, with actual teams of people caring for each other.

But there are much, much worse comic book movies getting bigger box office out there.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 1:34 PM on February 25, 2019

I've been reading the manga for like 20 years, and rereading, so I figured this would let me down in some way. But I feel like they got the important stuff right! They toned down the gore a lot, but that wasn't problem -- I was a little worried at the start of the movie when I noticed that a number people had brought their young children, but the skull cracking wasn't as graphic as it could have been.

Yukito Kishiro's sci-fi world is so messy and crowded and bonkers I hope we get some sequels and explore more of it. Nova is just about my favorite fictional character and I'm interested in seeing Ed Norton try to capture his bizarre coolness.

Also, I love how it's the 27th century and there are background extras wearing tank tops and cargo shorts and shit you would by at a contemporary mall.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 8:33 AM on March 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Until he took his glasses off, I was 80% sure Nova was played by Chris Elliot. Which would have been great.
posted by jjwiseman at 9:07 PM on July 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Not...bad? I watched it this evening to make sense of the lukewarm-positive reaction from critics, and now I get it. It's...not bad. Fine. Good enough. Better than a lot of movies!

(I'm sooooooo boooored. Lockdown sucks. Social distancing sucks. I'm going to go crazy and it's only been a WEEK. I bet sky cities are fucking boring. Everyone is trapped in dense real estate situation in the sky! I bet that sucks. Everyone is a cyborg in Alita because the human body is TRASH.)

Anyway, I agree with the lukewarm critics, Alita is better than the second-rate MCU films (Iron Man 2, Thor 2, most of the Avengers movies) and people like me should've given it a chance.
posted by grandiloquiet at 8:45 PM on March 17, 2020 [4 favorites]

Just watched this. I quite enjoyed it, even though large chunks didn’t make sense. Robert Rodriguez is an ace at presenting the absolute craziness of manga and anime as seriously as they it takes itself, and making it work.

My two main problems:

1) There was no point where having giant anime eyes excused the unforgivable sin of replacing an excellent actor with an uncanny valley monstrosity. I just watched Frozen 2 and I swear it was better at animating a realistic character than this, and it wasn’t even trying. Hell, Rosa Salazar was totally rotoscoped in the Amazon series “undone” and it was less distracting than what they did here.

2) Apparently the version I watched didn’t come with the ending? It ended with Alita becoming a motorball Star and pointing her sword at The floating city and by extension Nova, but this version didn’t include the whole third act in which she actually gets to the floating city and confronts Nova. Oh well.
posted by ejs at 11:16 PM on March 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm way behind but just saw this, with friends (virtually, talking via discord while watching synchronized). It was a very enjoyable experience, because friends and riffing. It was a complete mess of a movie (hence, fun with friends).

Multiple times someone said something to the effect of, "wait, did we miss 30 minutes of this movie?", because not only are most of the plot beats not earned, many aren't even introduced. Something will happen that's clearly a resolution to a plot point, except that plot point has not previously appeared in the movie -- you're just supposed to know it was a thing because it's such an obvious, generic element that the film assumes you can fill in the gap mentally.

I'm guessing if you're familiar with the source material it might make some sense. As it is, it's some interesting action scenes surrounded by a plot that frequently feels like it was accidentally pasted in out of order.

It seems pretty clear to me that the only way to make this really work well would have been either to cut down the source material to fit one movie, or actually commit to 2-3 movies and not try to cram so much into just the one. What we got instead was as if they had scripts for a trilogy and then randomly sampled half of the first two movies and jumbled that together into this, which is a movie that ends after a last second time jump/montage that by all rights should have been the 2/3 point of the story.

So yeah. This is a big ol' mess of a movie. It's not without charm, but I am not surprised it didn't land well and I'm not sure it works as a complete movie for anyone who isn't already bought into the original property it is based on.
posted by tocts at 5:50 PM on April 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

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