Review: Battle Angel Alita 5/5 stars

mv5bnzvhmjcxyjytotvhos00mzq1lwfintatzmy2zmjjnjixmjllxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyntc5otmwotq40._v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_I have not seen a movie aimed at adults, in an actual theater, in over a decade. Alita: Battle Angel broke my movie fast because I was a huge fan of the manga.

It was marvelous.

I can’t judge the movie from the perspective of someone who has seen every last Marvel installment, nor one who hasn’t read the manga. But it is visually stunning, with epic battle scenes and a philosophical core.

What does it mean to be human? Can robots be human? What about humanoid battle cyborgs? Alita is simultaneously human–a teenage girl searching for her place in this world–and inhuman–a devastating battle droid.

I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, so I’ll showcase the trailer:

Yes, she has giant anime eyes. You get used to it quickly.

I saw it in 3D, which was amazing–the technology we have for making and distributing movies in general is amazing, but this is a film whose action sequences really stand out in the medium.

The story is basically true to its manga inspiration, though there are obvious changes. The original story is much too long for a single movie, for example, and the characters often paused in the middle of battle for philosophical conversations. The movie lets the philosophy hang more in the background, (even skipping the Nietzsche.)

The movie’s biggest weakness was the main set, which was just too pleasant looking to be as gritty as the characters regarded it. There are a few other world-building inconsistencies, but nothing on the scale of “Why didn’t the giant eagles just fly the ring to Mordor?” or “how does money work in Harry Potter?”

51aam32ywvlThe movie has no shoe-horned-in political agenda–Alita never stops to whine about how women are treated in Iron City, for example, she just explodes with family-protecting violence. The plot is structured around class inequality, but this is a fairly believable backdrop since class is a real thing we all deal with in the real world. The movie does feature the “tiny girl who can beat up big bad guys” trope, but then, she is a battle droid made of metal, so Alita’s fighting skills make more sense than, say, River Tam’s.

Unfortunately, there are a few lose ends that are clearly supposed to carry into a sequel, which may not happen if all of the nay-sayers get their way. This makes the movie feel a touch unfinished–the story isn’t over.

So what’s with all of the bad reviews?

Over on Rotten Tomatoes, the critics gave the movie a 60% rating, while the movie going public has given it a 93% rating. That’s quite the split. Perhaps there are some movies that critics just don’t get, but certain fans love. But I note that other superhero movies, like Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy, received quite good reviews, despite the fact that pretty much all superhero movies are absurd if you think about them for too long. (GotG stars a raccoon, for goodness sake.)

Overall, if you like superhero/action movies, you will probably like Alita.

So why did I like the manga so much?

In part, it was just timing–I had a Japanese friend and we liked to hang out and watch anime together. In part it was artistic–Alita is a lovely character, and as a young female, I was smitten both with her cyborg good looks and the fact that she looks more like me than most superheroes. I spent much of my youth drawing cyborg girls of my own. Beyond that, it’s hard to say–sometimes you just like something.

What about you? Seen anything good, lately?

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10 thoughts on “Review: Battle Angel Alita 5/5 stars

  1. An old friend brought this up on social media last week. Never saw the manga or anime. Thought about going but didn’t and forgot about it.

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  2. I’m glad to see that I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed Alita. I think that as far as Hollywood adaptations of manga series goes, it is definitely the best that we’ve ever seen. However, I do think that there’s still room for improvement in the world of manga adaptations, and I hope we’re going to see more series come out now because of Alita’s success. However, the most that I can hope for from Alita is that it will inspire more people to start reading manga. A lot of people miss out on a ton of really well written series because they’ve never tried out manga before. For beginners, I’d definitely recommend a series like 4 Cut Hero. It has a ton of action like Alita, but it also has quite a bit of comedy, so it’s an easy read while still remaining entertaining. If you haven’t tried it out yet, I think you would probably really enjoy it!

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    • Live action Neon Genesis Evangelion when?

      Manga isn’t going to appeal to everyone, but there are a lot of good serieses out there. More general variety within it than in American comics, imo. [insert “there’s more variety within comic races than between them” joke.]

      My biggest complaint is that some of these series simply go on forever. I’d like a story to actually end sometime.

      I hope they actually get to make the sequel. The directors were correct that there was simply too much material to cram it all into a single movie.

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  3. My 20-year-old son and I liked the movie very much. My wife didn’t, thought it was cheesy. I haven’t figured that out yet. Maybe Alita’s combination of strength, honor, and femininity is particularly attractive to males.

    This is my favorite superhero movie in recent memory, second only to Guardians of the Galaxy. I’m burned out on superhero movies; they’re pretty much all the same now. I saw this one on your recommendation.

    What exactly was “The Fall”? Did Martians or another alien race conquer Earth? If so, where are the conquerers? All up in the floating city? If that’s all they gained, why bother? (Alita is supposedly imbued with Martian technology.) Why was Alita dumped as trash? Because she was beaten and broken in battle?

    -Steve

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    • I’m glad you enjoyed it. I always worry when writing a review that I’ll accidentally mislead someone into spending money on something they’ll hate.

      Good questions. (I talk more about the plot in my most recent post.) I suspect the Martians lost the war. Zalem is the winner, at least in this part of the solar system. Alita at that point was just the broken corpse of a defeated enemy, so there was no one around to bother finding her and take her home to Mars for repairs.

      In general, I guess “robots beating up other robots” is a genre that appeals more to males, though Alita seems a bit more more female-oriented than most superheroes.

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