Battle Angel (2019): A Quick Review…
Alita Battle Angel is a live action film based on the anime and manga of the same name.
Set low. I really was hoping this was going to be good, but my expectations weren’t high.
Let me put it this way, I really, really had a good time watching this film. All of the action love that Robert Rodriguez injected into his early films like Desperado and From Dusk Til Dawn is right there on the big screen. It’s loud and blasting with energy. It’s almost like producer James Cameron was able to help him laser focus on the action aspect of the film. It doesn’t quite have the wacky edge that the action in some of this earlier films though. He seriously does not disappoint in the action at all. I mean it isn’t John Wick, but it blows Ghost in the Shell out of the water.
Actually, there is a serious John Wick link to this movie… Between this and Ghost in the Shell, Ghost just didn’t quite get it together to the level that this one did. Alita worked where Ghost didn’t. By the way, the breaks between the action scenes were just the right length for you to catch your breath and get ready for the next one. There wasn’t an overloading of action. Trust me when I say the action rocks, and it’s worth the price of admission alone.
ALITA BATTLE ANGEL:
Alita Battle Angel is based on Yukito Kishiro’s manga Gunnm (gun dream). For me, this is the best anime to live action translation I have seen. Sure this movie has a serious problem. Although it doesn’t make it “bad,” it certainly throws a bit of a disappointing wrench into things. It certainly is now one of my favorite anime/manga cross-overs into live action. A real budget helped. It had the extra to go just a little farther than earlier ones. It could push the limits on the effects, action, quality of acting, etc that they couldn’t. To be honest, after seeing this, I finally have hope that Akira can be made into a quality live action film.
UNCANNY VALLEY AVOIDED:
One thing that this film had in its favor is the fact that the cyborgs are not “real”. There are moments where the CG doesn’t completely work, but because it’s on creatures that aren’t “human”, it doesn’t come across so badly. Overall it’s really passable in this area as a result. I think that’s the most important aspect of this, that because of that separation the uncanny valley doesn’t get stepped in.
When the CG isn’t perfect, there is something in the back of your mind that just reminds you that they aren’t real, so it’s OK. The majority of the borgs look really cool. Some of the borgs in the Motorball scenes look a bit overdone, but the majority of them are pretty cool looking. The girl in the red hood is particularly striking, and Alita’s transformations and upgrades over the course of the film have meaning, and show her growth.
This was an action movie with a lot of CG based characters, but that doesn’t mean that the actors who portrayed them didn’t didn’t really work out well. I have to say that they all really pulled it off. The acting is really what makes the difference between an action movie that is OK, and one that really works. Frankly, this one really works.
She was great as usual. I mean she has always kind of been a stand out for me: Once Upon A Time In America, Phenomena, Labyrinth, The Rocketeer, Dark City, Soider-Man: Homecoming, etc, etc. She totally fit correctly in her role, and did a great job.
When he’s placed in the right role is such an outstanding actor. I think sometimes he is mis-cast, but this time his casting was nailed. He seemed perfect for the role, and he seemed to have had a great time working on it.
She brought the right energy to Alita. Part of the reason this movie worked overall (even with its flaws) is her level of performance. Getting to see the post featurettes after the movie really helped to drive home how important she was to making the character work. The advances that have been made in CG allow her character to come to life.
JACKIE EARLE HALEY:
He represents one of the major reasons this movie works. Even though he does not have the largest role, the support that he provides brings a real threat to the film. I mean his voice work alone brings a great creepy factor to his role, and the way his character is presented on screen follows up with that. He is the one threat that Alita genuinely has to overcome in the film, and he embodies every aspect of that.
There is no moment at which you don’t think that he is dangerous. It is seriously hard to believe that this is the same person who was in The Bad News Bears or Breaking Away.
He makes an appearance. This might not seem like such a big deal, and it isn’t, except for his appearance in Lawnmower Man and Body Parts. They are both, in a way, linked to the general story of the film. Both those films sort of lead the way into virtual reality and other body parts films that create the base for Alita.
Overall, the supporting cast, and the way they are presented do a great job in adding the right flavor and spice to the film. They make the world feel real.
THE TRAILERS/MARKETING MATERIALS:
OK, so thinking back on it, the trailers actually show a lot of spoiler-y information in the film. It isn’t anything that ruins the film, because with all the action on the screen, everything else kind of takes second fiddle to it. I mean a lot of the things that go on in the film, are things that you see coming. That being said, there is something about even though you know a certain plot point is going to happen in a film, you don’t end up caring because the way in which it is set up, and ultimately occurs is really good.
Spoiler: for instance, you know Alita is eventually going to get the sword, but when she finally does, you are like, yeah, yeah even though I knew that was coming, that was totally cool. I mean a story point done right, even if you know it, is so much stronger than one that fails, even if you didn’t see that coming. If you want to cheer a little even when you know something is going to happen, you know they did it right. And they did. A lot.
THE PROBLEM (SPOILER!):
These guys went out on a limb making this movie. Over the last few years, there have been a few big movies made on basically unproven properties here in the USA: Ghost in the Shell, Valerian, etc. They didn’t really work out. Ghost in the Shell wasn’t bad (not amazing either), but Valerian just seemed like a bunch of video games cut scenes stitched together.
So the ending totally sets up a sequel, but it doesn’t stop at the right moment. The movie was feeling really long. Like, you say to yourself, “I know I’ve been here for like an hour and a half already”, and certain things that should have happened haven’t happened yet.” Well,.it ends, and is basically a “complete” film, and I use that term pretty, OK very loosely, but a second film is so set up. It is so set up, that this film doesn’t feel done. Here’s the deal: if you knew part two was coming out next year you would already be jazzed for it. You’d be like, “let me by my ticket now!” Instead, it’s a half baked ending, that although completes the film is just like “What????”
What makes this bad, is that I really want the next film now, but I feel like I was sort of short changed. Like there have been other films that promised a part two that never delivered: Flash Gordon, Buckaroo Banzai, Big Trouble In Little China… Yes, I am looking at you three in particular. I would pay a ton to see what you promised, but no, it doesn’t exist. This one sealed up the finale, but then didn’t promise a part two, except it did. The expectation is totally there, but the filmmakers didn’t have the guts to either just go ahead and film the second one (I soooo wish they had), or commit to it.
Instead we get what might turn out to be a bail out. The ending works, but I think it should have either ended a few minutes sooner, run an hour longer and completed the story, or gone ahead and had the second one waiting in the wings.
This is a great action movie. If you like science fiction/post-apocalyptic action films, this rocks. It’s one of those times that a “B” move got a full budget, so go enjoy the visuals and excitement that this will provide on the big screen. See this in a theater. It’s hella good.