“Alita: Battle Angel” is directed Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Spy Kids), written and produced by the critically acclaimed James Cameron (Avatar, Titanic) and stars Rosa Salazar (Parenthood, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials), Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained, Spectre), Mahershala Ali (Green Book, Moonlight), Ed Skrein (Game of Thrones, Deadpool), Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children, A Nightmare on Elm Street), and Keean Johnson (Nashville, The Fosters). This film takes place in the year 2563, or 300 years after a massive war between planets leading to Earth’s devastation. When the film starts, we see a scientist assemble a girl who clearly has a consciousness but has no memory of major events that happened in the past. With that in mind, she decides to go on a journey to recover her memories.
This movie, to me, had a very bumpy road up until its official release. Word of mouth about it in terms of its development has been spoken since we hit the 21st century. At the turn of a new millennium, Fox registered the rights to the domain battleangelmovie.com and James Cameron registered the rights to battleangelalita.com, who has said for years that this film is in progress. He was going to do it after the production of the TV series “Dark Angel,” but he didn’t get to it. He wanted to get the thing done after the film “Aliens of the Deep,” once again, he didn’t get to it. After all, Cameron’s biggest priority during the late 2000s was “Avatar,” mainly because he wanted to bring awareness of environmental preservation to public audiences, which to be fair, is a pretty good reason to focus on a movie like that. Well, in addition to raking in over $2 billion at the box office… In August 2010, over a year and a half after “Avatar’s” release in theaters, Cameron stated he wanted to work on the “Alita” film, but he is having trouble getting around to it. Then came 2013, where Cameron happened to be in an interview with director Alfonso Cuarón (Roma, Gravity). Cameron suggested 2017 as the time to start working on the film. Coincidentally, shooting began in late 2016. And a year before that, The Hollywood Reporter stated that Robert Rodriguez was in talks to direct the film (a confirmation to direct would be announced in 2016). Said director was supposed to “condense and combine Cameron’s 186-page screenplay and some 600 pages of notes into what could be the shooting script.”
So basically, James Cameron is approaching his “Alita” project similar to how I would approach my high school crush. I’d start out looking at her, admiring her, trying to talk to her abd say hi once or twice, get her to notice me, only til I get to the point where I either lose that crush or I think she’s too good for me.
Although, I haven’t even gotten to the trailers yet! The first trailer for “Alita: Battle Angel” released at the end of 2017, and at the time, the film was scheduled to come out in July 2018. Then, the second trailer, which came out last year in July during San Diego Comic-Con, suggested the film would be out at the end of the year in December. If you ask me, that was a terrible decision made by whoever was in charge of the release, because then the film would have to compete with other titles such as “Aquaman,” “Mary Poppins Returns,” “Bumblebee,” and more. Luckily, they made the smart choice of moving the release date once again, this time to February 2019, as suggested in a trailer for the film which came out this past November. And it seems to have worked out in the film’s favor because it ended up making over $400 million worldwide, which is more than twice the film’s budget of $170 million.
But the real question is this… How was “Alita: Battle Angel” as a movie? Was it good? Was it bad? Was it ugly? My answer, none of the above! In fact, it was awesome! Remember back in 2015 when “Mad Max: Fury Road” came out? Personally, I don’t particularly like it as much as everyone else, but I for one have grown to appreciate the flick as a visual spectacle. There are numerous thrilling action sequences, the cinematography took a lot of effort to pull off, and damn it pulled off well! And the film is filled to the brim with practical effects. There are tons of vehicles specifically built for the film, the locations fit every scene quite well, and there are a number of stunts and movements throughout the picture that are kind of brilliant when you break them down. To me, this was that, but with CGI. Kind of like “Avatar” or “Gravity” or the 2016 “Jungle Book” remake because like those films, I almost questioned how the CGI looked as polished and stunning as it did. This film is the very definition of a visual spectacle, and I’m almost surprised that I am even saying that, because when I first looked at Alita herself from the first couple of trailers, I thought she I’d be slightly offput by her appearance. Not by her body, I am not a guy who wants women’s bodies to look a certain way, but… her eyes. Honestly, they didn’t even bother me in this film, and to be honest, they made Alita stand out to me in a positive way as the film went on. It let me know of the character I happened to be looking at. After all, when we first look at Alita’s face at the start of the film, she didn’t even have eyes. The eyes we see in the film were added on.
If anything, if I had to compare “Alita: Battle Angel” to another film visually, I’d say the best example would have to be last year’s “Ready Player One,” which if you have followed this blog for some time, you may know I adored that film. Visually speaking, it was hard at times to recall if I had seen anything like it. To this day, “Ready Player One” has some of the best CGI I have seen in a film because it creates this immersive video game world that I kind of wanted to be in, especially considering how it highlights the real world and how it has gone to s*it. I don’t think I’m going to have a great 2045, I think we’re going to be super low on resources! Give me my video game world now! Much like “Ready Player One,” “Alita: Battle Angel” spends much of the runtime being rather glossy, but in its own case, it also has some grittier looking images to take a gander towards. Down in Iron City, it kind of has a similar look to Wakanda from “Black Panther,” but with more to do around the area. Then again, I don’t typically imagine many Wakandans walking down a street to sample some chocolate so who knows? Plus, there’s one part of the city scenes that captured my attention.
The introduction of motorball.
Holy s*it, I seriously don’t get how people can watch football. I can watch motorball all day every day!
Motorball: The new sport for the universe.
Now I should point out that I have never introduced myself to the original source material of “Alita.” In fact, despite calling myself a nerd, anime and manga are two of my weakest areas when it comes to following the main aspects of geek culture. So in case you cannot tell, the concept of motorball is fairly new to me. But damn, I love it. It has the physicality of hockey, although perhaps greater physicality since everyone’s occasionally trying to kill each other, not to mention the adrenaline of NASCAR. It is a sight for the eyes if there ever was one.
And speaking of awesome moments with tons of CGI, let me just point out that you all should check out “Alita” just for the action alone. There’s some creative ideas to be witnessed, and there is one character in particular who has these chain wires coming out of his arm, it reinvents the word epic. Honestly, to me, these action scenes are up there with films like “The Matrix,” “Man of Steel,” and the “Lord of the Rings” franchise of how fantastically exhilarating the action can tend to get. It almost reminds me of a video game, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. I mean that in comparison to a bunch of flashy video games where everything is eye candy and it almost makes you feel like you want to be part of the action despite the possibility of getting killed. Damn, this movie is the bomb.
But this movie is not all looks, it has some decent characters too. I was rooting for Alita the entire time, I really liked the love interest she interacted with, specifically Hugo (Keean Johnson). I bought into the chemistry Alita had with her “father” and I really liked the backstory as to how Alita got her name.
But at the same time, since I have been talking about how unbelievable this film is, it should come as no surprise that my biggest problem should have to do with the characters. This is not to say that I hated anybody in particular, I have no beef with anyone. But when it comes to the film’s antagonistic side, it almost feels as if it doesn’t exist at times. For some reason, there have been numerous moments throughout the film that make it feel as if there happens to be no real threat. Granted there is a threat, but even when there is, it almost feels like it barely has a reason to be in there. And speaking of problems, there is a moment in the film where the “father” character, Dr. Dyson Ido, establishes a couple of rules with Alita, and that conversation tends to almost go nowhere in terms of how the rest of the film plays out. Granted, it partially goes somewhere, but it never feels like it has a full reason to exist. I won’t go too far into the rules or where they tend to go, but it’s something I wanted to point out. This is slightly nitpicky, but nevertheless, I feel it is also something that is important to establish.
In the end, “Alita: Battle Angel” gave me pretty much what I wanted. It’s enormous, it’s lively, and it’s boisterous. Overall, it’s probably the biggest spectacle of the year (maybe aside from Endgame). And based on how much I enjoyed this film, it kind of makes me forget about the development and post-production problems a little bit. I watched this film on 4K Blu-ray because I wanted to provide myself with as much of a spectacle as I can. Having done that, it kind of makes me mad at myself for not going to see this in a theater. Especially in IMAX 3D. There are several moments that if you have a 7.1 surround sound system, it will make you feel like you’re inside your screen. It’s what a movie is supposed to be, an escape. And in this case, “Alita: Battle Angel” is one escape that put me in a world which I never wanted to leave. I’m going to give “Alita: Battle Angel” a 9/10. I don’t know if this film will end up being for everyone, but for me, this was Heaven. As a nerd, I found myself loving the sci-fi and fantasy elements brought to the story. And from a technical perspective, “Alita” shines as bright as the sun. Plus, you know how a lot of people are still waiting for that “excellent video game movie?” Films based on anime and manga are almost in the same league as video games. The only ones that stand out, happen to do so for not so good reasons. I have not watched “Dragonball: Evolution,” but knowing enough about it, there is enough to support why I have not watched it yet. I don’t dive into anime and manga all that much in general, but still, this movie, unlike a lot of other similar entrants to its genre, is something special. I dig it, I would love to see a sequel, and if it comes back to theaters, I am there.
Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone that I just recently watched “Missing Link,” the new animated film from Lakia. I will have a review for that up as soon as possible, be sure to stay tuned for that! Also, this upcoming weekend, I will be at Terrificon so I will not be watching anything new from Friday to Sunday. But fear not! Because I will be doing a post reporting my activities from the con! That should be up sometime next week, hope you all get a chance to read it! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! And while I cannot promise you I am sharing my epic wins from playing motorball on there, be sure to like my Facebook page! It has updates on upcoming posts, it lets you know when new content is available, and I’ll even remind people of various milestones I hit on the blog every once in a while. Check it out, please! I want to know, did you see “Alita: Battle Angel?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite fictional sport? Willing to bet most of you are going to say Quidditch, aren’t you? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!