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Alita: Battle Angel Review

Updated: Mar 29, 2019

by David Neff

Too often with manga/anime live action adaptations, we get a watered down version of a genre that is universally loved.  Instead of speaking on deep issues that can be brought through the storylines, we get a skin-deep presentation instead.  Luckily, I can say that this is finally broken with Alita: Battle Angel.  Taking the illustrating minds of producer James Cameron and the cartoonist mind of director Robert Rodriguez, Alita creates a world of class-division, theological tropes and strong action to make the titular character into the hero of the people.

Clearly, with both strong minds creating this world you get the small inputs that both creators have. With Cameron, Alita is a creature from a world beyond that is pushed by an invisible force to her destiny. Does this sound familiar from Cameron? Because from Sarah Connor becoming the mother of the messiah to Jake Sully adapting his body to become the bridge of human with Na’vi contact in Avatar, Cameron is essentially playing his best hits.  Robert Rodriguez though knows how to build an episodic adventure from his work on Sin City as well as the importance of how class hierarchy affects the people of Iron City. Rodriguez builds this through the employment of street hustle gangs, working-class miracle workers from medical clinics to street vendors. Collaborating both ideas, you can tell that there are several story arcs felt in the film as 60 volumes of stories are compiled in a just over two hour film.  Does it necessarily hurt the film? The pacing can feel slightly off but, at the end of the day, you’ll appreciate how many stories they went through to set-up a sequel.

Now I’ve never read the manga so my lack of knowledge of the characters aside from Alita will be limited but, there’s a lot to like performances given.  Christoph Waltz plays the apprehensive father figure to his creation with a bit of a nasty streak, Jennifer Connelly surprisingly brings a very cold but, important role here.  However, I must say that the talents of Mahershala Ali could’ve been explored more.  Coming off, a potential two-win Oscar roles, Ali is merely a background character that pulls the strings. When this was presented in his role as Cottonmouth from Luke Cage there was still some menace and energy drawn towards him. Ed Skrein breaking away from his Ajax (really it’s Frances) role gives him some positive screen time. What about Alita herself? Well, with the call of attention to how magnificent the CGI is here, Alita finds ways to be more human than human and it’s all thanks to the sensational Rose Salazar. While apprehensively good, it was clear that Alita needed to find ways to become the messiah. She wasn’t fully invested to it initially but, like most Cameron heroes, eventually she found a way to push through to her destiny.

Overall, if you’re looking for what should be an invested into franchise, Alita: Battle Angel will have a good overall impact. It’s easy to see that the formula still works even if the moving parts have changed but, it’s important for this movie to continue. To reflect upon Hollywood how strong stories can still be told and entire library of information in manga can become the new norm. Rating 7.0 out of 10

Recommended to see? Yes