As most of you that follow me and my blog know, I am a huge fan of anime. Recently though I am also beginning to appreciate manga a little bit more. I have been asked the question at times as to what exactly the difference is between the two. It’s quite simple really once you know it. Anime are Japanese animated movies/shows and Manga are the Japanese equivalent of comics. Often these take the shape of large and very thick books, that contain stories in a huge variety of genres. A while ago the amazing Irina wrote a wonderful post about why a certain anime she was watching worked better than it’s manga version. You can find that post right here if you are interested. Truth be told I am more of a fan of anime than I am of manga, and I don’t think that is every going to really change. But then again, some stories at times are just brought to life better in comic form, and one thing Irina and I both agreed on in the comments section of her post, was that the manga Battle Angel Alita is one of those. Created by manga artist Yukito Kishiro, Alita herself is one of my absolute favorite alltime characters. I’m currently in the middle of (re)reading the manga in a recently released deluxe version, and you can expect a review somewhere later this year for that.
James Cameron, the famed director of The Terminator and Titanic, has been wanting to bring Alita’s story to the big screen for years. In 2019 he finally succeeded at that, although not as a director but as a producer for the film. The direction of the movie was left in the capable hands of Robert Rodriguez and the film was generally received pretty positively. Alita: Battle Angel has quite a few things in common with the original story of the manga, but they also added their own things to it, to make it more appealing for the general audience. The movie takes place in the far future, the year 2563 to be exact, 300 years after a great war that is now known as The Fall. The Earth is pretty much left devastated and of the great floating cities that once dominated the planet only one remains: Zalem. While the people that live up in that great city live in wealth, the general populace left on the ground try to make a living as best they can. One day a man called dr. Dyson Ido, while searching through the rubble of the junkyard, finds a disembodied female cyborg. He is even more surprised when he finds that her human mind is still working. Ido takes her home and manages to fully repair her body. When she awakens, the girl is completely unaware of her past and who she is.
Dr. Dyson takes the girl under his care, and names her Alita. Eventually she tries her best to adjust to her new life, while at the same time trying to regain her memories. She runs into a young man called Hugo while out in the city, who she quickly befriends and becomes very attached too. But there are dark things going on in that city on the ground. A murderer runs rampant, and is killing girls, and slowly signs are beginning to point at dr. Ido. But Alita is also more than she seems, and more, much more than an innocent looking girl. Eventually Alita’s past will catch up to her, and her own life and that of her friends will hang in the balance…. The first thing which you will notice when you start watching this film is how incredibly gorgeous it all looks. The worldbuilding is really incredible, and both the backgrounds and most of the characters which are brought to life by CGI are absolutely stunning. There is a lot of labour of love that went into bringing this world to life, and it certainly shows. Alita herself is also a creation by the computer and is played by actress Rosa Salazar who really did an amazing job. It can not have been easy to play a role covered in wires and dots to be altered later by a computer. But she pulled it off and then some. As Alita is, as mentioned, really one of my alltime favorite characters, I was quite pleased by how she was represented in this film.
Alita starts off as a meek and bewildered girl, amazed at the sights and sounds around her. But when she discovers her fighting capabilities, a change comes over her and she convincingly turns into a highly skilled fighter, while still maintaining that innocence. I absolutely loved that about her character. Actor Christoph Waltz portrays dr. Ido and is one of the few characters in the film that is not enhanced by a computer. He does a great job in playing a father figure for Alita, and is honestly one heck of a terrific actor. Even though he tries to look out for his creation, and protect her as best he can, he also knows at the same time that she probably doesn’t really need his help in the first place. It’s hard to come to terms with for him, especially when you find out more about his background. Love interest Hugo, played by the relatively unknown Keean Johnson is a charismatic character that is hard not to like, and his role is decent enough. Oscar winning actors Jennifer Connelly and Mahershala Ali played the villain roles, although in the case of Jennifer villain might be too harsh of a word. Honestly Ali’s part was the role that had the least bit of depth to it, and I really didn’t find myself caring about his character Vector. Which when it comes to the part of a villain can become a bit of a problem, as honestly he simply wasn’t evil enough to truly hate him. It was just a really flat role.
On the action front this movie truly shines. A scene in the later part of the movie, where Alita takes part in the futuristic sport called Motorball is one of the highlights and truly a feast for the eyes. But Alita’s numerous fights against a couple of evil cyborg villains are also very much worth the watch. It’s on the side of the story where the movie takes a stumble. It really takes a backseat, and the film instead focusses more on the action than in trying to tell a story. Which is also why some of the more emotional scenes in the film don’t really land at times, and that of course is a bit of a shame. Alita Battle Angel is still a highly enjoyable science fiction epic, which you can enjoy even if you are totally unfamiliar with it’s source material. As a fan of the manga I can say that I was pretty satisfied for the most part. While I felt the story could have been handled a little bit better, the special effects, action and the character of Alita herself more than compensated for that. In fact I would go so far as to say that the whole reason this film works so well in the first place is Alita. And that’s a pretty big compliment on the part of the actress as well as the people behind the computer that in the end created her.
I give Alita: Battle Angel a 8 out of 10 score.