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Alita: Battle Angel


‘…a vastly superior product…’

Alita: Battle Angel was a much anticipated James Cameron/ Robert Rodriguez manga adaptation that became a lot less anticipated after missing several release dates. Shifted from summer 2018 to Christmas and then to Feb 2019, it’s stuttering release feels right for a project that was in development for nearly 20 years. The team behind Alita seemed to have little confidence that this $200 million film would have made a dent in the packed pre-Covid Xmas market that year, but it would be a shame to write off Alita because of the delay; it’s actually quite a mind-blower.

Most comic book adaptations come from an ancient IP (Batman, Superman and so on are all from the 40’s and 50’s) and the world is usually male-dominated, violent and tediously All-American in outlook. Alita is none of these things, a comparatively recent Japanese comic (Yukito Kishiro’s  Gunmn) with a strong female main character and a twisted dystopian world-view. Alita (Rosa Salazar) starts out as a girl soldier’s head, attached by a scientist (Christoph Waltz) to the limbs of his dead daughter. Alita sets out to train up as a bounty hunter to discover her true self, but gets dismantled by authority-figure villains (Mahershala Ali and his henchman Ed Skrein) only to be reborn in battle-angel’s armour.

After showing off her moves in a mad Rollerball sports tournament, Alita sets out after those who wronged her to extract revenge, with a little romance on the side. Although the teenage boy that Alita falls for is typical Rodriquez hero, complete with bandana, this is very much Cameron’s vision, with Terminator-style mechanical creatures running amok and a healthy cynicism about technology running alongside an amazing production design.

Best of all is Alita, with her massive eyes, looking kind of like a manga teenagers dream of Aubrey Plaza, kicking ass and taking names. Grey-beards and old fogeys won’t care for it it, but if you can get your head around the fresh (for cinema) sci-fi concepts, Alita is strong, thoughtful fare, rendered in ground-breaking style. It’s a shame that the fan-boys who wet themselves over antiquated IP probably will never give this kind of thing a chance; much like the character in the film, Alita is a vastly superior product, and Cameron’s recent suggestion (Jan 2023) of further adventures for the character is welcome.


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  1. Didn’t enjoy this at the time. It was neither one thing nor the other and the whole dystopian world/bits of body had been done before. I agree the CGI was good but the movie felt hollow.

  2. I think not for me. TBH I wasn’t a fan of Avatar, it was all very pretty and groundbreaking CGI stuff I’m sure, and I guess the bash-you-over-the–head eco warrier theme was worthy, it just didn’t do it for me. I know I’m going to have to sit through the 3 1/2 hrs of the new one as Phil wants to see it, but I’m not olding out much hope for feeling any different about it.

  3. Oh, fans watched this! They probably just didn’t like it. And I’m not surprised. Most anime to live action adaptations are not done true to the spirit of the anime. The director almost always seems to interject his own “vision” instead and thus makes everyone unhappy.

    I’ve never read or watched Alita, so I have no skin in the game but if it ever shows up on Prime for free I’ll probably give it a look-see.

    • I was very impressed with this film, and you know what an old fuddy-duddy I am. Would be interested to hear what you thought of this, seeing Avatar 2 gave me a bit of a notion for other James Cameron projects.

    • A movie is a movie, just because we saw some of this tech for the first time in games doesn’t make it a game. I guess I’ve decided to stop worrying and just accept that CGI is a thing…

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