Now it’s time to take a look at a big thriller film that came out a while back. The trailers for Alita always looked like a lot of fun. It definitely had a solid budget behind it and the story looked to be on point as well. You just couldn’t go wrong with this one or so I thought. As I watched the film I was pretty happy with how it turned out. The movie was easily at the level of an 8 star movie and it’s safe to say that this would automatically put it as one of the greatest Sci-Fi films of all time. Unfortunately then the film jumped the shark with one critical scene that shot itself right in the foot. It’s a shame but at least I can still have a lot of hype for the sequel now since it’s unlikely that it would do the same plot point again. I mean…it better not because that would just be terrible writing!
So the film starts off with a scientist named Dyson finding a broken robot in the junkyard. He repairs her and names the girl Alita. She doesn’t know where she came from or anything like that but she seems to have a talent for fighting. Dyson warns her not to get into trouble but in this corrupt future that’s a tall order. She meets up with a guy named Hugo who quickly takes her to the rowdier spots in town and she also notices Dyson heading off on one of his bounty hunter missions. The more Alita finds out, the less content she is with just observing. She aims to fix this future if it’s the last thing she does.
Lets quickly get some background on this future. There are two main areas of society. Those who live in the air and are considered high class, and then you’ve got the guys on the ground who struggle to survive. The only change you have of ever getting to the rich zone is through Motorball. If you become the grand champion then you will be elevated. Everyone else makes money however they can. It’s a brutal world where you can be murdered just about anywhere. There are no cops anymore and the black market is right out on the open. You’ve got gangs who go around ripping people up and seeing off their mechanical parts. So, no place is really safe which is why I have issues with Dyson not helping Alita get combat ready. Even if he didn’t want her to get in danger, wouldn’t he feel better if she was at least in a super safe body with extra durability?
So lets talk about all of the things the film does right first. The special effects here are quite solid. The battle scenes are all excellent. Right when Alita takes down the thugs in the alleyway you know the rest of the film is going to be a blast. There’s a lot of great choreography here. I also think a good amount of it was probably borrowed from Spider-Man with the poses and landing techniques as well. It all moves very quick with a solid back and forth during each battle. These feel like battles inspired by a manga and definitely hold their own as some of the best live action fights I’ve seen in a long time. You don’t really see this kind of action outside of CBM’s usually so you’ve always got to savor the genre while you can. If we get more manga adaptions like this it shouldn’t even be such a rare thing. This is what a DBZ fight could turn into down the road.
The graphics are so good that a lot of scenes from the film look like they’re straight out of a CGI film. During the whole movie Alita always looked CG although I suppose to an extent that’s because of the edits they did to the face. It reminds me of those phone apps where you take a picture of yourself and get an anime look. The main character looks like that process was done to her throughout the whole film. Mix that in with the interesting sci-fi backdrops and I wouldn’t have been surprised if you told me that the whole film was real locations that were digitized and this was low key a CGI film all along. It’s all pretty surreal and unique which works out quite well here.
Battle Angel Alita also makes the most of the sci-fi backdrop. This may be a pretty grim future but at least we kept the tech this time around as opposed to those futures where everything is back to the wild west for some reason. I also liked the Motorball sport. My only question though is if you’re fast enough to get to the lead, once you have the ball shouldn’t you be able to just race to the finish? It seems like whenever someone would grab the ball then the others would suddenly catch up. All I can think of is the ball is that heavy or when you grab it you feel a lot of pressure so you go a lot slower. Regardless, it’s a pretty fun sport. Definitely high stakes since you can get wrecked at any point but I suppose that’s part of the point.
I wouldn’t say I can recall many of the tunes here but I remember them being solid while watching the film. Then we’ve also got a very strong main character in Alita. What I like about Alita is that she’s very quick to jump into action. She doesn’t back down when it gets dangerous and also doesn’t hesitate. Her scene in the alley was pretty powerful as she took down the 3 enemies who stood in her way. When you consider that she had no memories at the time and this was her first fight after being rebuilt, it was pretty courageous of her. You can tell that she makes for a dependable ally. My favorite scene for her was in the bar though when she challenges everyone to stand up or to stay as cowards. She delivered quite a lot of damage to all of them there and I liked this confident portrayal of her character. She started out strong and ended strong. Alita’s not a main heroine you’ll be forgetting anytime soon.
It’s not surprising that the film had such great positives. As I mentioned, it was on track for an easy 8. So where did it falter? Well, there’s one scene where a dog shows up and the instant that happened I had a lot of warning bells go off. Unfortunately the villain decides to target him and the heroes all sit on their hands and just allow it to happen. The film tries to minimize the damage by having the dog murdered off screen but it’s still a rather vicious scene and one that was undeserved. We didn’t need this to happen and it also doesn’t make any sense in context since Alita should have been able to block the attack. It’s not like she needed any extra motivation either. No matter how you slice it, this was just for shock value and it completely destroyed the film’s score with a massive 3 point swing.
The writing is pretty good otherwise though. The film decides to go edgy with one line Alita has, but otherwise there’s a good script here. One scene that was unintentionally funny though was the big villain meeting. So you’ve got Grewishka, Chiren, and Vector all in the same room. Up to now we can assume Vector is the leader. Well, he comes in talking really tough and intimidating Chiren so Grewishka threatens Victor…by saying that Chiren shouldn’t be messed with. Vector then feels the fear as Chiren threatens him and hit the ground…then he gets up and threatens Chiren so she backs off. The whole thing had me doing a double take because then who is the boss? Well, once Vector’s eyes started to light up then it all made sense so the scene quickly has more context since this happens right after that but otherwise it was worth a good chuckle.
There’s a little more detail to this at the end of the film. I wouldn’t say that either Chiren or Vector made for particularly solid villains though. Chiren made her choices but ultimately couldn’t live with them which doesn’t make a lot of sense. Then you have Vector who’s not exactly the smartest villain around. His plans weren’t terrible I suppose but you’d think that he could have acted a lot sooner once he knew where Alita was. He basically gave her complete freedom until it was too late. I did like Grewishka and Zapan as villains though. Grewishka was definitely determined and managed to put up a solid fight multiple times. While he was critical in destroying the film, as an antagonist he was pretty fierce.
Then you have Zapan who is rather weak to be honest but he was really solid in the scene where Alita beats the guy up. Look, he’s super petty but that’s part of what makes him a fun villain to have around. He gets off extremely easy all things considered though. I just don’t get it. Alita should have taken him out a whole lot sooner so what happened to Hugo was really her fault to an extent. She needed to be more decisive even if he was terrible at explaining things himself. I also liked the lady villain who fought Alita in the android because she had a good amount of confidence but she didn’t exactly last very long.
I had some problems with Dyson though. Again, the guy didn’t do much to protect Alita in this crazy world. He should have prepared her with the new armor right away and taught her more. Why be surprised when she starts rebelling with how restrictive he was right? Then there’s Hugo who is one of the weakest characters in the film. He’s a total villain for a large chunk of it and the romance is pretty weak. Hugo and Alita shouldn’t have connected and even by the end it’s hard to really sympathize with the guy. He always makes the wrong calls again and again. He was definitely holding her back.
Battle Angel had quite the body count though. You may be surprised at how many people get sliced apart. The film’s not super violent or anything as they’re robots a lot of the time and even when a human gets sliced in half the camera quickly cuts away. Still, the deaths tend to happen very quickly and without warning so it can catch you off guard if you’re not ready. It really shows how this world is so dangerous and why you need to be careful. If you don’t have cool robot abilities then you probably should hide at home because it seems like going outside is pretty much rolling the dice. There are just so many crazy abilities to watch out for and a human stands no chance. In a way you want to turn into a cyborg as soon as possible because then at least you have a chance to defend yourself.
Overall, Battle Angel Alita is a very fun movie. You’ll have a blast for about 95% of it. I can’t stress enough how unfortunate the whole dog thing was. It was just not needed but it is what it is. I’d recommend checking this film out if you like Sci-Fi action. There’s a lot of that to be had here and all of the technicals are at a super high level. This is a film with masterful pacing and you are unlikely to find a better Sci-Fi around right now. That said, I have a lot of confidence that the sequel will be just as good. After seeing the hype ending to Tokyo Drift I wasn’t expecting another ending to be quite on that level for a while but this one is also very good. Definitely gets you hyped the right way.