Michael Scott

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Alita: Battle Angel


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Movie: :4stars:
Video: :5stars:
Audio: :5stars:
Extras: :4stars:
Final Score: :4.5stars:



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Movie

I’m rabid Anime/Manga fan and have been for over 25 years. I started out watching 90s and 80s Anime as a high schooler, and even as a near 40 year old adult nothing is more cathartic than sitting down and watching a good anime film/manga comic/series to relax (my collection of physical anime media is enough to crack most foundations with the veritable weight). So you can naturally assume that when I heard that James Cameron was producing an adaptation of the famed “Alita” OAV and Manga (the original manga was titled “Gunnm”), AND it was directed by Robert Rodriquez (Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Desperado, Sin City). I’m not going to bore with you a massive set of differences between the anime, the manga and the movie, but sufficed to say that changes have been made to make the brutal and Cronenbergesque series into a live action (sort of, there’s more CGI than a Pixar film) extravaganza.

If I’m to be succinct, the movie takes it’s nods from the original Manga series, encapsulating the first two volumes for the film’s material (the same volumes than the 50 minute OVA anime was taken from), and sticks much closer to the manga canon. However, there are certain characters and motivations that show up in the OVA animation that weren’t in the manga, and those same pieces are blended into the live action movie as well, making Alita: Battle Angel a hybrid of both sources. The tone is changed to be a bit more palatable for a PG-13 audience (and even then, the film pushes the PG-13 violence boundary pretty hard, almost to the point where I wondered why it didn’t get an R-rating, but still NOWHERE near as dark and gory as the Manga it came from), but overall Alita: Battle Angel was a fantastically fun ride that has garnered it a 94% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and has fans clamoring for a sequel.

In the film the year is 2563, and humanity has sort of regressed a bit due to a war with their own colony of Mars that had separated from terran rule years ago. The Martians were a technoarchy, who had used technology in ways that humans had barely begun to even imagine, going so far as to put human cores inside of cybernetic bodies. The war ended with both sides basically wiping each other out, as the Martian forces suicide bombed the great floating cities of Earth and destroyed all but one of them, Zalem. 300 years later (2563) human kind spends life on the surface in abject poverty, while the ruling elite live in Zalem, floating above the masses in a rich city that flourishes while everything below starves. Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) finds the body of a cybernetic being in the trash that Zalem sends down. Putting her into a cybernetic body that he created for his dead child, the cyborg is reborn once more, this time dubbed “Alita” after Ido’s own daughter that the body was meant for.

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Confused about who she is, and with NO memory of her past, Alita (voiced and mo-capped by Rosa Salazar) begins to blend in with the rest of humanity. However, after discovering that Dr. Ido is moonlighting as a hunter warrior (bounty hunters in the frayed world of humanity) Alita’s own past starts to come back after a violent encounter with some of Dr. Ido’s “targets”. It’s obvious that Alita is not just a simple cyborg, and the harder and harder she pushes for answers, the more and more she finds out that she was destined for something so much more.

I won’t spoil some of the plot points that come up in the movie, but needless to say that the movie actually captures the essence of the Manga (and some of the Anime) surprisingly well. Anime/Manga adaptations are tough sells to the general public as they tend to be condensed and only partially intact, as long running series usually have YEARS of backstory to push into one two hour film. The movie manages to use the first two volumes of the manga rather nicely, but also blends in some of the unique characteristics of the 50 minute OVA anime AND infuses some plot points that come up from later arcs in the series as well (such as the motorball arc, as well her realizing that she’s a Martian soldier, which wasn’t discovered early on).

The movie is an action and CGI extravaganza, and is a blast to watch on screen. Rosa Salazar does a fantastic job with creating the character of Alita (though she’s 99% digital on screen), and Christoph Waltz once again dominates every scene he’s in. It’s a bit uncredited, but Edward Norton actually appears for a fraction of a second as Nova, the movie’s big bad guy (which is a weird movie, as in the manga and Anime he’s actually not really a “villain” per se, but rather a mad scientist who is just as flawed as Alita and Ido). There’s the obligatory PG-13 romance with Hugo (Keean Johnson) the parts thief, but overall a lot of the characters are near carbon copies of the brutally dark manga series. Talking about brutally dark, Alita: Battle Angel REALLY pushes the boundaries of the PG-13 rating, as dismembering and CGI blood is everywhere. I think Rodriquez figured out that by putting fake “blue” blood into the cyborg bodies, it could bypass the violence sensors as it was all “robot violence” in that form.

The one complaint that I have from the film is that the movie seems like two story lines pushed into one film, and it’s not hard to see why. The first half of the film deals with the first volume of manga, while the second arc with Hugu and the romance is taken straight from the 2nd volume. So in reality it’s two volumes of Manga being blended together for one movie, and it shows right round the hour mark after Alita has embraced her Martian cyborg body. That being said, the movie is a lot of fun to watch and had me grinning from ear to ear 90% of the time. It once again feels like Pacific Rim all over again, as Alita got smeared by critics while in theaters, but the viewers saw an entirely different movie, leaving it with a 94% positive ratings, and clamoring for an actual sequel (and with a production budget of $170 million and a $404 million world wide box office return, that very well may happen).




Rating:

Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language




Video: :5stars:
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The Blu-ray is absolutely GORGEOUS on my JVC RS46 projector and 120 inch screen. The film is pretty much 90% CGI with Alita being motion captured, and the rest of the cyborgs having only the face be human, but this is a lavish looking film that literally sparkles. Rust City is grimy and bleak, but it’s filled with bright colors and all sorts of fantastically nuanced cybernetic creatures. Zapan the cyborg bounty hunter literally glistens with metallic body parts, with each servo and wire flexing as he walks in magnificent detail, and the super heavy CGI in the motorball ring is gorgeous to behold. Shot using Arri Alexa mini cameras, the film is crystal clear and devoid of any grain or noise that I could see, and being worked on by James Cameron’s own studio production house makes for an AMAZING transfer on Blu-ray. Blacks are deep and inky, black crush and banding are just about nonexistent, and this is a picture perfect looking Blu-ray in every way.





Audio: :5stars:
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Once again Fox pushes the Blu-ray to a “lesser” 7.1 DTS-HD MA track instead of the Atmos track that the 4K UHD release enjoys, but it is remarkably similar to the Atmos track in reality. The film is heavily nuanced with tons of surround activity and lots of LFE. HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean that it’s a one note bass bomb either. The mix can easily slip back to a more subdued dialog centric nature with some of the more emotional scenes, but then blasts into high gear with the motorball circuit and the rest of the action sequences of the film. The film’s bass levels can be soft and reserved, or brutally in your face depending on the scene (the opening scene where the trash falls from Zalem is crushing with its weight). Tons of activity comes from all directions, with whizzing blades, slashing robotic attachments and blasting explosions to make this one of the best tracks of it’s kind.






Extras: :4stars:
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• Alita's World – get a deeper look into the world of Alita: Battle Angel with these dynamic motion comics.
- The Fall – a look back at the terrible war that almost destroyed two planets and set the stage for the cyborg warrior Alita's return 300 years later.
- Iron City – Hugo gives a guided tour of the Iron City he knows, showing off its dark corners and broken-down neighborhoods.
- What it Means to be a Cyborg – hunter-warrior Zapan tracks his mark across Iron City while musing about what it means to be a cyborg.
- Rules of the Game – A high-octane "crash course" in Motorball, introducing the rules, game-play, and the top-ranked players and their arsenal of weapons.
• From Manga to Screen – a behind-the-scenes look into the origins of Yukito Kishiro's beloved manga, "Gunnm," and the long road to bring it to life on the big screen.
• Evolution of Alita – how Alita was brought to life, from the casting of Rosa Salazar, to performance capture, and final VFX by WETA Digital.
• Motorball – go inside Iron City's favorite pastime, from the origins and evolution of the sport, to rules on how the game is played.
• James Cameron, Robert Rodriguez and cast Q&A moderated by Jon Landau.
• Robert Rodriguez's 10 Minute Cooking School: Chocolate – a cooking lesson on how to make delicious chocolate like that seen in the movie.
• 2005 Art Compilation (2019) – James Cameron's original compilation of concept art for the then-titled "Battle Angel: Alita," presented with new voiceover and music.
• Scene Deconstruction – view three different stages of the production – the original live-action performance capture, the animation stage, and the final Weta VFX from four different scenes
- I Don't Even Know My Own Name
- Just an Insignificant Girl
- I'm a Warrior Aren't I?
- Kansas Bar





.






Final Score: :4.5stars:


Alita: Battle Angel is a really fun adaptation of the original source material, and changed and tweaked enough that people who have never seen the OVA or the manga will be able to follow along just fine. The film is great on its own, but REALLY seems to be geared towards a sequel. A move that I’m hoping Fox makes due to the rather impressive box office numbers. Hopefully that translates into a sequel in the future, as the film is just begging for one. The Blu-ray is a stunner to behold, with picture perfect audio and video, as well as a TON of special features to enjoy. The movie is not 100% perfect, but it's loads of fun, so combined with the technical specifications make for a great package for home video (though if you want 4K or the 3D copy then the 4K package will be what you want, and is well worth the upgrade with Atmos audio and increased visuals). Fun Watch for Sure.



Technical Specifications:

Starring: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelley, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Keean Johnson, Jeff Fahey
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Written by: James Cameron, Laeta Kalogridis (Screenplay), Yukito Kishiro (Manga)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 7.1, French, Spanish DD 5.1, English DVS
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 122 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: July 23rd, 2019
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Recommendation: Very Fun Watch

 
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tripplej

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Thanks for the review. I am also a big fan of anime so I will check this one out.
 

jdubs75

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I heard some great things about this film from the people I know who saw it in theater. Definitely on my list!

Thanks again Michael for all these reviews you keep pumping out!
 

Michael Scott

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just a heads up. The 4K review will be slightly delayed as I got a faulty disc to review. Fox is shipping out another one but I have to wait a few days to get it and finish the movie (was freezing like crazy). While I'm not going to post the review until I get it and can watch all the way through, the 4K set is the one you want to get if you have the equipment or want 3D. nuff said
 

tripplej

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Thanks. Good to hear and looking forward to your 4K review. :)
 

Asere

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I am not into anime but I think I will check this one out. Thanks for the review.
 

Asere

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I bet it is stunning in 4K.
 

Michael Scott

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it is quite good. the 4K review should be up later tonight or early tomorrow morning as my replacement disc SHOULD be arriving today
 
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