"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Alita: Battle Angel

Man, we’ve been hearing about James Cameron doing this manga/anime adaptation since 2005, well before AVATAR. We’re talking Obama’s first year as a United States Senator, Christian Bale’s first year as a Batman, three live action Spider-man actors ago, before the Marvel Cinematic Universe even started, when Chris Evans was still The Human Torch, George Lucas was still making Star Wars movies, Saddam Hussein was still alive, the word “sexting” was just invented, Youtube was just starting, and Twitter didn’t exist yet. A long time ago.

So I can’t say I was thrilled when, after that decade plus of hopes, Cameron announced “Just kidding, Robert Rodriguez is gonna direct it.” Fresh off of SIN CITY 2. But also I wasn’t stupid enough to scoff at it. Cameron co-wrote and produced the thing. The only other time he did that was STRANGE DAYS, and that turned out pretty good.

The ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL of the title is a female robot played by Rosa Salazar (BIRD BOX) found in a garbage dump by Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz, THE LEGEND OF TARZAN), a kindly cybernetic doctor scouring for parts he can use. He repairs her himself and she doesn’t remember who she is so he sort of treats her like his daughter as he teaches her about life in Iron City, 2563, after The Fall. She sees the good doctor operating his clinic for the disadvantaged, in one case repairing a guy’s limbs in exchange for a bag of oranges (almost 100% for sure a reference to Steven Seagal’s THE PATRIOT where he trades medical care for blackberry pie). But soon she figures out that at night he sneaks out with a giant hammer ax thing as a bounty hunter, which funds his do-gooding but also is kind of his Paul Kersey way of dealing with the murder of his daughter, who he originally made Alita’s body for. And who was also named Alita. Our Alita seems to be an appropriate mixture of creeped-out and touched by this, though I think it’s kinda weird that she’s okay with keeping the name.

I guess there are bigger fish to fry when you have amnesia and mysteriously know the forgotten martial art of Panzer Kunst. Like Geena Davis in THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT she keeps finding herself doing things that imply a past of highly skilled asskicking. Hmmm.

She meets a boy named Hugo (Keean Johnson). He’s got kind of a babyface and seems slightly bland to me, but he can do a pretty good James Dean squint and he rides around on a one-wheeled motorcycle thing, so I get why she thinks he’s cool. He teaches her to play a street version of the violent rollerblade sport Motorball, and she gets very competitive with his dickish friend Tanji (Jorge Lendeborg Jr., THE LAND, BUMBLEBEE).

All these threads are tied together by Chiren (Jennifer Connelly, PHENOMENA), Ido’s ex-wife who left him after the death of their daughter. She’s also a cybernetics genius, but she works for Nova, the scary CEO asshole of Zalem, the city that floats above them. The premise of this world is kinda similar to ELYSIUM: Zalem is where the elites live, and they dump their garbage on the losers below, who all work for “The Factory” above but aren’t allowed up there and don’t even know what it’s like. We never see it either.

In the trailers we mostly saw the scenes in dark alleys or battle arenas, and it looked to me like a pretty generic dystopia. So I was impressed by the scene where Ido shows Alita around the streets of Iron City in the day time, and she’s in awe of the place. Yeah, everybody’s getting shat on by Zalem, but it’s the life they know. They don’t act like they live in Hell. They play games and music in the streets, they don’t shy away from colorful clothes. I like that Alita doesn’t always wear some sleek armor or bodysuit. Half the time she wears jeans and a blouse.

When they released that first trailer, I, like everybody, was bugged out by Alita’s giant eyes. They have since been subtly improved (apparently through Cameron’s suggestion of enlarging the pupils) and I’m sure I also just had to get used to them. By the time of seeing the movie I honestly think they’re crucial to its appeal. Looking not quite human helps for all the scenes where she’s reacting to seeing her face in the mirror for the first time, or tasting a food for the first time. And Alita is taking in the world with wide open eyes. Exaggeratedly large eyes add a heightened feeling of innocence that is perfect for this character – a cartooning trick that isn’t usually possible in live action.

But I should put live action in quotes because this is one of those movies that’s probly more animation than WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, and it feels more like a cartoon than AVATAR. But whatever combo it is of stunt work, motion capture and animation, it makes for lots of exciting action scenes, including deadly street fights and brutal Motorball games. Stunt coordinator Garrett Warren has worked heavily in mocap (BEOWULF, AVATAR, THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN, GODZILLA, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES) but also in straight ahead action (THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT, GREEN STREET HOOLIGANS 2, COLOMBIANA). The fight choreographer is Steven John Brown, who IMDb says was an uncredited choreographer on LOGAN, but otherwise his credits are for performing stunts. Salazar’s double was Mickey Facchinello (Robin Wright’s double in WONDER WOMAN) and her martial arts trainers were Bruce Lee’s goddaughter Diana Lee Inosanto (THE SENSEI) and her husband Ron Balicki (choreographer of SINNERS AND SAINTS, FORCE OF EXECUTION and A GOOD MAN).

This is probly overstating it, but it’s kinda nice to think that Rodriguez, like Alita, reawakened skills he forgot he ever had. I guess that means James Cameron came along and plucked his severed head out of the garbage. I still really like Rodriguez’s early analog movies, especially DESPERADO, and I respect the way he experimented with digital cinematography and FX from ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO to SIN CITY, set up his own independent studio, and always seems to do what he wants to do. But I think he has a much better eye for photographing real people and places than for designing things. And MACHETE KILLS was such an insulting pile of lazy “how little work can we get away with and still pretend it counts as a professional movie” bullshit that I was pretty much convinced he would never make a watchable movie again. So I’m so glad to see him doing one that clearly involved, like, time and thinking and hard work and stuff.

I don’t love all these overly complicated cyborg designs. Poor Ed Skrein (DEADPOOL), playing the bounty hunter prick Zapan, has to sport a douchey metal soul patch goatee. But for the most part I like the look.

I’m positive that this is not as good of a movie as it would’ve been if Cameron had gone through with directing it. But I also think Rodriguez brings his energy to the many action scenes, and there are touches that clearly wouldn’t be in there if it wasn’t him. At the top of that list is the minor character played by Jeff Fahey (DARKMAN III: DIE, DARKMAN, DIE), showing up in a bar full of reprobates that bears a striking resemblance to the Titty Twister. And there’s a nice little moment, more naturalistic than you might picture it when I describe it, where a busker with a robotic hand plays a double-necked acoustic guitar on the street. Yeah, Rodriguez likes to get some guitar playing in his movies. In fact, the credits make me think it might’ve been him playing that song.

There are a few pretty cool cameos, but I didn’t recognize all of them. (Casting spoilers?) I didn’t catch on that the briefly seen character Amok was Casper Van Dien (TARZAN AND THE LOST CITY). If I had, I would have stood up and applauded, or at least stayed seated and smiled. I did recognize Michelle Rodriguez’s voice as a mocap character who does not share her appearance. Makes sense to have her in there since she was in both Rodriguez’s MACHETE and Cameron’s AVATAR. Yes, as I thought, Nova is an uncredited Edward Norton (THE 25TH HOUR). When I was told on Twitter that the great Marko Zaror (REDEEMER), who Rodriguez used in MACHETE KILLS and the From Dusk Till Dawn tv series, was in the movie “for about 12 frames,” I assumed that was an exaggeration. Turns out that really was how long I saw his face in the bar scene. I guess his character is a Motorball player, but if he was shown playing I didn’t recognize him.

I guess in that sense it is like MACHETE KILLS, because he filmed it at his studio and must’ve gotten some buddies to come over for an afternoon and shoot a few things. But the world of ALITA is so much more involved that those inserts don’t stick out as much.

I had no idea Jackie Earle Haley (WATCHMEN) was playing the cruel cyborg Grewishka. I briefly wondered if it was Chuck Liddell. He’s a burly head attached to a bunch of machinery, and an opponent worthy of hatred. But Vector (Mahershala Ali, PREDATORS) is the best of the villains, and it seems like Ali carries over a little bit of Don Shirley from GREEN BOOK into the performance. Vector runs the violent world of professional Motorball, which is some weird combination of rollerball, NASCAR, Survival Research Laboratories and gladiatorial combat. He also secretly employs the people who attack the players on the street and cut off their mechanical limbs for scraps. Arguably worse than the NFL.

One thing we learn about this world is that because almost everyone has implants of some kind, they can be hacked, and Nova has a habit of speaking to Chiren by commandeering Vector’s body. You can tell because of the things he’s saying but also because his eyes turn light blue. After the second time it happens there’s a little scene where Vector is standing over a sink, rinsing his eyes with water, saying “I hate it when he does that,” genuinely upset about it. Based on what I’ve read about Ali as an actor, I wonder if he might’ve suggested the scene. Whoever’s idea it was, the movie could use more little moments like that, acknowledging that this cool sci-fi thing would really feel like a violation, giving us some sympathy for this scary character because of his physical discomfort and the way his boss degrades him.

Some of the other character moments I like are more sensational, like when Alita tries to literally give her heart to Hugo. To sell for scrap. I wouldn’t say the love story is as all-in as TITANIC‘s or AVATAR’s, but it has has some of Cameron’s unabashed melodrama. In that sense it also fits into the modern subgenre of Y.A.-based young-love-while-battling-futuristic-authoritarianism sci-fi like HUNGER GAMES. (Salazar was in the DIVERGENT and MAZE RUNNER movies, by the way.) It reminds me more of those than the smaller category of American-live-action-adaptations-of-anime. Obviously it shares much with GHOST IN THE SHELL: a dead girl’s brain brought back in an advanced robot body used for battle in a world where most people have machine parts and can be hacked from afar and she’s trying to come to terms with her forgotten past. I think GHOST has a better look to it, but ALITA is more effective storytelling, and sidesteps the whitewashing issue by casting Latin leads. (Brownwashing?)

I like the way the script by Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis (PATHFINDER, SHUTTER ISLAND, TERMINATOR GENISYS [sic]) literalizes a young woman trying to find herself. Ido gives her the body he made for his daughter – I love its decorative engravings, like he lovingly made her out of china – and then when she finds a more advanced body in a crashed Martian space ship he refuses to install her in it, not wanting her to become a berserker. But it’s her heritage – it called out to her, she is compatible with it. And sure, it takes her body being destroyed for him to accept that, but then he does, and the nano-technology of the suit adapts to her self image. She gets to be herself.

Of course it’s bad that her heritage is combat, and that she can only learn about herself by getting in fights, but that’s okay. We at home are more likely to imitate the self discovery it symbolizes than the literal act of cyborg violence.

If I have a biggest problem with the movie it’s the feeling that it’s only chapter 1 of a series that may or may not be continued. That makes it the first James Cameron movie that’s not a self-contained story, and as it felt like it was about to end I kept optimistically hoping it was one of those fake endings he used to be known for. I’ve seen people describe it as setting up a sequel, but it’s really more of a cliffhanger. The major conflict that’s been set up in this movie is on the verge of being confronted. It’s a cool ending, because it’s a gloriously operatic shot teasing what needs to happen next, but it will be a bummer if that ends up being the entirety of the story.

Anyway it’s a movie where (SPOILER FOR THE MOST BADASS PART) the heroine is fighting a guy at least 7 or 8 times her size and he chops off her lower body and one of her arms but (unlike Anakin Skywalker) she doesn’t give up, she hops on one hand and impales his face on her fist and wins the fight. So I liked her. You might too.

P.S. I saw it in Real-D 3D, which was pretty cool at times but not as essential as I’d hoped for a James Cameron production.

P.P.S. In retrospect it’s kind of funny how much of the advertising campaign is based around the part where Alita draws lines under her eyes. If I were to tell you what her war paint is made out of you’d think I was joking.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 19th, 2019 at 12:28 pm and is filed under Action, Comic strips/Super heroes, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

51 Responses to “Alita: Battle Angel”

  1. “Panzer Kunst”? Oh, the Japanese and their love for random German words. It means “Tank art”.

    But nothing will ever top the special move in a 90s Beat ’em up, that was called “Elefantenglied” (“Elephant penis”).

  2. Going in with pretty low expectations, I have to say I was pretty floored by just how badass this was. It’s a star-making performance from Salazar, a directorial resurgence for Rodriguez, and a damn fun (and surprisingly violent) time at the movies. Word is this may be on track to be quite profitable, estimates say it could go as high as $700m worldwide, so we may get at least one sequel.

  3. I really liked this movie, for most of the same reasons you did. It’ll be a real shame if everybody being so snarky about the Anime Eyes tanks the whole thing; it’s nice to get a faithful, imaginative, smart adaptation like this, especially after the ill-advised GHOST IN THE SHELL. Like, I legit wonder… if they had stolen Marvel’s trick and just faked that Alita’s eyes were normal in the trailer, leaving it to be an unsettling (but ultimately fine, and actually kind of interesting) reveal on screen, would this movie have opened huge?

  4. Saw this at a preview screening in Dolby 3D and really enjoyed it. Helped that I read the comic back in the ’90’s and was familiar with it going in.

    I felt it was a bit too episodic and it would have been cool if it actually had an ending but I’ll take it. I hope this is the badass female-driven action film for younger people that is actually a success. Couldn’t help but think about SUCKER PUNCH and JUPITER ASCENDING while watching this.

    Pretty surprised this one seems to be being overal received well and enjoyed. Figured with it being Cameron, Rodriguez, and based on a Japanese comic/cartoon, ‘certain’ film-goers were chomping to use this to talk about how this is proof Cameron is the worst filmmaker who ever lived.

  5. The Undefeated Gaul

    February 19th, 2019 at 1:44 pm

    There is a lot to like about this film, indeed Salazar is great, it looks really damn cool and some of the supporting players like Ali and Ed Skrein seem to be having such a good time that it’s infectious. I loved all the different designs of the robots and the fights, even though it did feel more like a CGI cartoon than a live action film. A major letdown for me was the pacing though, because way too much time was spent on the clunky love plot. I get why it’s there and it does help you feel for Alita because Salazar sells it so well, but the guy who plays her love interest is the blandest, least interesting dude they could’ve hired. He’s like a less charismatic Michael Angarano, if such a thing is possible. Even a good actor may not have managed to make the character work though, he’s a pretty dumb dude as written, making the emotional beats towards the end fall flat for me. Also, would it have killed anyone to give an epic film like this an equally epic score? I think it’s a goddamn sin that they didn’t even bother to write a sweeping, cool as shit hero theme for Alita, because she deserved it and it could have really improved the film overall.

    As for Zaror, I noticed him in the bar as well, when he seemed like a normal human, but I also thought he was the face of the giant motorball player that follows Alita out of the arena and eventually got squashed in the thresher machine. So either he plays two characters in the film, or they changed him into a bigger robot in between those two scenes to be more of a match for Alita.

  6. The Undefeated Gaul

    February 19th, 2019 at 1:48 pm

    Also Jai Courtney is in this. Go see it people

  7. Mahershala’s look in this appearing to be an audition for an MCU Blade was something I fully expected you to mention.

  8. I’m happy that this is getting reasonable reviews, and it looks like Rodriguez is actually trying again. (Those Machete films were absolutely unforgivable.) But am I the only one who though that Sin City II wasn’t terrible? I mean, it was uneven, but it had its moments.

  9. Sin City 2 has Eva Green in it. That’s a plus right there.

  10. It was sort of unfair of me to mention SIN CITY 2 in the context I did. I know most people hated it, but if you check my review it was positive.

  11. Not a joke: Up until the very end, I thought NOVA was James Cameron. “Such a weird choice”, I thought.

    Then I laughed a bunch when he was revealed to be actor Ed Norton. Please, please pay money to see this movie because I NEED to see a panzer kunst battle between Norton and Alita.

    But yeah, I liked this movie way more than I thought I would. I actually dismissed the movie as something creepy after the first trailer, but Vern is right– the big eyes are essential. Alita’s a hard character to dislike. She’s a sweet kid who’s enthusiastic and emotional about every fucking thing and is also an elite warrior-martial artist who can’t help but rush into battle. Oh and she can also cut her own tears his half with a sword. I had no idea who Rosa Salazar was before this movie, but now she has my attention.

    I’ve been bored with cg action sequences for a long time, so I was also surprised at how much I liked the cg action sequences in this movie. I loved the bar fight, the underworld fight with gigantic cyborg guy (the one PG-13 “fuck” in this movie is an all-timer) and the MOTOR BALL ‘tryout’. I recommend checking this movie in IMAX. The ratio expands to IMAX size for most of the runtime. Cinematography by Bill Pope!

    I also kind of enjoyed how the movie Fast Forwards through every ‘teen girl finding herself’ beat (she literally discovers her new body at one point).

  12. One of the last things I saw on Twitter before I got the fuck out was a bunch of women saying Cameron needs to stop writing womem characters. I tried to unbeaten where they were coming from but I didn’t buy it.

  13. Alita’s bar scene certainly had a lot of Wuxia influences in it.

  14. Sin City 2 was good. They just waited so damn long no one cared anymore. They really took it for granted that the original’s hit status was gonna be there waiting for them in the fickle age of social media. (I believe Avatar is exempt from this. Cameron knows how to pick his moments).

    Haven’t seen Alita yet. Hard to imagine I’d be so indifferent to a Rodriguez directed Cameron script but here we are.

  15. Had a strange experience with this. Saw it on a Monday, and somehow only saw all the bad things. But something about it was gnawing away at me, so I went and saw it again on Tuesday, and this time I only saw the good things. Now I’m telling everyone I know to check it out and being greeted with complete indifference or patronising smiles. Not since Speed Racer have I liked a movie that everyone around me is determined to shrug off without trying. Alita is another movie that is harvesting Speed Racer’s aesthetic, but in a diluted form. The Motorball sequences are like a colour-sapped version of one of SR’s racing scenes, which is a GOOD thing.

    Rewatched the 1993 anime after seeing the movie, and practically every single scene in the anime is in the movie, only without the gore. (I’m continually bewildered at the USA ratings system that can give this level of violence a PG-13, but give a movie with no violence an NC-17 for swearing or sexual themes. Family values all over.) It does feel more like its source – late 80’s/early-90’s dystopian future/cyberpunk anime – than any other Hollywood movie, except maybe Blade Runner and The Terminator, which are basically the origins for all those anime. The robots and cyborgs all looked amazing. The movie doesn’t really feel like a Rodriguez film, thankfully. Not a fan of his.

    I’ve heard people online dismissing Alita herself as a “strong female character” who is “born sexy yesterday”, and I wish people would not always immediately rush to use those phrases as a substitute for actual argument, as if once you’ve thrown out that term the movie’s done. It’s a regressive pile of retrograde garbage. If you didn’t like it, fine, but I think there’s more to this than a lazy collection of cliches and stereotypes. Or rather, this collection of cliches and stereotypes is put together in a way that was pretty potently engaging, even if it took me a second viewing to see that.

  16. “The Motorball sequences are like a colour-sapped version of one of SR’s racing scenes, which is a GOOD thing” – meaning it’s good that it’s looking like Speed Racer, not that it’s de-colourised. I hate when I write a sentence like that where clauses can be confused.

  17. The Undefeated Gaul – Regarding the music: completely agree. The music was the worst part. Which really stood out more the second time. Most modern Hollywood movies have the same problem of entirely too much music, and too much mediocre music. All the dialogue scenes where Alita is expressing love or heartbreak would have had more impact without any score, but movies now aren’t allowed to have scenes with no music, which is another baffling trend that needs to stop. Really feels like I’m the only person who even notices this, but it’s a HUGE problem when it comes to enjoying modern movies. The music is SO important so when you stuff it up, there’s no escaping it. Sometimes I wish DVD’s and blu-ray’s had a “no music” option for watching movies.

  18. The Undefeated Gaul

    February 20th, 2019 at 1:13 am

    Stacy – interesting, I have to say the whole “music all the time” thing doesn’t bother me too much, but that’s because the music that is there is always so bland that it becomes a kind of white noise in the background, so I don’t even notice it. I’m sure you’re right though and it’s part of the problem. Still, most of all I just want a comeback of proper scores – there’s no denying it makes films better and more memorable. ALITA sure could have used it. But I feel like I’ve been complaining about this thing for a decade or more, doesn’t look like it’ll be changing anytime soon.

  19. I think Alita might be my favourite motion captured/ animated performance ever. She even nailed that heart scene which was probably looking real goofy on the pages of the script beforehand. How good was it to see the pure joy on her face when she tried chocolate for the first time? Or ate an orange incorrectly.
    Also, kind of amusing that they killed her bland boyfriend, brought him back to life, and then killed him again 10 mins later. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen that in a film before.

  20. “Also, kind of amusing that they killed her bland boyfriend, brought him back to life, and then killed him again 10 mins later. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen that in a film before.”

    They did that in DON’T BREATHE. It might’ve been longer than 10 minutes, though.

  21. I have mixed feelings about Hugo. On one hand, he’s the weakest actor in the movie. On the other hand, he gets stuck with some of the clunkiest-written scenes in the movie (particularly the “I’m out!” scene and his first ‘death’ scene). That being said, Hugo never really bothered me during the movie. That probably has a lot to do with me liking Alita and wanting things to work out for her, though.

    About the score–

    It wasn’t very memorable, but I do remember it enhancing the action scenes at certain points. It certainly enhanced the final scene (which I really liked). Grand shots of the hero and villain taunting each other from worlds away reminded me of Jack Kirby’s NEW GODS comics.

  22. wadew: Glad someone else saw that re: Nortan! I was describing him as James Cameron cosplaying as Mick Garris to friends.

  23. This is the first American anime adaptation I’ve seen which tonally feels like an anime. It’s intensely interested in sci-fi ideas without necessarily being high-concept, full of characters who are complicated and morally ambiguous without being necessarily deeply explored, and unabashedly in love with robots and swords and motorcycles without necessarily existing exclusively for those things. I don’t know that I loved it, but I admire that it’s a rare crazy expensive Hollywood movie which feels completely sure of what it is, and completely comfortable with what it is. It does not feel like it was assembled by a committee who all had different ideas about what the kids would think is cool and who had the screenplay re-written 40 times into incoherent nonsense. Cameron and Rodriguez (and maybe even the dreaded Laeta Kalogridis?) seem to intuitively understand this story and why it would be worth telling, which is just enormously refreshing in an age where virtually no movie over 20 million bucks feels so seamless and uncalculating.

    The result is the first English-language anime adaptation I’ve ever seen which feels like it lost nothing in the translation.* Probably not something the world was desperately lacking, but an agreeable enough surprise, nonetheless.

    * Huge proviso: I have never read the manga or seen the 1993 version of BATTLE ANGEL, so I am basing this opinion entirely on other anime I have seen and it’s possible I’m completely wrong.

  24. Yeah, this was good – the SPY KIDS 4 we always deserved.

    I’ve defended Cameron as a scriptwriter a lot because, while maybe his dialogue never sounded real, up through STRANGE DAYS and maybe TITANIC, it at least had a quippiness that sounded good in a pop context. And ALITA shows how good he still is at envisioning set-pieces

    I found the story to be a bit too exposition-flabby and all over the place, though maybe the former is inevitable. And to me the derided teen romance elements were part of what made it interesting. Because on one level this is a Pinocchio story with Alita struggling to be a normal girl against her war machine body memory. I don’t know, I like that shit.

    Oh yeah, one problem I think is that they didn’t make Scrapyard look like that bad of a city. It even has a lake.

  25. Palermo–

    That’s my biggest nitpick about the movie. IRON CITY didn’t seem that bad (food, music, sunshine, kids outside playing, etc) and the world outside of Iron City seemed pretty great? Hugo says “the great war wiped out all the resources” while walking through a lush forest and a really pretty place with really pretty waterfalls.

  26. Hey, one thing I was too dumb to pick up…the serial killer plotline. Who was killing random women in alleys at night? Hugo and his band of parts-strippers? Also, Hugo’s scummy little side-business did seem to be responsible for the death of a lot of people/ bots. Especially if Ali always showed up to blowtorch their faces afterwards.

  27. Grewishkas was killing women for Nova because Nova needed body parts for his ‘experiments’.

    Also, Ali only showed up to that one ‘parts-jacking’ because he was pissed about Asian Motorball guy “ruining the odds” with his fancy new claw-chain weapon thing.

  28. Mr Subtlety – “tonally feels like an anime” Yes! The thing I’ve been trying to impress upon people who might be hesitant is that it’s so unlike the modern homogenous Marvel-template/formula/equation. It embraces the qualities of the source material without being gutted. James Cameron’s rather significant status in Hollywood no doubt helped make that happen.

    Considering how few movies, good or bad, like this there are with female leads, I don’t expect one film to fulfill all representational goals. I’m hearing some love for Alita herself as a mega-badass, and I have to agree. I’d watch two hours of nothing but her kicking people in the face. The flashbacks to her earlier life as a soldier in a massive space war looked very enticing. I’d love to see THAT movie. But even if this one is all we get, I’m grateful.

  29. So happy for all you guys liking or loving the movie. Just saw it yesterday in reald 3d. My take?

    Subpar forgettable and most unforgivable, boring. The doctor should have been called “Basil Exposition” having to overanalyze and feed us huge chunks of the plot via speech every 15 minutes. Show don’t tell. Also each and every twist and turn was telegraphed half an hour before it happens. (Spoilers) She finds the body and the ddoctor refuses to put her in it? For sure the one she uses is going to be done for in the next fight. Morally ambiguous boyfriend? For sure gonna die by the end (twice!). Also too much world building as if part 2 and 3 are allready in the can. C’mon guys, just give us a good self contained MOVIE. If it “hits” THEN mess it up. Make the Matrix 1 before you burry us in the over complicated plots of 2 and 3!
    My take. Still very happy you all enjoyed it. Even the 3d was tottaly “nothing to write home about”.

  30. So I saw the anime version yesterday (it’s on youtube) and can now confirm why the movie feels so faithful to that tone: it’s virtually identical to the 2019 version, sometimes with whole plotlines which are nearly word-for-word, shot-for-shot recreations. The differences (most of the material with Motorball is not in the anime, nor is there any plotline about her new body or discussion of a mars-earth war) probably come from the manga. One major difference that the ALITA 2019 probably suffers from is that in the anime (which is a little more broadly comic) Hugo is portrayed as more of a goofy Dickensian street kid than a brooding hunk. Having him be a more childlike character makes his story a little more tragic and less corny. But otherwise, the two films are almost astoundingly consistent.

  31. Haven’t seen the anime, but I have read some of the manga. If you have Amazon Prime and the kindle app, the first volume is free to read. Biggest difference between the manga and the movie is that the manga version of Grewishka is obsessed with eating brains. I’m also 140 pages in and there’s no mention of Motorball.

    Saw this for a second time to try to key-in on some moments that confused me *and* because I like the movie and want to support it (it’s currently doing better than expected overseas and “ehh” domestically). The movie definitely has some exposition issues and some sloppy storytelling moments, but the Alita character, the effects, the ‘man in the shadows’ cartoon villain (“Until we meet again…”), and most of the action scenes just work for me.

    Some other things I wanted to mention:

    -WETA is getting some well-deserved praise for how the Alita character turned out, but what about Grewishka? The face they created for that character is pretty amazing-looking.

    -I can confirm that Marko Zaror only appears in that one odd shot right before the bar fight. I didn’t see him do anything during the bar brawl and he’s definitely not one of the motorball players.

    -Speaking of the bar brawl, “This bitch broke my nose!” followed by Alita’s deadpan delivery of “Yes I did.” is by far the funniest part of the movie.

  32. Saw Alita a third time and still loved it, so despite all flaws, this one’s clearly working a kind of magic on me. Emotional response increased. Ya just go with what works. Don’t over-intellectualise responses to art. You can feel it directly. ‘Yep, this one’s getting to me.’ Regardless of whatever happens next as far as sequels, Alita will come out on blu-ray, I’ll buy it and watch it and love it and put it alongside Speed Racer, Man of Steel, Fury Road and Last Jedi as part of the select range of recent mainstream movies I unconditionally love.

  33. Saw this the other day and thought it was really good. Story was so so ….but visually it was incredible!

    Saw it in the best theater around, with bone rattling sound. That is the way to see it.

    The fight with Grewishka was pretty breath taking, especially a shot where she is in the middle of his chains just swirling like a vortex around here. That HAS to be a shot from the anime or manga or both.

    Oh….saw the Anime way back in college. My roomate my freshamn year was a huge anime dork. I told him I wasn’t that into anime, and he said “You’d like this one” upon knowing some of the stuff I was into (I think my interest in Spaghetti Westerns surned it.) He was right…I did like that one.

    And, like this one, it cliffhangs big time. And we never got another. Never really cared enough to read the manga.

    Oh, unlike pretty much everyone on here…I loved both MACHETE movies. I don’t know…absolutely, unappologetically love that wacky brand of bullshit. Love the SHARKNADOs, TROMA, ADULT SWIM and a bunch of other very self consciously ridiculous bullshit too. Probably the overall subgenre I find myself returning the most to. I am the embodiment of its target audience I guess. A third MACHETE is announced…hope its real!

  34. I decided to use one of the few opportunities I have these days to see this movie in theaters, and I was not disappointed. The one aspect of the film that I didn’t expect, but really enjoyed was the teen romance. It didn’t bother me too much that the male love interest was Blandy McBlandface, because the film is from the perspective of Alita, and I found her intense loyalty to her new beau true to teenage emotional excess. I actually really liked the scene where she offers up her actual heart. (SPOILERS: I admit that I gave a little chuckle when the love interest fell to his death).

    It might be interesting to compare this to the Twilight series, which I’ve never seen, but I have read Vern’s extensive reviews, so I think I’m qualified to make the comparison. Unlike the main female character in those movies, Alita actually drives the plot of this story, and she easily overpowers the love interest, and he seems totally fine with this.

  35. This one started strong but it lost me along the way. It looks great, the violence is solid, and the title character is extremely likable. But the movie never settles on what she’s trying to do, so the pace never picks up any momentum and the climax lacks catharsis. Learn the truth about her past? Save the people from evil cyborgs? Get to the sky city? It changed every 15 minutes, without really affecting the character’s situation. It felt like an open world video game, with its constantly shifting objectives. You met HUGO! You now have access to MOTORBALL missions! You have achieved HUNTER WARRIOR mode! Find WANTED POSTERS throughout the city to accept BOUNTY HUNTER missions! Your body has been UPGRADED! Return to BASE and talk to IDO to unlock NEW SKILLS! (Except that hand blowtorch. That will never come up again. Don’t worry about it.) By the 40-minute mark, all the non-action scenes became something to endure. They felt like cut-scenes you’re not allowed to skip. I don’t care what any of you NPCs have to say. Just give Player 1 her next mission and let’s get on with it.

    There’s a lot of good stuff in here so it’s a shame the story is such a non-starter. Unfortunately, the world and the spectacle are cool but not interesting enough to skate by on the incidental pleasures. The scope of the production promises something epic but it never builds to anything. They left out the third act, saving it for a sequel nobody will ever make.

    Also I was hoping Nova was Chris Elliott because of his history playing Radar Operator #1 in THE ABYSS. I’m pretty sure this is the most disappointed I’ve ever been to see Ed Norton.

  36. Some of these problems were likely exacerbated by the 3D, which I find distancing 90% of the time. It makes everything look phony, and I’m always long over any minuscule whoa factor by the time they get around to using it to show us anything cool. Then you’re just stuck with a dingy image and some uncomfortable glasses giving you a headache. I used to think the only things that could get me to pay for 3D were the words “James Cameron” and/or “Jackass” in the title. That’s down to just the latter now.

  37. Also, what the hell did Red Hoodie Girl do to get herself on the poster? She was in the movie for like four minutes, tops. Is she the Boba Fett of the Alitaverse?

  38. As the resident weeaboo everyone was probably expecting me to see this and share my blazing hot takes and while I gave it serious consideration at the end of the day ehhhhhh, I have no experience with Alita, if it was an anime/manga I was familiar with maybe, but I skipped GHOST IN THE SHELL also, so it has to both be a good movie and something I have familiarity with, the novelty of Hollywood movies based on anime/manga alone is just not enough to get me to pay the premium prices you have to pay for the full theater going experience nowadays.

    That said I’ll probably check it out on blue ray, but honestly I’m kind of of the mind that turning anime, like video games, into live action movies is kind of pointless, the appeal of turning comics* into movies is seeing them move, it comes downs to motion, anime is already animated and video games already move, the point for anime is that it’s, ya know, animation and the point for video games is that they’re interactive, so translating these into non-animation or non-interactive form is basically removing the entire point in the first place and it’s no wonder they’ve almost never caught on.

    I think the wiser approach is to simply borrow the storytelling approach feel and feel of anime, like the Wachowskis did for THE MATRIX or GDT did for PACIFIC RIM but translate it into something all new.

    *Yes I know in the instance of ALITA it’s more based on the manga than the anime, so a comic basically, but you get my point.

  39. The Undefeated Gaul

    March 15th, 2019 at 3:54 pm

    I too was a little disappointed to see Ed Norton, but that was mostly because during the little half-second peek they give us in the flashback to Alita’s training, I thought it was Matthew McConaughey playing Nova.

    Btw Mr. M, that videogame comparison was pretty damn accurate. I have not mentioned it before, but I’d love to read your stuff as well. Are you still sending out previews or will there be an opportunity soon for the rest of us ordinary scum to sample your material?

  40. I’m working on it. I wanted to finish one more story and get some feedback from a few people before jumping into getting my stories out there. It should happen pretty soon, though. Knowing somebody is interested is a great motivator, so thanks for that.

  41. The Undefeated Gaul

    March 15th, 2019 at 4:12 pm

    No worries, reading your comments on here for years plus what some of the others have said about the stories you’re working on, has honestly made me super curious. Looking forward to reading them once you’re ready.

  42. Saw this opening day, not knowing that much about it. My first impression was “oh cool, a big budget, stand-alone Sci-Fi film, we could do with one of those”, so I was OK with the weird structure, occasional missed chances and even intermittent dullness, but when it turned out to be the most Part 1 of 2 film of all time it turned my final opinion of the film pretty decisively into the negative.

    Did anyone else notice Cameron repurposed his(?) villain confrontation scene from FIRST BLOOD PART II for the villain confrontation here? Or certainly I was immediately reminded of that scene.

  43. I have been looking forward to this movie for 20 years. Read the manga as a kid. Interviewed Cameron about the film years ago…

    LOVED IT. Blew me away.

  44. Tawdry: Maybe you can explain to me why Cameron was so fired up about this project to begin with. I saw not a single even moderately original thing in it. It was basically CYBERPUNK CIRCA THE 90S: THE MOVIE. I had to assume that, back in 2005 or whatever, putting human faces on robot bodies for an entire feature film would have been interesting special effects challenge and that’s what attracted Cameron to it, but it seems pretty old hat in 2019. What’s so special about this particular William Gibson ripoff that makes it worth all this trouble?

  45. Some of Majestyk’s complaints are some of the things that actually appealed to me. He’s absolutely right that the film plot is a bit lumpy and overstuffed. It’s clear that they’re trying sew together a bunch of different plots from the original manga. It doesn’t completely get away from them, but it’s not as streamlined as it could be.

    But when Marvel has basically reduced screenwriting to a basic science, knowing exactly when to insert a quip or drop a set piece, a sci-fi spectacle that’s a bit lumpy feels refreshing. And although I’m not happy about the film setting up a sequel that we’ll likely never get, I am glad that there’s no protracted final fight. The third act confrontation and battle has become so perfunctory that it’s become something I feel like I have to endure. When I was the kid that was the moment you waited the entire film for. I’m not sure what happened, but I don’t think it’s just that I’ve changed.

  46. Finally caught this on home video and I really, really, really liked it…until the non-ending ruined it. I’m not against a “Our protagonist has proven to be the hero that this world needs and she will be successful” ending, like, let’s say, the one in the first MATRIX, but this one here was some bullshit sequel baiting born insecure sorry for wasting your time with an incomplete movie shitfuckery. It made me retroactively dislike the whole thing.

    But it’s nice to see that Robert Rodriguez hasn’t lost all of its talent and can handle some extremely big budgets. So there is that.

  47. Seems like Rodriguez made a sequel to SHARKBOY & LAVAGIRL, which kinda makes me worry that he reverted to the “unwatchable shit on YouTube level” part of his career. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not dissing his kids movies, which I might be the biggest adult defender of, but SB & LG was the first that made me go “Huh?” and still is in my ranking his 2nd worst. (MACHETE KILLS only takes the bottom spot, because we were promised a Danny Trejo action vehicle and got a SyFy original movie. Also I can’t remember SPY KIDS 4, so I just assume it was better?)

  48. The “go to sleep” rap in SHARKBOY is…well, “worst thing ever” would be hyperbole, but I suspect it’s the worst thing Taylor Lautner has ever been involved in, which is quite bad enough thank you. (I genuinely enjoyed him in RIDICULOUS SIX, just to affirm I’m not just another hater).

    Plus is there any nostalgia for it really? It comes from the era where families bought discount aisle DVDs by the truckload, so I’m sure there’s enough to make the announcement the #4 trend on twitter for an hour, but beyond that? Remember not even INDEPENDENCE DAY turned out to not have enough goodwill to bring in enough of an audience.

  49. SPY 4IDS was better, yes.

  50. Say what you want about RIDICULOUS SIX, but you can’t deny that Lautner stole this movie with his performance! I can’t take him seriously as heartthrob or action star, but holy shit, that guy has a talent for goofy comedy!

  51. Well, given that I was resigned to accept that Robert Rodriguez was doomed to suck on the Mouse Teat and crank out sub-par episodes of sub-par SW shows like BOBA FETT & MANDALORIAN or whatever other mediocre piece of shit Disney chooses to carpet bomb us every few weeks to erase every vestige of that thing we like to call Anticipation, it was a pleasant surprise to discover and watch HYPNOTIC, where Rodriguez goes back to the type of mid-budget action thrillers we got so much of in the 80s and 90s,several of which he was responsible for.

    HYPNOTIC cribs from so many sources; there’s traces of Lou Diamond Phillips THE FIRST POWER and Jack Sholder’s THE HIDDEN in it’s malevolently unstoppable villain (played by the always terrific William Fichtner), there’s a hint of
    Park Hoon-jung’s THE WITCH PART 1:SUBVERSION in it’s depiction of a young girl with fearsome abilities, some bits of a short-lived Paranoid Conspiracy Thriller TV show called NOWHERE MAN back in the 90s starring Bruce Greenwood but it’s DNA is mostly Verhoeven’s TOTAL RECALL in it’s “What’s Real, What’s Not” whiplash twists. But the resultant cocktail goes down easy.

    It further begs the question that after PAYCHECK, THE TOWN and THE ACCOUNTANT why does Ben Affleck remain the Great Untapped Action Star?

    At a lean 90 minutes run time (Hallelujah! We still have those!!!) HYPNOTIC is paced like a rocket, never bores you and keeps you engrossed up to the credits. And that gentleman, is all I require to complement my ticket, popcorn and soda.

    I get the rotten reviews though. It over-twists itself in the last 15 minutes, the action is serviceable but hardly near the gonzo bat-shit craziness we know Rodrigues is capable of in DESPERADO, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, MACHETE or PLANET TERROR. And for a film-maker who gave you a sizzling hot sex scene with a sizzling hot Salma Hayek and a one-legged Rose McGowan, a fade to black when Ben Affleck and Alice Braga are about to make the Beast With Two Backs seems remarkably chicken shit.

    But what the hell, I liked it. And thank God for Small Mercies.


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