“Alita: Battle Angel” is an action/adventure film set in the 26th century. The story follows a young cyborg girl named Alita who wakes up with amnesia in a place called Iron City. It’s a desolate city stuck in the literal shadow of Zalem, the last of the sky cities.
Based on the Japanese manga series “Gunnm,” also know as “Battle Angel Alita,” by Yukito Kishiro. Rights to “Alita” have been owned by James Cameron since 2000, who put off making the project for several reasons, such as waiting for CGI to become more advanced and also deciding to direct “Avatar” instead. In the end, Cameron worked on “Alita” as a producer, and chose Robert Rodriguez to direct.
Rodriguez might have one of the most diverse filmographies, making both “From Dusk Till Dawn,” “Spy Kids” and now with this film. Joking aside, Rodriguez makes sense as the director because he’s shown to be committed to making respectful film adaptations by his work on the “Sin City” series.
While I have no connection with the manga, it’s clear that a great amount of respect was shown for the source material. In the past, Hollywood adaptations of manga and likewise Anime series have been terrible, like with “Dragonball Evolution.” Part of why is that the American filmmakers involved had little to no real understanding of the source material.
A reason that “Alita” works is that the filmmakers did understand the source material and, definitely in Cameron’s case, had affection for it as well, who put a great deal of dedication into this movie.
The special effects are fantastic. “Aquaman” had good CGI, but “Alita” is even better. Alita herself is CGI, with actress Rosa Salazar filmed by motion capture, and it looks amazing. The movie uses special effects to its advantage. Alita looks unnatural, purposely. Because her character is cyborg it feels natural for her character to look different from other noncyborgs. In other cases, there are characters whose human faces are projected onto CGI bodies. On paper, this may sound a little silly. But onscreen it’s not. The movie sells the concept and more.
Those who have seen the movie may feel that my previous synopsis was too brief. In fact, there is a lot I could have added. This movie does a really good job with world-building. Giving you a bunch of information about Iron City, Zalem and so much more. With character backstory thrown into the mix, “Alita” delivers it in a way that doesn’t feel forced or annoying. Actually, it can be fun at times, making you want to learn more about this world.
However, Iron City looked too nice to be a slum. It’s supposed to be this desolate place. As we are constantly told that the city is miserable and filled with poverty and danger. A city that literally lives in Zalem’s shadow. But due to colorful visuals and fun world-building, it doesn’t seem to be such a bad place to live. The cinematography does try to show their struggle though. Except for a few brief instances, we never do get to see the city of Zalem. Instead, we, like the characters, spend all of the time looking up at the bottom of the city floating in the sky, unable to ever get there and see the top.
“Alita’s” biggest strength is not world-building or its special effects. Instead, it is the emotion of the story. Many big budget blockbusters, especially the ones filled with plenty of CGI, can feel like their missing genuine emotion. “Alita” not only sells its concept, but it gets you emotionally involved with its characters. The movie goes out of its way to make the characters layered, relatable and makes their actions feel natural to who they are. “Alita” has a great deal of heart, coming from both sides of the camera. Despite some having genuine emotion to their stories, many upcoming superhero films and blockbusters, in general, could take note from “Alita: Battle Angel.”