Alita: Battle Angel

I tweeted that I was going to start typing a review of this film immediately upon arriving home after seeing it. I think I went to bed, instead. Whoops.

Anyway. I liked it! It was exactly what I thought it would be.

As described by the entire Internet: it was a beautiful, shallow movie that wore its anime roots on its sleeve and tried to pack too much content—about a TV season’s worth—into a two hour runtime, with the unfortunate consequence of feeling rushed, and the romance feeling shoehorned-in and unsatisfying. Having heard all of that in advance, I was prepared, but even if I hadn’t, I still think I would have been happy enough with the film.

All of it is true. I shelled out to see the film in 3D with my friend Rachel on my theater’s not-IMAX “Cinemark XD” screen, which wasn’t half as colorful as their irritating ads claim it to be. Trillions of colors my ass. It looked like it needed a new bulb. But that’s beside the point. The film was beautiful, and except for a few scenes when the 3D effect specifically outed Alita as not being present with her human companions, like when they took her to the lake to see the crashed Martian vessel, the 3D worked very well.

So here’s the bit we’re all sick of reading about, but everyone has to mention because it’s the thing to discuss about this film: the eyes.

I thought they were fine! So did everyone else, apparently, after a 2-10 minute warmup period. They never bothered me in the trailers, though, and the effect was never troubling during filming. I don’t know why they didn’t stylize anyone else in the film like this. Perhaps it’s the same reason that no one else in the fictional city of Springfield can have a Homer Simpson beard, or skin-colored, hairline-free hair like Bart and Lisa. It keeps Alita as the center of your attention in a way that simple costuming might not.

Rosa Salazar, a gorgeous actor anyway, made the CG work with her expressive acting, and I hope she is well remembered for how she helped sell that character. Christoph Waltz, international treasure, did a lovely job playing Dr. Ido, and while it’s cool that they gave him a black female nurse sidekick, I think she had all of one line over the whole course of the movie, which is deeply un-cool. I liked Jennifer Connelly’s character more than I expected to, and Mahershala Ali was definitely present. The bad guy from the first Deadpool played a cyborg who, in trailers, I thought was played by Cillian Murphy, so that was something.

This movie is pretty much everything everyone is saying about it, but I didn’t feel as strongly about my likes or dislikes as other seemed to. This was middle-of-the-road for me, but in a dumb, enjoyable way. I look forward to watching it again. And I’m glad to have given some dollars to encourage the making of anime adaptations by people who clearly give a shit. This is no masterpiece, but it’s better than a Dragon Ball Evolution or a DOA: Dead Or Alive by leaps. and. fucking. bounds. And I believe, strongly, that we should reward that effort and zeal with money. When it comes to the second-run theater, I’ll offer to treat some friends who missed it the first time. When it comes out on Blu-Ray (hopefully with a quality 4K transfer) I will pick it up week one.

This was a good—not great—but Good movie and I’m giving it ★★★☆☆ with a hearty recommendation.

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