First things first.
I am approaching this subject from a place of familiarity. I first saw the Battle Angel OVA when I was stationed at Camp Lejeune better than twenty-five years ago. And there is no getting around it, this film is basically an expanded version of the OVA. Yes, I understand that it’s supposed to be about the first few books in the manga series but sorry, no. It’s the OVA with some background material thrown in. That was clearly and obviously the inspiration for the whole project. James Cameron is a nerd with a taste for hard science fiction, it’s hardly a surprise that he fell in love with Alita.
So, like I said. I am quite familiar with the subject material and that is something of a problem when reviewing this film. It did everything I wanted it to do but that doesn’t make it a good story.
From the standpoint of a writer, it is quite flawed in terms of story structure and while I hate saying this, a number of its critics have a point.
This is not just one story that flows seamlessly. It is several stories that are frankly just a bit disjointed when sown together.
Yes, I loved Alita Battle Angel but anyone who was completely unfamiliar with the source material would have been left scratching their heads in a few places because there were a lot of individual elements that didn’t work as a whole.
These were four different stories that didn’t quite make for a cohesive narrative.
That said, I did love this flick.
Alita takes place in a setting where there are only two cites left on Earth and so effectively there are only two worlds. Zalem, is the very last floating city on Earth. Three hundred years before, the rest were destroyed by an attack from a Martian colony that was trying to gain its independence from Earth. Zalem is a place of unearthly beauty and luxury and beneath it, is the ugly Scrap Iron City. The place where Zalem literally throws all of its garbage. An apparently parasitic economy is in place. Scrap Iron City builds everything for Zalem in its factories. Grows everything for Zalem. And it only gets a few scraps in return. Sound familiar? Yeah, there are several reasons the SJWs were uncomfortable with this movie and that is the first of them. It’s setting mirrors the world we live in now and paints them as the bad guys.
Technology is stagnant. There is no invention or innovation at this point. In fact, Zalem’s static nature is gradually degrading technology.
In case you are wondering why Scrap Iron City doesn’t rebel against this? Zalem controls all the guns.
That being the point of gun control.
The floating city pretty much ignores it’s dumping ground. And lets it run its own affairs in what appears to be something of an anarchy. However if one of Scrap Iron City’s denizens becomes too disruptive, (usually for violent crime), a bounty is put on his head and the Hunter-Warriors go out to kill him. Nobody gets taken alive.
Spoilers from here on out.
The opening scene matches the Manga and the OVA. Doctor Ido is seen crawling over the scrap mountain that Zalem has ejected onto Scrap Iron City. He finds a few cybernetic parts here and there. A few useful things. And then he comes across the hairless head and torso of a female cyborg. He is astonished to discover that the brain encased in the body’s core is still alive.
He takes her home and…here some changes were made. The manga spent several pages establishing a relationship between Ido and the broken cyborg.
In the film, he simply gets a bug up his ass the day he finds her, just to kick-start the plot. He provides her with the body that he had built for his own dead daughter who in flashbacks we discover had had some kind of degenerative disease. When he finds that the cyborg has no memories, he gives her his lost daughter’s name, “Alita.” Whereas in the Manga, Ido had named her after a cat that died the week before. This tells you something about where the original relationship started out.
There is no getting around it. This is all too rapid. This is all a bit clunky. James Cameron wrote the script, remember? And Cameron’s real storytelling ability is in his visuals. But it must be said, the visuals are the real selling point of this movie, if you can see it while it’s still theaters, do so. Given that Cameron was producing, this probably means that he put himself in charge of the CGI, which in this movie effectively makes him a codirector and in truth you can see a lot his cinematic style throughout.
The SJWs are making NPC complaints about Ido having been White Washed.
Yeah, totes White Washed
My complaint is that Ido’s character was warped too badly to be consistent. Cameron was being both too true to the events in the Manga while changing Ido’s character too much to be consistent with those events. In both iterations, Ido was a Hunter-Warrior. But in this version, he is presented as being too loving, kind and compassionate to be believable as a cold-hearted, killer bounty hunter.
My last complaint is the scene where Alita makes an impassioned speech to a bar full of Hunter-Warriors to band together to go after a very tough bad guy. That scene was just a groaner. It didn’t work at all.
But honestly everything else was pretty much great.
Now the plot device here is that Alita is a superpowered amnesiac. Where Captain Marvel clearly fucked this up, Alita gets it right in every possible way. This is a trip of discovery and you are along for the ride as Alita finds herself.
Alita’s fighting skills are instinctive and reveled as exceptionally powerful. It turns out that she is the last of her kind. Three hundred years before she was a cyborg supersolider. One of the ones that destroyed the other floating cities. The technology that created her no longer exists.
Her heart is exceptionally valuable since it’s powered by antimatter. It’s the reason she is as powerful as she is.
And no, she is not a Mary Sue. A Mary Sue draws her identity from what she is. Alita draws her’s from what she does.
Yes, she was cyborg super-solider left over from a war that ended 300 years ago but she was also a NORMAL teenage girl in her deepest heart.
Not only did she have a romantic interest (who was a boy of all things) but at one point she literally offered her heart to him. You see, everyone (except Ido) wants to get up to Zalem. The guy that can supposedly get you there is Vector and he demands millions to do that. Alita’s heart is easily worth millions.
In offering Hugo her heart, she was offering to make herself completely defenseless in order to make his dream come true.
I have zero doubt in my mind that this is the scene that made feminists go, “REEEEEEEEEE!!!” It was an incredibly feminine thing for her to do. Feminine in every way possible. And if there is one thing feminists hate above all others it is authentic femininity. They recoil from it as instinctively as a vampire does from a cross.
The CGI is top shelf as you would expect from a film that Cameron produced. The fight scenes do not disappoint. And unlike Marvel Sue, you know there are stakes involved. Alita is vulnerable. She loses her first boss fight and has to be rescued by the MEN in her life of things!
Vector is an effective villain but you learn that he is little more than a puppet. The real enemy of Alita is Nova. An all-seeing immortal who rules Zalem and thus the whole world.
Jennifer Connelly did a good job with Charen, which kind of surprised me. I’m used to seeing her in Little Wounded Bird roles rather than playing a villain. But she did a good job with it because you find out that this villain actually is something of Little Wounded Bird. One that was hurt so badly it didn’t want to feel anything anymore.
In summary. Alita Battle Angel is an incredibly spectacular action movie with scenes that rival or excel Cameron’s best work. The character of Alita is rock solid and you really feel something for her existential struggle. She learns throughout the film, who she is, what she is, and what she must do. She grows but pays a heavy, heavy price for that growth. It does have some notable weaknesses here and there. I can’t say that it doesn’t and those weaknesses keep it at Nine instead of taking it all the way up to Eleven. It was great but with just a little more work, it would have been one of the all-time greats. And so…
Cataline Recommends Alita: Battle Angel…With Reservations.