Alita Battle Angel is a complex story. It’s also got a couple of really good twists and turns in it that I won’t be talking about but may be alluding to.
The story centres around, unsurprisingly, Alita. Alita is a cyborg; a being with a full human brain but an entirely robotic body. She is discovered in a scrap heap as nothing more than a head and torso by Dr Ido; a medic/roboticist who operates in the city of Scrapyard. Dr Ido often helps repair other denizens of the Scrapyard for free or for food only, when he discovers what remains of Alita he is taken aback and vows to repair her.
Ido quickly finds that Alita isn’t a simple cyborg but something much more complex. Missing all of her memories Alita learns what life is like in the Scrapyard, learns bits about the history of the world, makes friends, and falls in love. She also learns about pain and betrayal.
She quickly finds out that Ido moonlights as a bounty hunter, using a massive rocket-propelled hammer to destroy murderers and rapists in the town, protecting people as much as he repairs them. Alita learns she has an innate skill at fighting and demands to begin fighting to protect people as well.
The story develops as Alita meets Hugo, a scrap dealer and enthusiast of the “blood sport” Motorball (I put it in quotations because everyone who plays is mostly a robot so whilst there is a lot of brutality there isn’t so much blood). She begins to fall in love with him and he tries to prioritise his feelings for her against his own lifelong dream of escaping the Scrapyard for the paradisiacal floating city above them; Tiphares.
So things about the movie that are a bit weird: Alita’s eyes. It’s the elephant in the room; they’re huge. They’re also the only ones the film that are exaggerated in this way which makes her stand out even more. See?
In manga and anime eyes are generally really big and prominent, this is partially down to artistic styles but also from the development of anime and manga, used as a way of increasing the expressiveness of characters. You could write (and people have written!) tomes on the subject, but it doesn’t usually make the transition from 2D to 3D very well. Especially not when nobody else in the film have that stylistic signature.
I’m going to say it though; I don’t think they’re a problem. Especially after watching a bit of the film they just become regular. I don’t know if this is because I watch a lot of anime but they didn’t bother me. It probably also helped that Alita was cute as anything and 100% transition goals.
Next up; the look of the film in general. This was done by Weta Digital. To those in the know that’s some fine post-production pedigree, they are good at what they do. And it shows. This film is gorgeous, the effects are all stunning and rarely look artificial or out of place.
The visual design really closely mimics the manga, I was able to spot all Alita’s outfits during the film that feature in the manga and whilst they’re not identical they really are obviously based heavily and recognisably on them. The same goes for the look of the characters, especially the augmantents and robotics.
On the note of the robotics they are beautiful, especially the body Ido first gives Alita. You can see some of this in the image below but it really doesn’t do justice to the level of detail etched into the bodywork.
The fight scenes are absolutely captivating, slow motion is used effectively in places to really highlight particular moments, but mostly the action happens at full speed. This is really impactful in some of the bar fights where Alita and the other cyborgs are moving at lightning fast speeds and these aren’t slowed down for viewers, it’s literally a blur of motion and someone is in a headlock.
Now the story. How does it compare to the source material? It’s pretty close actually. They’ve moved a few bits around and cut some stuff but nothing that’s too important. The main story beats are all there and they all feel cohortent in order. The downside is the film does end on a bit of a cliffhanger and obviously wants a sequel (which it will hopefully get with its current box office performance) which is disappointing for cinemagoers. The reason I’m particularly frustrated is that all the huge twists come next and I’m really interested to see how they’ll be done because they are BIG. So we’ll have to cross our fingers and hope!
All in all I’d highly recommend it. The film is brilliant if you didn’t read the manga and close enough it shouldn’t upset you if you did read it. Fingers crossed we get the remainder of it soon. Now I leave you with a bit of art from one of my favourite artists showing you what Alita looks like in the manga (close enough at least….).