Movie Review: Alita Battle Angel improves live-action anime movies


graphic by Thomas French Thomas French reviews the action movie Alita: Battle Angel

by Thomas French, Reporter

December 15, 1990, the first issue of the manga Battle Angel Alita was released to Japanese audiences. A generation later, Western audiences watched the action-packed trailer for Alita: Battle Angel.

My reaction was a cynical “How would Hollywood mess up?”

Hollywood and anime movies have been poor partners. Whether it’s the laughably inaccurate recreation of many people’s favorite Saturday morning cartoon, Dragon Ball Evolution, or the absolute trainwreck that was Netflix’s Fullmetal Alchemist, Hollywood doesn’t “get” anime.

It was shock to me when the trailer for Alita dropped, and I learned that Robert Rodriguez, creator of the cult classic Sin City and fan favorite Spy Kids films, was directing the picture. What was even more surprising was the writing credit of James Cameron, Oscar-winning writer of Titanic, Avatar and Aliens. Before seeing the movie, I was feeling hopeful that these two could pull off an impossible feat, staying true to the original source material.

The film takes place in the 26th Century, and is about Alita (Rosa Salazar), an android half destroyed and abandoned in the scrapyard of Iron City. The compassionate and ingenious Ido (Christoph Waltz) finds her and uses his skills as a cybernetic doctor to build her a new body. He then tries to protect her from the hostile city, but she meets the street-savvy youth Hugo (Keean Johnson), who offers to help her regain her memories.

She finds out that she is much more than a simple robot, with fighting skills on par with some of the roughest bounty hunters in the city. With this knowledge she attempts to find out who she was, while also protecting those she cares about from those who would do harm. This a common trope in action movies, such as Terminator and Robocop.

The biggest plus for this movie was the action. All the CGI blended seamlessly with the action, making for realistic fight scenes with a lot of punch.

One drawback is her character features, with her over-sized puppy-dog looking eyes, considering that no other actor in the film, even the other robots, looked like this. As I became involved in Alita, I became less bothered by the strange design choice.

The biggest fault with the movie is that some of the dialogue is forced. The romance between Hugo and Alita is rushed, and Waltz’s performance of Ido is below average at best. His accent made the dialogue hard to follow and did not give the emotion needed for the role.

The critics agree with these points. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian said, “Alita: Battle Angel is a film with Imax spectacle and big effects. But for all its scale, it might end up being put on for 13-year-olds as a sleepover entertainment.” Many critics talk of its massive scale and impressive CGI, but most agree that it stumbles with its story.

Alita: Battle Angel is a good first step in for live-action anime movies. While the dialogue and characters need work, Rodriguez was able to capture the action-packed tension of the manga