Alita: Battle Angel (2019)
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Conelly, Rosa Salazar, Mahershala Ali, Keean Johnson, Jackie Earle Haley, Michelle Rodriguez, Casper Van Diem, Jeff Fahey and Edward Norton
So after many years in development, Yukito Kishiro’s manga comes to life in an expensive, fx filled film produced and written by the one and only James Cameron and directed by none other than genre favorite Robert Rodriguez. I remember hearing about Cameron’s intent on making this film since his Titanic days. So here we are, Alita has finally seen the light of day. Did the films long gestating period affect it in a positive or negative way?
Rosa Salazar plays Alita
Alita is your typical big brother is watching, rebels against the evil oppressive elitist government type of thing and that always gets the juices of my juices flowing because, it’s the kind of thing we all deal with on a day to day basis. And though this story might feel ‘old hat’ to some, you know what I always say; it’s how you tell your tale that matters. And in that area Alita Battle Angel exceeds because it takes place in a complex post-apocalyptic world where most of the people live in poverty and garbage while a select few live their lives in an exclusive 1%-only-live-there utopia above the clouds, in a floating city called ‘Zalem’. Alita is a cyborg, who is thrown away like garbage, only to be found by Dr. Dyson, who then decides to give her a new body and bring her back to life. Problem is she’s no ordinary cyborg, and so the film turns into the story of how Alita discovers who she is and what she’s truly capable of. Alita is a fine slice of Cyberpunk Cinema, meaning it's a story about humans, melding with technology...centered on misfits and outcasts who battle against the proverbial system.
Months before its release, talk of how the film would do in theaters was mostly negative. This is something I have always been against. Saying that a film is projected to do bad even before its release is wrong in my book because you are already setting the film up for failure. You’re marking it for death even before it’s had a chance to show what it’s made of. So I absolutely detest it when websites start defusing articles saying that they “project an abysmal box office” for whatever the film. I say let the audience decide! I say give the film a chance to prove itself! That being said, I wasn’t too excited for Alita Battle Angel because to be honest, the teaser trailer didn’t really do much for me. I was going to see it anyway because as I said, I always like to give films a chance. I like to give them the quintessential benefit of the doubt. Still, Alita wasn’t a priority for me. That all changed as the films premiere date approached. I saw a final trailer…I saw the anime it was based on…I started to read these positive reviews about how mind blowing the film was and suddenly my interest in it sparked. Suddenly I was excited to see it.
Yukito Kishiro’s Manga on which the film is based on
So why doom a film to failure before it’s released? These cinematic projections are based on a couple of things. For example, a films possible outcome can be determined by how popular the source material is before the film’s release. For example, Harry Potter was a literary phenomenon way before a film was even considered. So of course, the films based on the Harry Potter books were always projected to be a success. I’m willing to bet that in today’s technologically savvy world, clicks on facebook and the times a trailer has been seen and shared on You Tube can also give number crunchers an idea of how a film will do. Reactions to tests screenings also tell producers a lot. Apparently, Alita’s future in the box office wasn’t expected to be so great. In fact, it was expected to bomb big. I’m guessing these fortune tellers were also basing their stats on how other manga film adaptations have done, like for example how Ghost in the Shell (2017) bombed at the box office. Also, expensive films based on obscure books or comics that aren’t that well known have bombed in a big way, the most recent example being Mortal Engines (2019). A great film that bombed because the books weren’t blockbuster hits or whatever.
Battle Angel Alita isn’t exactly a new property. It is based on a Manga (that’s a Japanese comic book for you non-savvy) which is still being printed today. It was adapted into an anime series...the problem is that Alita is obviously more popular and known in Japan. In the states it is known by lovers of anime, alone, though I’m sure that will change after this film. But, if a film is good, it’s good and good word of mouth should give it life at the box office. And so Alita Battle Angel has achieved what few films marked for death have done, it came out on top. That’s right my friends, inspite of all the negative predictions about it being a box office bomb before it was even seen, the people, the audiences have decided this one is going to be a winner. But why? Well, I attribute various reasons to this success. Number one, the knock out power house combo of James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez, both world renown directors. Also, it doesn’t hurt to put the words “from the producers of Avatar” on the promotional material because say what you may about Avatar, it was a groundbreaking film in its time. Also, it was a good move for the producers to promote the film as a “must watch special effects event” that must be seen on the biggest, loudest most 3-D screen you can find in the galaxy. So yeah, all these elements, plus good word of mouth its gotten from people who have actually seen the film, have led to Alita Battle Angel battling the odds so to speak and and winning at the box office. Mind you, as of my writing this the film hasn’t passed the 100 million mark yet, but this Film Connoisseur is willing to bet it will make its money back because of good word of mouth and because of what the film will make overseas, specifically China.
The film has gotten amazing praise for its special effects and I agree, it is an amazing looking film. It has a great cast that counts with the participation of Christophe Waltz, Jennifer Connelly and Rosa Salazar in her break out role as Alita. It also has many fine actors in smaller parts, like for example Edward Norton and Jeff Fahey. But you know, the real stars here are the special effects which are flawless in my book. Having an awesome cast is the icing on the cake. A note on the effects work, James Cameron’s special effects team, who were hard at work on the effects for the new Avatar films, stopped working on those to work on Alita. And if you know anything about James Cameron it’s that the effects in the films he is involved in are flawless, and often times groundbreaking. A special effects heavy stand out scene in Alita involves a sport called ‘Motor Ball’ which is a lot like Roller Ball and Alita loves it so much she signs up for a trial run, to see if she’s got what it takes to be part of Motor Ball. The Motor Ball race sequence could give Episode I’s ‘Pod Racing’ sequence a run for its money. But aside from its effects work, I think ultimately what will win people over with Alita Battle Angel is its heart and characters. For a film dealing with cyborgs, this film has a lot of warmth and humanity to it. It’s a story about a girl who is coming of age, a girl falling in love for the first time. And a girl, standing up to evil! I love that line where Alita says “I will not standby in the presence of evil!” Awesome sauces. Anyhow’s, Alita is awesome, well worth the wait. Amazing effects, a heart of gold and a lovable, strong lead, what’s not to love?
Rating: 5 out of 5