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Alita: Battle Angel
#1


In the months leading up the the release of "Alita: Battle Angel", I wasn't particularly interested in it, not having been impressed by its marketing. However, I was intrigued by the disconnect between the critical and audience reactions upon its release (as I write this, its Rotten Tomatoes page features a "rotten" 59% critics' rating and an even worse 35% top critics' rating, but a 94% audience rating), and decided to give it a chance. And having now seen it, I am in agreement with the audience consensus rather than the critical one.

While Robert Rodriguez is the director, it feels very much like the work of James Cameron (who co-produced and co-wrote it, and has been developing it since 2003). Had I not known better, I would have assumed that Cameron himself had directed it. The effects and visuals are as impressive as one would expect from the team behind "Avatar". Alita's anime-style large eyes cease to give off an "uncanny valley" feeling after a few minutes of getting used to them, and give her a very endearing and expressive appearance. The worldbuilding is excellent, and the futuristic setting feels visceral and "lived-in".

The supporting cast as a whole ranges from good to excellent, with Christoph Waltz being the biggest standout of the bunch. But it's Alita herself, played beautifully by Rosa Salazar, that commands the screen. Alita is not quite like any other character that I've ever seen. She doesn't fit into a "box". Her personality is a mix of vulnerability and strength, kindness and ferocity, and independence and loyalty. And those traits don't contradict or conflict with each other. They coexist and complement each other. Action movies generally have to strike a balance between portraying the hero as formidable and making you fear for his or her fate. This movie does that extraordinarily well. Alita is simultaneously very formidable and very vulnerable, which makes for both better suspense and a more exhilarating feeling whenever she has one of her many hero moments. Salazar has the kind of pure-hearted but fierce screen presence that Chris Evans and Gal Gadot have used to great effect in recent years. There are multiple moments that nearly gave me chills (including the one in which Alita gets the "war paint" seen in some of the posters).

James Cameron's movies, even those of the action and science fiction variety, tend to have a strong emotional core to them, with human emotions and relationships being the focus. This is very much the case with "Alita". As intense and suspenseful as the action is, it always feels like it is in service of the story and Alita's personal journey, rather than the other way around.

It's sort of hard to explain exactly what this movie is like. It's an endearing, heartwarming story about a pure-hearted protagonist who (literally and figuratively) looks at the world through wide eyes, but also dark, disturbing dystopian science fiction in the vein of "Robocop" and "Rollerball". It isn't workmanlike like Rupert Sanders' "Ghost in the Shell". It's a passion project that's full of energy and heart. The trailers don't really do it justice, and I'm not sure that any description could either. And I'd rather not spoil too much. It has to be seen to be fully understood.

The only significant complaint that I have is that the third act has quite a bit of of sequel-bait. But overall, I am very impressed by the movie as a whole, and strongly hope that it gets the sequels that Cameron has said that he has planned for it. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes cyberpunk, anime or manga, dystopian science fiction, or movies that fit somewhat into the superhero genre without featuring its typical conventions.

As far as fanedit ideas go, I think that there might be potential for edits that remove some sequel-bait and make the ending more standalone.
Courage, men! we've not sunk before, and we'll not sink now!
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#2
All I have thought when I've see trailers on tv is "why is there an obvious CG character in the real world?"  Like, is there a story reason for it?
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#3
(02-24-2019, 03:15 PM)TVs Frink Wrote: All I have thought when I've see trailers on tv is "why is there an obvious CG character in the real world?"  Like, is there a story reason for it?

She's a cyborg. The only human part of her is her brain. Everything else is made of artificial materials, even her face. Her head and neck are designed to look somewhat humanlike (with "skin" made of a rubberlike substance), but she looks fully robotic from the shoulders on down.

Plus, they wanted to have her look very similar to how she did in the original manga.

[Image: 51%2BGAA2Ib8L.jpg]

At least for me, it ceased to be distracting after a few minutes.
Courage, men! we've not sunk before, and we'll not sink now!
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#4
I'm unconvinced.  Just from the tv commercials, I think the way she looks is stupid.  Shrug.
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#5
Courage, men! we've not sunk before, and we'll not sink now!
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#6
Random thought: IIRC I thought it was possibly unique to this type of premise that nobody in the film questions whether Alita is human, nor does she ask it of herself. Interesting to see a world (that could be our future) where man and machine have become so blurred that people don't see a difference.
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#7
(02-24-2019, 05:39 PM)TM2YC Wrote: Random thought: IIRC I thought it was possibly unique to this type of premise that nobody in the film questions whether Alita is human, nor does she ask it of herself.

Not exactly.


At one point, Alita asks, "Does it bother you that I'm not completely human?", to which Hugo replies, "You're the most human person I've met."

Also, some characters derogatorily refer to cyborgs such as Alita as "hardbodies".

Overall, being a cyborg is presented as being something that's commonplace, but not universally liked or desired. Some characters electively choose to become cyborgs in order to play motorball, bounty hunt, or do other things that cybernetic enhancements can help with, but others choose not to do so even though it would probably be helpful to them (Ido doesn't have any cybernetic enhancements, even though he's a hunter-warrior for whom they would come in very handy). It's seemingly implied that being a cyborg is a trade-off, with both benefits (mostly power of various types) and detriments (loss of certain human abilities and feelings). Even some cyborgs have certain body parts that they aren't willing to part with (such as Zapan, who treasures his face). 

There's some subtext about the philosophical question of how much one is willing to give up in order to gain wealth or status (such as the motorball players who have body parts amputated and replaced with bionics in the hopes of getting into Zalem).

While Ido has nothing against creating bionics for those who need them due to injury or disease, he turns down an offer from Chiren to turn people into cyborgs for motorball (something that he once did, but now regrets) by saying, "I won't help you make monsters."
Courage, men! we've not sunk before, and we'll not sink now!
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#8
(02-24-2019, 08:01 PM)hbenthow Wrote:
(02-24-2019, 05:39 PM)TM2YC Wrote: Random thought: IIRC I thought it was possibly unique to this type of premise that nobody in the film questions whether Alita is human, nor does she ask it of herself.

Not exactly.


At one point, Alita asks, "Does it bother you that I'm not completely human?", to which Hugo replies, "You're the most human person I've met."

Also, some characters derogatorily refer to cyborgs such as Alita as "hardbodies".

Overall, being a cyborg is presented as being something that's commonplace, but not universally liked or desired. Some characters electively choose to become cyborgs in order to play motorball, bounty hunt, or do other things that cybernetic enhancements can help with, but others choose not to do so even though it would probably be helpful to them (Ido doesn't have any cybernetic enhancements, even though he's a hunter-warrior for whom they would come in very handy). It's seemingly implied that being a cyborg is a trade-off, with both benefits (mostly power of various types) and detriments (loss of certain human abilities and feelings). Even some cyborgs have certain body parts that they aren't willing to part with (such as Zapan, who treasures his face). 

There's some subtext about the philosophical question of how much one is willing to give up in order to gain wealth or status (such as the motorball players who have body parts amputated and replaced with bionics in the hopes of getting into Zalem).

While Ido has nothing against creating bionics for those who need them due to injury or disease, he turns down an offer from Chiren to turn people into cyborgs for motorball (something that he once did, but now regrets) by saying, "I won't help you make monsters."

Oops Blush . I must have missed those subtleties.


What I should have said is that for a premise like this, it's unusual for that subject to not be a primary focus. e.g. Alita is not Pinocchio, yearning to be "a real boy!" like everybody else, neither is she Robocop, questioning if she is still herself. If that makes more sense.
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#9
An interesting interview with James Cameron.

Courage, men! we've not sunk before, and we'll not sink now!
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#10
20th Century Fox has released an 8-minute clip on YouTube.

Courage, men! we've not sunk before, and we'll not sink now!
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