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4K Review: Alita: Battle Angel
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Alita: Battle Angel

Alita: Battle Angel
4K Ultra HD | Blu-ray | DVD | Digital |
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Writer: James Cameron, Laeta Kalogridis
Cast: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, and Keean Johnson
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Rated PG-13 | Minutes: 122
Release Date: July 24, 2019

Ever since James Cameron put all of his attention on the Avatar franchise, Alita: Battle Angel had been sitting on the back burner for as long as I could remember. Luckily, that all changed when he handed directing responsibilities over to Robert Rodriguez, who seemed to have the right sensibilities in order to bring the manga character to the big screen in a way that would honor the source material and their fans.

While the film was met with mixed reviews, most would say that the adaptation captured Alita and the futuristic world around her well. All those textures, the attention to detail, and the motion-capture work all speak to Cameron’s need to bring those characters and said world to audiences, and eliciting a wide-eyed and jaw-dropping reaction. Though the predictable narrative itself couldn’t support Alita: Battle Angel, the titular character’s journey of self-discovery is something worth watching. Check out my review of the film, plus some of the bonus feature that will be available, below.

As far as a film, it is a pretty standard style over substance film with Rosa Salazar doing a lot of the heavy lifting. Salazar plays Alita, a refurbished robotic soldier, who is pulled from a salvage yard and rebuilt thanks to her surrogate father Ido (Christoph Waltz). Alita experiences Iron City with a child-like sense of curiosity and wonder. She questions what she sees, wants to taste new things like oranges and chocolate, and is eager to see the limits of her strength. As the film progresses, she soon discovers that there is so much more to her and she sets out to discover her true destiny. She befriends Hugo (Keean Johnson), a morally conflicted scrap dealer, and clashes with various cyborg serial killers like Panzer Kunst. Part of the larger problem with Alita is the film’s lack of narrative. While the surroundings were a sight to behold, its story was lacking soul and was filled with a shoehorned and lackluster love story and an equally boring male love interest who tried to serve as Alita’s guide in understanding how Iron City works.

All of Iron City’s nuts and bolts were interesting to look at, especially when it came to the rough and tumble sport of motorball. This is where we get to see Alita’s skills as an athlete truly shines by beating her opponents with guts, heart, and spirit. It wasn’t effortless, but she more than proved herself and had an empowering presence to her that impressed the crowd as well as some of the villains who were watching closely. As a person who reads manga, I can’t help but feel that the film captured the spirit of the source material. But Cameron’s weak script couldn’t elevate it or have the story and the visuals wired together properly.

That being said, it is still something that looks good on 4K. Though it is a live-action take on the manga, the visuals in Alita are spectacular, with the robotic details feeling a little bit more believable considering they are motion-capture and CG. But there is a tangibility to what you see as well, especially in Iron City, where you can almost feel the textures.

And, of course, you cannot forget about some of the bonus features. Here are what you can expect to see:

Explore The Streets Of Iron City

Rodriguez takes the viewer on a guided tour of one of the film’s key locations, Iron City. In it, you will see how surprisingly practical the setting is, and how the technology was woven into it to make it look more futuristic. The director talks about how some of the changes from the manga would help influence the Old Havana and Panama vibes seen in the film’s setting.

Alita’s World

This bonus feature is a dynamic motion graphic novel that takes a deeper look into “Alita’s World,” with each chapter being narrated by key characters from the live-action film. In it, we get to see “The Fall,” which chronicles the war between two planets, building cities in the sky, and Alita, who was originally built for military combat. Hugo talks about his life and the living conditions in “Iron City,” while the Hunter-warrior Zaplan offers some insight on “What it Means to Be a Cyborg.” Finally, there’s “Rules of the Game,” which takes a look at one of the more popular games in Iron City, motorball.

From Manga to Screen

As the title says, this bonus feature takes a look at how Yukito Kishiro’s beloved manga, “Gunnm,” became a live-action film adaptation from Rodriguez and producers Cameron and Jon Landau. In it, they talk about how the manga panels were so inspirational it was just begging to become a full-length theatrical feature.

Evolution of Alita

In this bonus feature, we get to see the technology that was used to bring Alita to life. It’s definitely something to look at for those who are fans of WETA’s VFX work. Additionally, we get to see the staff who were dedicated to go above and beyond to get every nuance of the character just right. It was more than just the look and feel, it was about the soul of the character. This is where we get to hear from Rosa Salazar, who talks about working with motion-capture and how the character was an inspiration to her.

Motorball
This short bonus feature looks at Iron City’s favorite sports. The rules, how the brutal game is played, its large following, and how the arenas are designed.

James Cameron, Robert Rodriguez and cast Q&A moderated by Jon Landau

Once again, as the title of the bonus feature says, this is a Q&A with James Cameron, Robert Rodriguez, Rosa Salazar, and the rest of the cast. It is almost a larger expansion of what’s been done during the press rounds, but a little bit more intimate considering it is with just the cast and crew.

Robert Rodriguez’s 10-Minute Cooking School: Chocolate

Probably one of my favorite bonus features. I don’t know how to make chocolate personally, but watching director Robert Rodriguez making Alita’s favorite things to eat was just a joy.

2005 Art Compilation (2019)

Think of this as the artwork that Cameron had to use to pitch to various studios in order to get the film produced.

Scene Deconstruction

This is your typical scene breakdown that takes an in-depth look at the visuals and structures of the scene.

Overall, I would have to say that Alita: Battle Angel is a decent action film with a very strong female lead who deserves a far better story than she is given.

Trailer

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