The Dark Herald Recommends Battle Angel Alita

The Dark Herald Recommends Battle Angel Alita

First things first.

I am approaching this subject from a place of familiarity.  I first saw the Battle Angel OVA when I was stationed at Camp Lejeune better than twenty-five years ago.  And there is no getting around it, this film is basically an expanded version of the OVA. Yes, I understand that it’s supposed to be about the first few books in the manga series but sorry, no. It’s the OVA with some background material thrown in.  That was clearly and obviously the inspiration for the whole project.  James Cameron is a nerd with a taste for hard science fiction, it’s hardly a surprise that he fell in love with Alita.

So, like I said.  I am quite familiar with the subject material and that is something of a problem when reviewing this film. It did everything I wanted it to do but that doesn’t make it a good movie.

From the standpoint of a writer, it is quite flawed in terms of story structure and while I hate saying this, a number of its critics have a point.

This is not a single story that flows seamlessly.  It is several stories that are, frankly, just a bit disjointed when sown together.

Yes, I loved Alita Battle Angel but anyone who was completely unfamiliar with the source material would have been left scratching their heads in a few places because there were a lot of individual elements that didn’t work as a whole.

These were four different stories that didn’t quite make for a cohesive narrative.

That said, I still loved this flick.

Alita takes place in a setting where there are only two cites left on Earth and so effectively there are only two worlds.  Zalem, is the very last floating city on Earth.  Three hundred years before, the rest were destroyed by an attack from a Martian colony that was trying to gain its independence from Earth. Zalem is a place of unearthly beauty and luxury and beneath it, is the ugly Scrap Iron City.  The place where Zalem literally throws all of its garbage.  An apparently parasitic economy is in place.  Scrap Iron City builds everything for Zalem in its factories.  Grows everything for Zalem on its farms. And it only gets a few scraps in return. Sound familiar? Yeah, there are several reasons the SJWs were uncomfortable with this movie and that is the first of them.  It’s setting a mirror the world we live in now and paints them as the bad guys.

Technology is stagnant.  There is no invention or innovation at this point.  In fact, Zalem’s static nature is gradually degrading technology.

In case you are wondering why Scrap Iron City doesn’t rebel against this? Zalem controls all the guns.

That being the point of gun control.

The floating city pretty much ignores its dumping ground. And lets Scrap Iron City run its own affairs in what appears to be something of an anarchy.  However, if one of its denizens becomes too disruptive, (usually for violent crime), a bounty is put on his head and the Hunter-Warriors go out to kill him.  Nobody gets taken alive.

Spoilers from here on out.

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The opening scene matches the Manga and the OVA.  Doctor Ido is seen crawling over the scrap mountain that Zalem has ejected onto Scrap Iron City.  He finds a few cybernetic parts here and there.  A few useful things. And then he comes across the hairless head and torso of a female cyborg.  He is astonished to discover that the brain encased in the body’s core is still alive.

He takes her home and, here some changes were made.  The manga spent several pages establishing a relationship between Ido and the broken cyborg.

In the film, he simply gets a bug up his ass the day he finds her, and provides Alita with the body that he had built for his own dead daughter who in flashbacks we discover had had some kind of degenerative disease. When he finds that the cyborg has no memories, he gives her his lost daughter’s name, “Alita.”  Whereas in the Manga, Ido had named her after a cat that died the week before.  This tells you something about where the original relationship started out.

There is no getting around it. This is all too rapid.  This is all a bit clunky.  Which is no surprise, James Cameron wrote the script, remember? And Cameron’s real storytelling ability is in his visuals.  And, the visuals are the real selling point of this movie. Given that Cameron was producing, this probably means that he put himself in charge of the CGI, which in this movie effectively makes him a codirector and in truth you can see a lot his cinematic style throughout the film.

The SJWs are making NPC complaints about Ido having been White Washed.

Yeah, totes whitewashed.

My complaint is that Ido’s character was warped too badly to be consistent.  Cameron was being both too true to the narrative in the Manga while changing Ido’s character too much to be consistent with those events.  In both iterations, Ido was a Hunter-Warrior.  But in this version, he is presented as being too loving, kind, and compassionate to be believable as a cold-hearted, killer bounty hunter. 

 In the original, it was made plain that Ido killed criminals because he liked it.

My last complaint is the scene where Alita makes an impassioned speech to a bar full of Hunter-Warriors to band together and go after a very tough bad guy.  That scene was just a groaner.  It didn’t work at all.

But honestly, everything else was pretty much great.

Now the plot device here is that Alita is a superpowered amnesiac.  Where Captain Marvel clearly fucked this up, Alita gets it right in every possible way.    This is a trip of self-discovery, and you are along for the ride as Alita finds herself.

Alita’s fighting skills are instinctive and revealed as exceptionally powerful.  It turns out that she is the last of her kind.  Three hundred years before she was a cyborg super-soldier. One of the ones that destroyed the other floating cities. The technology that created her no longer exists.

Her heart is exceptionally valuable since it’s powered by antimatter.   It’s the reason she is as powerful as she is.

And no, she is not a Mary Sue.  A Mary Sue draws her identity from what she is.  Alita draws hers from what she does.

Yes, she was a cyborg super-soldier leftover from a war that ended 300 years ago but she was also a normal teenage girl in her deepest heart.

Not only did she have a romantic interest (who was a boy of all things) but at one point she literally offered her heart to him.  You see, everyone (except Ido) wants to get up to Zalem.  The guy that can supposedly get you there is Vector and he demands millions to do that.  Alita’s heart is easily worth millions.

In offering Hugo her heart, she was offering to make herself completely defenseless in order to make his dream come true.

This is the scene that made feminists go, “REEEEEEEEEE!!!”  It was an incredibly feminine thing for her to do. Feminine in every way possible.  And if there is one thing feminists hate above all others it is authentic femininity. They recoil from it as instinctively as a vampire does from a cross.

The CGI is top shelf as you would expect from a film that Cameron produced. The fight scenes do not disappoint.  And unlike Marvel Sue, you know there are stakes involved.  Alita is vulnerable.  She loses her first boss fight and has to be rescued by the MEN in her life of things!

Other characters.

Vector is an effective villain, but you learn that he is little more than a puppet.  The real enemy of Alita is Nova.  An all-seeing immortal who rules Zalem and thus the whole world.

Jennifer Connelly did a good job with Charen, which kind of surprised me.  I’m used to seeing her in Little Wounded Bird roles rather than playing a villain.   But she did a good job with it because you find out that this villain actually is something of Little Wounded Bird.  One that was hurt so badly it didn’t want to feel anything anymore.

In summary. Alita Battle Angel is an incredibly spectacular action movie with scenes that rival or excel Cameron’s best work. The character of Alita is rock solid, and you really feel something for her existential struggle.  She learns throughout the film, who she is, what she is, and what she must do.  She grows but pays a heavy, heavy price for that growth.  It does have some notable weaknesses here and there.  I can’t say that it doesn’t, and those weaknesses leave it with some severe flaws. It was good but with just a little more work, it would have been one of the all-time greats.  And so…

The Dark Herald Recommends with Reservations

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Comments (10)

  • Dave W. Reply

    I’ve been wanting to watch this for many months since it hit streaming. None of them have it without it costing extra. Hopefully soon. Loved the anime back in the day.

    September 1, 2021 at 11:17 pm
  • furor kek tonicus ( Whipper Snapping Egg Suckers is my band name ) Reply

    okay, now you’re just trolling me.

    September 2, 2021 at 12:52 am
  • Cloudbuster Reply

    If there’s only one terrestrial city left, is there any explanation in the story why the population doesn’t just filter out into the rest of the giant frickin’ planet they have to themselves? One floating city can’t possibly police all that.

    September 2, 2021 at 3:46 am
    • Marsh Bat Reply

      Because that would involve work. People are lazy and would much prefer free scraps.

      September 2, 2021 at 10:27 am
    • The Dark Herald Reply

      There are other population centers in the Solar System but Earth is a backwater because the other cities fell three hundred years before. The cities didn’t float, they were physically connected to orbital platforms. When those connections were cut, the cities fell like asteroids. The only place left on Earth with any kind of standard of living above hardscrabble subsistence is Scrap Iron City and that is surrounded by desert. Life in SIC sucks but it beats trying to survive in the wastelands on some plot of land that you had to clear yourself and farm with a plow fashioned out of junk. Those people have nothing to trade for things they need but can’t produce themselves. Like medicine.

      September 2, 2021 at 11:45 am
    • M Reply

      The manga goes into more detail later on – the outside is a wasteland (they moved the city to be more tropical for the movie). Apparently Earth suffered through a small Ice Age and a number of other catastrophes.

      Admittedly the detail doesn’t really hold up to a lot of thought. Kishiro shows the immediate area around Iron City, but then is more interested in what’s going on in higher places….

      September 2, 2021 at 11:48 am
      • Cloudbuster Reply

        “Admittedly the detail doesn’t really hold up to a lot of thought.”

        This was the only worthwhile statement in all three replies to my post.

        September 3, 2021 at 2:56 am
  • jorgen b Reply

    Black character in promotional image. Hard pass. I agree with China on this one nowdays.

    September 2, 2021 at 10:24 pm
    • SirFalterBrawley Reply

      He’s the bad guy/puppet, another reason why liking this movie is “unacceptable.”

      September 3, 2021 at 7:42 pm
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