Alita Battle Angel – The most anime thing I have ever seen

Written by on February 15, 2019

Last night’s viewing of Alita was a last-minute thought and even more last minute purchase, and yet I was still in my seat 15 minutes before the trailers began, which was more to do with the fact that they started half an hour after the time shown on my ticket, but at least the chairs were comfortable.

I am going to attempt to write this up without any spoilers, but that is quite difficult and makes the whole process quite laborious, as well as frustrating since I can’t bring up specific examples, but we soldier on. In an attempt to get around this I will simply say that this is the best version of an anime turned into a live action film I have ever seen.

This film manages to capture the innocent feel of a manga comic, while at the same time showing the graphic and stylised violence that makes the film jarring, but in a good way. I will try to explain that a little more. There was no way to just sit back and switch off most of your brain, as is possible with most films due to the formulaic way in which they are made, Alita managed to present two very different things to you at the same time in a way that your brain couldn’t quite fathom, and yet make it interesting and engrossing.

The easiest way to explain this is that everything that Ghost in the Shell did wrong, Alita did right. There were moments of brilliance in this film that I hadn’t expected. Moments where I wanted to scoff at the melodrama of the whole thing, which seemed to stand out to a lot of people from what I heard as we were all leaving the theatre, but this is one of the things about anime that is so interesting. The cheesiness of the characters and their interactions when combined with the heavy action is a specific quality that is only seen in anime, specifically badly translated anime. The makers of this film have not shied away from this phenomenon and as a result this film feels more authentic in it’s approach than many that have come before.

The characters in this film feel real and well established, there is a richness to their interactions and experiences that is allowed to be expressed without an obvious fear of the run time forcing the storytellers to rush through any details with forced exposition.

One thing that did stand out about the film, and I think I can get away with it because it isn’t a spoiler, is the dystopian setting. There is the floating city, which is somewhere that everyone wants to get to, and the lower city where our characters live. What I couldn’t understand is why anyone wanted to get out of the lower city. As dystopias go it was pretty luxurious. Everyone was able to get android limbs if they needed them, the city itself looked like modern day Hanoi, there was plenty of food, specifically fruit and chocolate, the streets were clean and there didn’t seem to be any homelessness, disease or obesity, everyone seemed quite fit and happy. Compare that to the people in power who seemed stressed and grumpy I would say that the regular folks were having a pretty good time, in many ways it was better than we have now. It was an interesting feature that has had me thinking more about the film since, and one that has sparked my imagination no end.

The CGI in this film is fantastic and almost flawless. There was never a glaring mis-step that I saw, especially when compared to the Captain Marvel trailer that was shown before the film, the sad sigh that rose from the audience after this was shown should be some indication of how people feel about that film.

Alita is a labour of love that is well known, from Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron, and it shows. The world it inhabits has a history that does not seem rushed and superficial, the details of the characters’ stories are not rushed and are allowed to develop and there aesthetic and character interactions with each other do not seem to be forced or unnatural for the sake of story development or progressing the story further. There is a hint of teen drama about the film, but given that this is the age of the main character that is to be expected, as well as the manga and anime roots of the story. Overall this film is much better than I expected from almost all angles, it also holds the strange position in my mind of being deserving of, and almost certain to get, a sequel, without me actually wanting one, just because I would like this to stand out as it is.

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