Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

*. Really not my thing, but here goes.
*. I’m not a big fan of manga or anime and Alita follows the Ghost in the Shell franchise in tracking a progression from manga (comic books) to anime (animated film) to live-action movie. If you can call movies with so much CGI “live action.” Rosa Salazar is Alita, but I’m not sure if she provides anything more than a voice. One side effect of this is that, as with many cartoon characters, her animated face has a disconcerting way of instantly jumping between emotional states. One moment she’s angry or concerned and the next she’s happy and playful. Along with the bodies that are so quickly dis- and reassembled one gets the feeling that nothing in this world matters very much.
*. Despite not being a fan of anime, I liked Ghost in the Shell well enough, and its “live-action” (again with the quotation marks) adaptation. Alita, however, strikes me as being quite inferior and I didn’t like it much at all.
*. It’s a nice movie to look at, as you would expect given the resources that were thrown at it, but the script is hum-drum in the extreme. Once again we have a future society split between an elite of sky-dwellers and the masses toiling in slums below. The other defining feature of this world is that most of the people we meet are cyborgs to some extent. Enter Alita, or at least her head, a cyborg discovered by Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz) on the scrap heap. Alita is obviously something special, but like Jason Bourne she can’t remember who or what she is.
*. Since the source material, a series of comic books by Yukito Kishiro, were published in the early 1990s not everything is derivative of more recent films. Though the sky city has been with us a long time, and Motorball is clearly just Rollerball with robots. None of this, I should say, makes Alita a bad movie, just uninteresting.

*. What I didn’t like was the weird YA vibe the movie gave off and the really pedestrian script. Despite the brutal violence (which includes multiple dismemberings and at least two decapitations) the plot is pure teen romance, with Alita falling head over heels for the first boy she meets. The scene where she offers Hugo her heart was cringeworthy, unless you’re twelve years old. I was honestly having flashbacks to Skaterdater. Meanwhile, the dialogue is all just comic book stuff mixed in with clumsy exposition (Matthew Rozsa: “clunky, shoehorned exposition that exists for no other purpose than to blatantly spell out the history and various rules of the Alita universe”). You start to wonder if it would be better with the sound turned off.
*. Well, it’s a comic book/superhero/video game movie. You know what they look like. If anything, it seems a little lighter and less original than most of its peers. I’d rate it below such similar fare (even down to the kick-ass female protagonists) as Valerian and Ghost in the Shell. What bothered me the most though was the awful “To be continued . . .” ending. There isn’t even the sense that a full story arc has been completed here, aside from getting rid of poor Hugo. Instead we’re left with Alita back in the Motorball arena, defiantly gesturing toward Zalem.
*. I don’t even know why Alita has gone back to playing Motorball. She knows that’s not the way to get to Zalem, so why bother? It seems like she’s put her plans for revenge on hold, figuring that in the meantime she might as well have some fun or stay in shape by being a running dog for the Motorball league. I don’t get it. She strikes a rebellious pose at the end (as an animated character she’s good at striking poses), but how is she fighting The Man by playing his game?

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