Thursday, February 28, 2019

Alita the Roller Baller Angel

The film Alita: Battle Angel is based off a manga comic book series of a similar name.

For me, the most impressive aspect of the movie was its attempt to world-build a future cyberpunk dystopian manga world.  Overall though, I was kinda indifferent to the movie as a whole.  It had reasonable looking CGI and fine action scenes.  But, there was this feeling I had, while watching, that something was off.  There was too much going on and the motivations didn’t seem clear to me.  There was a love story, an x-wife sub-plot, a roller ball tournament and other things that felt crammed in.  I honestly couldn’t figure out if the movie was a story about cyber girl Alita and her mysterious past, or, was about the boy, Yugo, who wanted to leave town to go to the hovering city named Zalem, or, was it really about any other other plot threads in the movie.  Too much stuff and not a lot of breathing room was my feeling.

Alita, she knows the karate and how to roller ball too



After viewing the movie I decided to read the actual manga comic itself.  And, to no real surprise, the movie really was, as I feared, a Frankenstein creation of ideas, stealing plot lines, moments, and characters from all over the ENTIRE comic series.  The movie makers, for some reason, had decided to shove everything they could in it and force it all to work somehow.  Why?  I don’t know.  But in my opinion, it was a mistake.

The first volume (or the first storyline of the manga comics) consisted only about Alita being “reborn” after being discovered in a scrap yard and then becoming a hunter-warrior and then having to deal with a giant brain-eating cyborg named Makaku.  There was no boy named Yugo or a roller ball arena or an evil ex-wife or anything else.  Makaku in the movie was treated as a secondary character, whereas in the comic book is a major threat to Alita.  The reader also learns more clearly what is going on with the hunter-warrior caste and what they really are about.

The comic explains that in the Scrapyard (the city in which the story takes place) there is no formal police force and that the Factory (the government of the city) puts out bounties on criminals.  The hunter-warriors are registered citizens with the Factory, who are allowed to go out and collect bounties to receive a monetary reward.  In the movie, the hunter-warriors’ relationship with the city and to Zalem wasn’t at all clear.  I got the impression from the movie that the hunter-warriors hunted outlaw cyborgs called demons.  But really, they just track down and kill criminals, cyborgs or non-cyborgs, for money.  That’s how the city administrates “law and order” in Scrapyard.

I really think the movie would’ve been better if it had stuck to the first manga storyline and had not added in so much material from the rest of the series.  You could really tell, watching, there was too much going on and not all of it gelled together smoothly.  It was messy.  I would’ve been more satisfied with a simpler story focusing on only Atila, how the city works, her being a hunter-warrior, and having the conflict and then final showdown with the giant cyborg Makaku in the climax.  In the comics, Alita gets to explore the city’s underground more and she learns more about it and learns what Makaku’s background was.  Almost all of that was cut from the film (to save room I imagine).

As for the boy and the roller ball elements in the film, they do, in fact, show up in the manga comics eventually, but much later and under different contexts.  The other elements were completely separate storylines of their own, and, possibly, could’ve been their own movies if there had been any sequels.  But I doubt there ever will be a sequel to Alita: Battle Angel, now.

I do understand that it is difficult to translate manga for an American audience and still have it be successful.  A lot of the things from the comics admittedly should be changed, or at least tweaked some.  However, this latest attempt fell short not for those reasons, but for the initial bad idea in the scriptwriting process to mash up and force way too many elements into the film.  It really did hurt it and I don’t think there was a good reason to.  I wanted to like this movie.

I give this movie a C-.

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