Alita: Battle Angel (2019), A (Mildly) Belated Review

Alita: Battle Angel, released last year and produced by James Cameron and directed by Robert Rodriguez, was one of those films I was curious about seeing but never quite had a chance to catch during its theatrical run.

Not that I was a fan of the original -and much loved!- Yukito Kishiro Manga comics it was based on, but rather because the trailers looked pretty interesting. Interestingly, I have the Manga books but until after seeing the film, I hadn’t read them (another of those things I’ve bought but were sitting around waiting for me to find time for them).

Anyway, here’s one of the movie’s trailers:

I managed to DVR the film when it played on a cable channel and eventually watched it in pieces over the course of three or four days. The film is fairly long, clocking in at 2 hours and 2 minutes and I wonder if maybe I’d sat through the whole thing at one time I might have had a somewhat lesser opinion of it.

I say this because an awful lot occurs in the course of the film and, while it is magnificent to look at, sometimes the plot seems to move in fits and starts and meander. If I had sat through the whole thing at one time, I might have been annoyed by this but, having seen it in pieces, I was more forgiving.

After watching the film I started reading the Manga comics. The original Alita Manga comic book series is collected in a 9 volume series and, it turns out, this movie covers events roughly through the first 3 volumes of those books. Had they followed this pattern, perhaps Cameron and Rodriguez imagined making three Alita films, the two remaining ones intended to cover the final 6 volumes of story originally presented in comic book form.

The movie version of Alita is quite faithful to the comics, though the events are presented in a more overlapping order. Certain things are changed as well, but at least in my opinion the movie was quite faithful to the original comic.

Thing is, “as is” the story is incomplete and ends on something of a “to be continued” note. Sure, we are given a fairly complete tale here, but there is no final resolution and I don’t know if we’ll ever get it. While the film did well cumulatively worldwide, I don’t know if it made enough to justify a sequel. Further, at this moment and while looking over the IMDb listings for both James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez, neither has an Alita sequel listed among their upcoming projects.

So, unfortunately, Alita: Battle Angel may wind up being a stand alone film that doesn’t feature any ultimate resolution. That alone may want some people to stay away from it, and its too bad.

Alita: Battle Angel features Rosa Salazar as the android known as Alita. She is found in a heap of trash discarded from a mysterious floating city by Dr. Ido (Christopher Waltz). He creates a body for her and she explores the city they live in, falls in love, and comes to realize she may be the last of a line of powerful warrior androids.

It’s interesting enough, though I feel like many of the story beats have been used and reused so much that it doesn’t feel quite as fresh as I’m sure it did when the original Manga comics were released.

Still, the film is enjoyable if a little overlong. I also feel like it could have been tightened up a little more. Jennifer Connelly, for example, has a role in the film which, truthfully, could have been cut completely (I have yet to read the full 9 volumes of the Manga, but at least through the first three there is no character equivalent to her to be found in there).

There are other actors who appear here and there for what amounts to one scene and of course they were likely intended to be used in sequel films.

So… yay or nay?

I recommend the film. It’s a visual delight for sure, though the story could have been tightened up a little and there is the possibility we’ll not see the sequels that will complete the story.

Still, if you’re in the mood for a good adaptation of a beloved Manga comic, this one is worthy of your time.