[Review] Alita: Battle Angel: ambitious blockbuster or window dressing?


James Cameron’s long-standing project that he entrusted to the (expert) hands of Robert Rodriguez, Alita: Battle Angel was highly anticipated at the turn. After extracts that had tended to reassure us, we couldn’t wait to judge the final product.

When Hollywood takes a little too close interest in cult works from the Land of the Rising Sun, we tend to cringe, hold our breath and pray that the end result doesn’t haunt us at night. It is enough to evoke Dragon Ball Evolution or the Death Note of Netflix so that, in the majority of cases, whoever has seen his films lies in the fetus position and starts to cry. We don’t say that Japanese ports are doing better, on the contrary (will the quality come from … France? You will find the answer with our review by Nicky Larson ), but Americans have the unfortunate tendency to not understand what they are adapting. Except that with a name like James Cameron in the script and in the production, Alita: Battle Angel had to succeed where the friends failed.

Better known under the name of Gunnm by us, the manga of Yukito Kishiro therefore interested the dad of Terminator who, too busy with the consequences of Avatar, preferred to entrust the baby to Robert Rodriguez (Sin City), not without him leave a consistent scenario as a starting point. Loosely inspired by the first three volumes – with some elements drawn from the sequel and from the OAVs – the film tells the story of a young cyborg (Rosa Salazar) waking up without memory, after being repaired by Dr. Ido (Christopher Waltz). In a world that she is learning to discover, she will face threats that will allow her to learn who she really is.

A good adaptation?
We should avoid comparing the feature film to its paper model for too long, face-to-face rarely being to the advantage of the first. Sorry for fans of the manga, but Alita: Battle Angel can be compared to Ghost in the Shell with ScarJo loyalty level. The obligatory passages are respected, but overall this Battle Angel plays more the card of the reinterpretation than of the adaptation. We think in particular of the Alita / Hugo relationship which smells of the teen movie, where the original work was meant to be melancholy, dramatic.

It should be noted that this Alita: Battle Angel is not aimed at the same audience as Gunnm. Whether it is about the relationships between the characters or the city itself, we can see that the footage, in its ambition of entertainment for all audiences, does not seek to be as harsh as the manga. To reproach him for it would be like reproaching a chest of drawers for not being a closet; you can store the same clothes there, but not in the same way. It therefore seems opportune here to differentiate a good adaptation from a good film, the absence of one in no way preventing us from taking advantage of the other. The proof.

It’s delicious, it’s (almost) crunchy
From the director’s confidence, it was necessary to decide on the bacon of the first imposing version of the scenario provided by Cameron. We understand it. Where other blockbusters can easily try to save time, it is surprising how diligently the film wastes a minute. There is always something happening on the screen. Each scene thus strives either to advance the plot, the characters, or to provide us with an element of understanding.

Not only is Alita: Battle Angel never boring, but it tells a story from start to finish. With such a profusion, it becomes impossible that each protagonist has the time of appearance that he would need – we think, for example, of Vector, embodied Mahershala Ali -, however it helps to offer us a living and captivating universe.

The other side of the coin will nevertheless come during the last half hour when suddenly, events accelerate and become lost in inconsistencies. One gets the feeling that Rodriguez (and Cameron by proxy) had such a blast shaping this world and its heroine that he suddenly finds himself forced to conclude. Failure to undergo lengths, we find ourselves feeling shortages in the face of situations which, brought so brutally, almost contradict the previous ones. Admission of weakness, even the editing is more messy. There was meat in the air.

Alita: Battle Angel will blow your mind
If there is one area where Alita does not suffer from any failure, it is in its most spectacular aspect. To begin with, we have to slip a little word on 3D. We will not go over the usefulness of this technology, which has been losing popularity for several years… quite simply because we prefer 2D; unless a certain Avatar 2 makes us change our minds. However Rodriguez has the merit of not using it gratuitously, incorporating it in his staging without excess to preserve all the effects. So we will not complain about it.

Major fear during the viewing of the trailers, the big eyes of the heroine do not shock in any way and offer her an atypical aesthetic to which one becomes attached very quickly. The mix of real actors / environment and characters in CGI is of quality and bad inlays are rather rare. On the production side, Robert Rodriguez never takes his eyes off Alita and offers us quite a few moments of anthology, including a Motorball sequence that will have put our hair down.

Readable, rhythmic and undoubtedly entertaining, the footage does not lack arguments to convince us. What to forgive him for the clichés slipped here and there (which still makes the kiss in the rain in 2019?). When the desire to do well is felt and seen, we will not shy away from our pleasure.