In recent years, there seems to be an influx in manga-to-film adaptations: last year saw the release of Netflix’s Bleach and Full Metal Alchemist and the year before saw the release of the US live-action adaptations of Death Note and Ghost in the Shell. Unfortunately, like video game-to-film genre, these films have not been met with a great deal of success. However, can a manga adaptation by James Cameron break this mould?…
Alita: Battle Angel is live-action adaptation of the manga series Gunnm (which literally translates to ‘Gun Dream’) which was written by Yukito Kishiro. The film is set in the 26th Century, 300 years after a catastrophic interplanetary war known as ‘The Fall’ occurred. After Dr Ido (played by Christoph Waltz) finds a piece of an advanced cyborg in a junkyard, he decides to revive and rebuild her. After discovering she has lost her memory, Dr Ido takes ‘Alita’ under his wing and teaches her how to survive in the dangerous Iron City, all while trying to figure out who she really is.
By now, it’s an expectation for James Cameron’s films to have fantastic visuals: Terminator 2 and Avatar are incredible… revolutionary even. Alita: Battle Angel is no exception, especially with lead character Alita (played by Rosa Salazar). The blend of CGI and live-action works together seamlessly, and Alita’s anime-like appearance doesn’t look out of place; she almost looks natural against the backdrop of the post-apocalyptic city. And, because she’s an advanced cyborg, her strange look makes sense within the context of the film.
Rosa Salazar and Christoph Waltz have great on-screen chemistry, and their Father/Daughter-style relationship is believable. Alita’s relationship with Hugo (played by Keean Johnson) was also believable and sweet; while Dr Ido was Alita’s mentor and carer, Hugo was her window to the rest of the world, and the execution of this worked perfectly.
Unfortunately Alita: Battle Angel does suffer some pacing issues. The film rushes to introduce the main characters and its world that, when it decides to go into the main plot, it doesn’t know what to start with. This results in the film giving away too much information at once, making the second half of the film a convoluted, and slow, mess. The pacing is uneven because of this, and the running time is a little too long. The film would’ve worked better if it was split into two parts and released back-to-back. This would’ve meant the length would be shorter per film, but the plot would’ve been more concise. Contributing to the mess was the network of character plot-twists, all of which were obvious and could be seen coming a mile away. The symbolism was that Iron City is full of untrustworthy people, however, the execution of this should’ve been more mysterious.
Judging by the ending, Alita: Battle Angel wants to be a franchise, and I hope it does become one: this was fun and visually impressive. However, now that the film’s setting and characters have been established, hopefully the sequels will have less convoluted plots, and not as many obvious plot-twists.
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Starring: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein