Watched Veronika Voss and rewatched The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola) over the weekend. Both really freakin' good. I love Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Also, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1. I've never seen a Batman movie or animation with violence so hard. The sneaky predator parts were well done too. I liked it. Took a few minutes to get used to those Batman and Commissioner Gordon voices, though.
On Friday, I watched Alita: Battle Angel.
The graphic novel is a lot better. Better story and more striking, stylish visuals. Even the action scenes have much more a sense of speed, gravity and power, despite (or because of) being still pictures.
Alita tries to band the hunter warriors together against Grewishka. Her speech makes sense in the manga, because he is going after hunter warriors. In the movie, he is after Ido and her. So what? Why should they care? He doesn’t even have a bounty. She looks like an idiot when she’s talking down to them. The horror of his origin is completely gone. He says in the movie that he comes from the underground, but we don’t really get to appreciate how awful his life was in the sewers without any of the disturbing imagery of the manga, which makes you wonder why he even tells us he is from down there in the movie.
I didn’t like the big eyes. They made her look like an alien. The filmmakers’ justification is asinine and tells me they don’t understand graphic novels. She has big eyes in the manga, they said, so she should have big eyes in the movie. When I heard them say that in their promotional YouTube video, I dragged my hands down my face, muttering “My god” at their foolishness. EVERYONE in the manga was stylized, not just Alita. That doesn’t work for one character in a photographic film. By their logic, Ido should look monstrous. The big eyes make her whole head disproportionate and strange. It’s a dumb choice that made the movie millions more expensive and definitely pushed some people away. Having said that, I wasn’t extremely distracted by the eyes. BUT, because her head is CG, her hair looks fake. It looks clumpy, heavy and doesn’t move right. There was no good reason for not using her real head whenever possible. (Impossible in some of the action scenes.) I find it funny that Hugo doesn’t realize she is a cyborg until he sees her hand. Like he is used to girls with huge eyes.
In the manga, Ido is a hunter warrior partly because he enjoys killing, which ties into the whole battle theme of the manga, the adrenaline of combat, the high, what Alita is all about. His justification in the movie is lame. He got his daughter’s killer, but he is still hunting because reasons. The bounties paying for his clinic seems secondary, from how he explains it.
The way the Berzerker body conforms to her just looks too fantastic and fake in the movie. The body regenerating instantly in the movie makes her too powerful.
I find it lame that the story revolves around her, including the motorball game that is just a ploy to kill her, whereas in the manga she was just one of the players. Hugo’s tragedy is diminished because of that as well. I find it disappointing that in the ending it feels more like he is trying to get to Zalem now because he is a fugitive. The manga focused so much on his hope for a better life, almost right to his end. I didn’t feel the desperation that was in the manga.
Why is Hugo telling her to be a motorball player? Alita always did what she did because she wanted it. In the manga, she becomes a player for her own selfish reasons. Even when Zalem forces her to work for them in the manga, she does it for her own reasons.
Did these filmmakers ever actually look at Damascus steel? I’m looking very closely and cannot see the signature ripples. Well, it’s kind of on the edges, but it looks so over-designed, like some lame Power Rangers sword. Those ripples would have been striking enough on their own. You can barely see them in this movie.
The author didn’t use that term for nothing, but the filmmakers did. Surely, the Damascus steel from the manga is not the same as ours, but the technique was very much the same and the look was intentionally identical. The blade did not need such fancy decoration. More importantly, WHY IS ALITA NOT USING DAMASCUS BLADES?
I find it lame also that she fails her first job, gets her body trashed and then becomes a motorball player. We don’t even get to see her ascent as a hunter warrior.
Motorball winners go to Zalem? Oh, please. I just don’t see that being a motivating factor for all the players. They would not all be naive dreamers like Hugo (whose dream is now less personal). They are in it for the glory and cash winnings. I just don’t understand why so many people wanna go to Zalem in the movie. The city and its beautiful countrysides don’t seem that bad in the movie. Maybe with an R rating and the dirty cyberpunk look of the manga, it would make a bit more sense. I feel like the creators didn’t understand the manga well enough. The only character I can remember right now who wanted to go to Zalem was Hugo. And about the citizens getting to frolic in the beautiful countrysides… If I remember correctly, in the manga, they are not even allowed to leave the city, unless they work on the farms or protect the cargo trains. The countryside in the manga is a wasteland with Mad Max bandits.
The movie is impatient. It tries to pack so much from later arcs in when it could have told a good self-contained story that may or may not have been expanded on with sequels (depending on if they got the greenlight). I’ve even observed people who don’t know the graphic novel concede the same thing. That it feels like it’s merely a set up for something we may never get. If the original Star Wars or Matrix did that to the extent movies do now, people would have been bothered. Alita sloppily mixes too many different stories into one whole. It’s like Cameron went, “I want motorball. I love those two volumes and I don’t care how we get it in there.” There was already plenty that could have been adapted for a movie in the first two volumes without bringing motorball and such a big focus on Desti Nova and Alita’s past in. The movie should have been about her rebirth, her rise as a hunter warrior and, finally, the death of Hugo. Those first two volumes have some spectacular fight scenes and great atmosphere. That brief fight scene with Grewishka alone is like a hundred pages long in the manga (partly because they’re not just fighting) and has a much more interesting looking underworld. You don’t need the added spectacle of motorball. Between Makaku’s (Grewishka) nightmare life and his attraction to Alita, Alita’s curiosity and passion, Ido’s double personality, and Hugo’s crimes and tragic dream, there is plenty of characterization and a good movie story in those first volumes.
This should have been a lot better. I didn’t dislike it. It’s a 6/10 for me. Maybe a 7 if I’m feeling generous. Nothing more.