Alita: Battle Angel

Movie poster for Alita: Battle Angel

I’m pretty late to the party on this one, but today I finally watched Alita: Battle Angel.  The movie is set in the 26th century and involves a society with a lot of cyborgs in it, including many whose entire body other than their head or brain has been replaced by machinery.

It’s about 300 years after an event known as “the fall”, in which all the floating cities were destroyed in a war.  Only one of those floating sky cities remains: Zalem (apparently held up by some kind of anti-gravity technology).  Beneath and around Zalem is another city on the ground: Iron City.

Directly underneath Zalem is a scrapyard, where the detritus from the floating city lands, and where Dr. Dyson Ido finds the head and upper torso of a young girl, who is still alive.

Ido attaches the her to a cybernetic body.  When she awakens, she has no memory of her past life.  He gives her the name “Alita”.  What follows is a journey of discovery as Alita learns about her abilities, who she is, and where she comes from, and the society she has awoken in.

It’s a society with a sharp class division, with an affluent population living in the sky city Zalem, and the rest of the hardscrabble population living in Iron City.  The people of Iron City dream of finding a way to move up into Zalem, but the options for doing so are very limited.  Life is hard and brutal.

It’s difficult to go into much more detail without getting into spoilers.  I’ll just note that it’s chock full of action, with plenty of battles between cyborgs with all kinds of attached weaponry.  And there are lots of special effects.  A big part of the appeal is the imagery, which this movie handles very well.

I have to admit that I hadn’t heard much about this movie so I wasn’t expecting more than moderately entertaining fluff.  It surprised me by being more than that.  It wasn’t until after finishing it that I learned that it’s based on a classic manga and anime series, and that one of the producers is James Cameron.

It’s not clear if it did well enough financially for sequels.  I hope it did.  It’d be good to see more.  If not, I might have to dig up the anime or manga material.

So, if you’re looking for a couple hours of entertainment, and aren’t turned off by cybernetic body parts and human machine hybrids being ripped apart, and like me have somehow managed to miss this movie until now, I recommend checking it out.

15 thoughts on “Alita: Battle Angel

  1. I remember watching and thoroughly enjoying the anime when I was young. I wanted to see the live action version when it was out in theaters, but for whatever reason I never got around to it. I really should check this movie out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve always had a hard time getting into anime. It’s caused me to miss a lot of interesting material. But I did dig up the Battle Angel anime on Youtube. From what I saw of it, if you enjoyed it, you’ll enjoy the movie.

      I’m mildly surprised the movie didn’t do better, but I don’t recall much of a marketing effort associated with it. Just goes to show that marketing does matter.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This has been on my list — it has good antecedents. And I do like anime, although I’ve never seen this one. I’m just waiting for it to come around on one of the streaming services I sub to. Where did you see it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I need to spend some time watching anime. I remember Ty Franck (one of the Expanse authors) tweeting about his deep dive into Netflix anime. I suspect he got a lot of story ideas from it.

      I saw it on HBO. It was the first time I had seen it available as part of a base subscription.


      1. I’m going to have to do something about HBO. Westworld is coming. It went away for me when I cut the cable. Gonna have to check out subscribing through Hulu or Prime (or just HBO itself, I guess).

        I got into Ghost in the Shell and Cowboy Bebop long ago, and they created a taste for that kind of anime (harder SF anime). I’m not super into the fantasy stuff (although I get a big kick out of Fairy Tail), and especially not into the anime where the swords are several times larger than the people wielding them. Generally not into the sword-y stuff, which is why I hadn’t checked out Alita.

        With me it’s always about something I haven’t seen before (and I’m jaded, man). Like the one about a powerful magic character from another world (a “devil” there, in fact their “satan”) ends up in this world where he’s a teenage boy who has to get a job at a fast-food restaurant. The warrior princess, his arch foe, follows him here, where they have to unwillingly band together to fight a worse threat. I think it was called The Devil is a Short-Order Cook or something similar.

        That was something I hadn’t seen before!


        1. I watched it via streaming, but using my HBO cable subscription. I think when I finally cut that, I’ll probably subscribe through Amazon, assuming I still like their app better. (Unless going directly to HBO is cheaper.)

          I watched a fair amount of both GitS and CB, but struggled to stay engaged with either of them. I loved the concepts, but found it hard to connect with the characters. (In the case of GitS, I actually found it easier in the manga for some reason, maybe because I didn’t have to deal with dubbed voices and quirky animation.)

          I know what you mean on seeing something new, but the combination has to work for me. If it’s too flighty, I get turned off.


          1. I’m a pretty big fan of all of Ghost in the Shell. I get a big kick out of the Tachikomas in the Stand Alone Complex series — but I have to admit to a big difference between the original movie versus the series and Arise movies.

            The original movie is a work of art — a classic — the rest is just really cool. Cowboy Bebop is impressive, in part, for its musical soundtrack and (what was then) unique approach. It’s visual jazz to match the jazz soundtrack. Rather stylized and not everyone’s cuppa.

            Totally agree about dubbed voices, and I generally won’t watch dubbed anime (or Asian martial arts films). It has to be something I really want to watch but no sub-titled version is available. (Hulu is pretty good about providing both. Netflix less so, and Prime doesn’t seem to know sub-titled versions even exist. (I’m starting to find Prime irrelevant since they’ve taken a number of the shows that drew me — like Doctor Who and Perry Mason — off the Prime membership. Bastards.))

            Also agree about flighty. Don’t like flighty stories or flighty people. 😉


          2. The consensus among hard core anime fans appears to be that the dubbed versions are to be shunned. My only issue with subtitles is the amount of attention I have to pay. I often miss visual cues because I’m busy reading the subtitles. I imagine it gets easier with practice, but it’s a skill I never developed. (I’m not a giant fan of foreign subtitled films in general, although I have watched a few that were worth it, like the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.)


          3. Being extremely hard of hearing (at this point getting near deaf), closed captioning has been part of my life as long as devices have existed to display it. (And being a film student in college meant seeing a lot of foreign films.)

            The big thing is hearing the original actors’ voices and emotional tones. It’s rarely the case (although it does happen) that the original actors do the dubs. A dub adds a whole new layer of paint to the original production.

            But, yeah, reading a movie or TV show does have disadvantages. With some of the really good stuff, I’ve watched it twice: once with subtitles, once without.

            What’s even more interesting is turning off the subtitles and watching a foreign movie in a foreign language. Filmmakers are taught, “Show, don’t tell!” and it’s interesting to see how well they pull that off. How well can one pick up on a visual story without understanding the text?


          4. It does seem like they’re better today at finding an appropriate dub voice. I remember all the old movies where some gigantic guy would have a nasally voice, or some scrawny guy a deep baritone. The stuff in the last several years seems to mostly avoid that. But yeah, it adds an extra layer where things can go wrong. (On the flip side, I’ve occasionally watched Spanish channels just to see how the dub for American movies was handled. It can be pretty amusing.)

            I imagine the captioning has been a major boon. We all have to remember to make out stuff accessible. I know I’ve tried to be more mindful lately about the alt-tags on my images.

            One of the things I learned a long time ago is not to try to have both the subtitles and dub. Often the translations were not done by the same people, and the language varies considerably. When it does, I find it too distracting. (In one German movie, it was interesting that the dub preserved the cursing language of the sailors, but that the subtitles cleaned it up. (Or the dub added vulgarity.))


          5. Dubs have gotten a lot better. They treat it as actual acting now, and try to match voices to characters. I’ve watched Spanish channels hoping some Spanish would sink in, but nope. I don’t seem to have any facility for foreign languages.

            It can be hysterical comparing the dub and subs! Definitely seems done by different people. Even English programs sometimes the voice track is bleeped out on words, but the subs aren’t. (Weirdly, I’ve seen it the other way around, too.)

            Liked by 1 person

  3. My son and I saw this in the theater, just the two of us, alone, empty seats our witness. From the very start we were engrossed and didn’t blink or breathe until the credits rolled. This viewing stands out as one of our shared experiences. We loved it.

    The naive innocence and open wonder of Alita showed us how we too could approach new things. Her not-quite-human but human-at-our-finest qualities personified the righteous path, a path we might all aspire to.

    Liked by 1 person

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