Alita: Battle Angel (2019) – True to the Anime in a Rich World

In my experience, it is bad to adapt anime into live-action films. You either end up with dumpster fires like “Dragonball Z,” or they are passable as with the first “Deathnote” movie. Live-action isn’t friendly to animation, and that runs true in the United States, too. I didn’t think “Beauty and Beast” was good, and I’ve not been a fan of Disney adapting more animation in the same way. Animation has a freedom of form that you don’t get in CGI, or human actors, and that is true here. So the question I ask is, “why did this work for me?” It works because they delved into the lore where the initial anime didn’t. I can see why this was in development hell for a long time, and this time it was worth it.

“Alita: Battle Angel” is a cyberpunk dystopian action film that was adapted from the manga by Yukito Kishiro.The film was directed by Robert Rodriguez (an action director I’m a fan of), and written by James Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis. James Cameron was also a producer, and you can see his care with CGI in this.

Alita is a cyborg seeking to discover her. Her adopted father, Ido, brings her back to “life” upon finding her in the wastes below the last sky city of Zalem years after The Fall, a war that devastated Earth 300 years prior. From here she must face multiple threats as she protects the people she loves.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Soundtrack – Tom Holkenborg does a wonderful job honoring the original anime’s soundtrack. You can hear the “Blade Runner” inspiration, while it also manages to develop a voice and feel of its own. The music captures the sci. fi. epic past, as well as the present desperation of the characters.

The World – The anime touches on a rich world that the live-action film explores more extensively. There are hundreds of years of history. We learn about the war with the Sky Cities, and how Zalem became the last one. We learn about a cyborg military force from Mars, and how they nearly succeed before being defeated. We see the wastes where there is a gladiatorial competition of motorball where the winner of the tournament is rewarded by going to Zalem. I loved this world. It made me want to read the manga, and learn more. I hope this film gets sequels, so they can further explore it.

The Action – The action is amazing. This is a film where you feel every punch. For example, there is a villain who Alita easily beats while defending Ido. He returns later, and it takes all she has to beat him. She loses so much of her cyborg body but fights on. I was never bored during this film. I even thought motorball was handled well, given how they presented the action with so much color, movement and increasing stakes as players tried to kill her. The action is truly one of the most memorable parts of the film.

Ido – Christoph Waltz is wonderful as Ido. He is a scientist, and Hunter-Warrior, exiled from Zalem with his wife, whom his relationship with ended after their daughter was killed. We see him wanting that second chance in Alita as he gives her his daughter’s name. Their arc is him treating her as her own person, and respecting just how powerful she is. She is the protector and he is the “father.” He reactivated her and gave her the cyborg body he was going to give his real daughter. Through a set of Berserker Armor he Ido gives Alita, she discovers her past as a soldier for the United Republics of Mars (URM). Waltz is an award winning actor for a reason and this film is a great example of why.

Alita – Rosa Salazar does a fantastic job as Alita. She is a woman seeking out her past, and also discovering her own humanity as a sentient android. We see her fall in love with and save Hugo, only to later lose him. We see her relationship with her “father” Ido become one of partnership, and family, rather than her being treated like a child. We see her discover what it means to fight the greater fight, as losing Hugo reminds her of the larger fight against Zalem and the man behind the scenes Nova. Nova has been the one manipulating Vector, Ido’s ex-wife Dr. Chiren, and taking all the remains of humans he finds worthy below. You can see why Alita wants to end him, and when she discovers where her fight truly is, it is empowering and also sets up possible sequels.

Implications of the War – From what we can tell the URM lost the war and Earth stayed oppressed by Nova and Zalem. The world of “Alita: Battle Angel” is broken, and the desperation of people makes it so sociopaths like Nova can easily manipulate them into tools he can use to strengthen his city. The war ended but the fact that Alita survives implies that the old way may return, especially if she becomes a uniter of the people below Zalem.

Okay:

Minor Characters – Hugo, Vector, Dr. Chiren and a few others are fine. In the case of Vector, they end up often being possessed by Nova, so we never really learn who Vector is. Dr. Chiren has some good moments with Ido, and her choice to save Hugo is powerful. Ultimately her character underdeveloped. Hugo is okay, I liked him more in the anime because he was a bit more naive. In this film he is more grown up, which makes what he does as a mercenary all the more revolting. He does leave, and it costs him his life, but I felt he needed more development. I didn’t care about him nearly as much as I did Dr. Chiren.

The Promise of Nova – Nova is a powerful force and we know how oppressive Zalem is but we never learn who Nova is. I put him as okay because the mystery gives potential for a compelling backstory, and he could become much more of a threat than he is in this. Edward Norton is extremely talented and plays Nova. There was some missed opportunity in his role. He is a good enough constant threat in the film, and I like that he’s been around since the war with URM. Hopefully his story pays off in sequels.

For any fans of anime or post-apocalyptic cyberpunk sci. fi., this is a film worth checking out. I’ve been wanting to see a solidly good anime adapted to film for some time, and it looks like this time they managed to do it. The acting is solid, the action is great, the story is compelling and it is true to the anime while expanding on it and enriching the world. This film is a great example of adaptation done right.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

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Deadpool (2016): A Hilarious Satire of Super Hero Films and a Brilliant Action Film, Romance and Comedy

Deadpool poster

   “Deadpool” is hilarious. This is an action, comedy and romance that is self aware (like Deadpool in the comics who is aware he is in a comic) and from this we get a very tighly written story that explores his origin, mission and even gives him a pretty amazing arc. The film lived up to the hype and I would not at all be surprised if it makes my Top 5 of 2016. I haven’t laughed this hard during a film since “Guardians of the Galaxy” two years ago. This was a film that the Comic Book Film Universes needed with Marvel and the other X-Men films bittersweet drama and DC’s grimdark films.

    The film was directed by Tim Miller and written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick while being produced by Simon Kinberg, Ryan Reynolds and Lauren Shuler Donner.

SPOILERS ahead

     The story involves Deadpool’s origin and his quest for revenge against the man who  nearly destroys his life on multiple occasions while he proceeds to break the Fourth Wall and a bunch of other things along the way.

The Pros: The Soundtrack – From George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” to countless other songs with so much personality going on, Best choice of soundtrack in regards to comedy and drama since “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

The Opening Credits – The Opening Credits lampoon every superhero film, but espicially the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the X-Menverse by having examples of people as the villain being “A British Villain” the director being “An Overpaid Tool” the producers being “Asshats” and the writers being “The True Heroes of this Picture.” It’s gold all the way through and the best use of opening credits.

The References – Deadpool references not wanting to be in a green CGI suit (“Green Lantern) there is a Deadpool” action figure from “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (and never in a good context, only to mock) as well as countless other things…from a fight on a dead Helocarrier and Bob being a member of Hydra technically. The show lets loose on all the things it draws inspiration from and lets Deadpool do his take-down from above the Fourth Wall.

Breaking the Fourth Wall – This happens throughout the film as Deadpool talks directly to the audience as he does in the comics. He’s comic relief and more which gives him the freedom to be the storyteller on occasion (this film as an example) which plays up the comedy but still keeps the heart as at the end of the day Deadpool is Wade Wilson.

The Characters – The X-Men cameos are awesome, the main leads are great and the only weak characters a few support characters and the villain…keeping up the the possibly purposeful theme of Marvel having a villain problem, as the story isn’t about them.

Blind Al – Is Deadpool’s roommate and has quite a history as she used to a crack addict and well…lives with Deadpool. She doesn’t put up with his crap though and is blunt to him on multiple occasions which he rewards with a cure for blindness and crack before he goes to his final fight. Leslie Uggams is fantastic.

Colossus – This dude is sincere and wonderful and wants Deadpool to be a good guy and X-Men. His interactions with him are gold as he preaches what it means to be a hero only to have Deadpool continue to walk all over him. He proves himself amazing on countless occasions though as Deadpool can’t hurt him at all and he manages to take out one of the two big bads. Stefan Kapicic did a great job.

Negasonic Teenage Warhead – This character is wonderful and does a good job at not letting Deadpool get under her skin. She even has a grudging respect for the guy by the end because he is honest in his crazy. Brianna Hildebrand is fantastic and really shines in the final battle as she saves Colossus and Deadpool a few times.

Vanessa – Morena Baccarine is awesome as Deadpool’s partner. She needs to be saved at one point but she shows herself to be the mature crazy one throughout the film and helps takeout the big bad. She is clearly one of the folks to come out of “Firefly” clearly making her own path in this genre and owning it as she is amazing “Gotham” and I want to see more Vanessa here. She accepts Deadpool (but is honest about the period she’ll need to accept how his body has been warped) but together they move on. They are both all about sex too as she was a hooker and their time montage is them having sex over a long time through many holidays.

Wade Wilson/Deadpool – Ryan Reynolds was perfect for this role and I’m glad he produced this. After the atrocity of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” it is great seeing that he knows and loves sthis character and was able to put him so perfectly on the screen. From his breaking of the fourth wall, to his tragic backstory, to his growing up while still being insane and unstable…Deadpool is Deadpool, truly do more research on the guy as there is so much you will discover. I could write an essay on the character. This movie captures him so well and gives him all the arc he needs and lets him tell his story.

The Ending Credits – We get an animated Deadpool playing on the saxophone, making a unicorn jackoff and countless other imagse. It is cute, raunchy and adorable…it’s Deadpool.

The After Credits Scene – Deadpool asks the audience why they are still around but later tells us that Cable will be in the next “Deadpool” film and that he’s really cool before asking us to go again. This entire time he’s in his mask and wearing a pajama robes.

Okay: The Villains – They are both British or Britishesque with one whose name (Francis but trying to get people to call him “Ajax” being a ongoing joke) are okay but not all that memorable…it is a Deadpool film so there is that, but I got the MCU problem even though Fox isn’t a part of the MCU. I would have liked more done with the villains.

  This film is probably going to make my Top 5 at the end of the year. Rarely has a film made me laugh as much as this one did. This is a film that is worth checking out if you are okay with sex and violence (don’t take your kids to see this film if they are young), “Deadpool” knows it’s audience and is a brilliant satire that manages to have a beautiful love story be the core arc of the film. I cared about Wade and Vanessa and hope that wherever their future goes that they can continue to grow together in their crazy amazingness.

Final Score: 9.8 / 10