Alita: Battle Angel is an adventure in futurism, quality CGI, and classic writing tropes. I rate it 3 out of 5 stars. It was fun and engaging, but I have a few issues with it. It did a good job across the board, but where it really shines is the CGI.
CGI has had a interesting path, ever since its invention in 1976. It has had really good uses, such as in The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003), and some really bad ones, such as in The Mummy Returns (2001). Alita: Battle Angel is an impressive display of full-body imaging across a wide variety of characters. Some characters are partially rendered and others are fully rendered, but one of the more impressive feats is in the titular character Alita (Rosa Salazar). Her face is structured with different dimensions than a natural human one, but with few enough deviations to still be a very human-appearing character alongside those who did not need their faces digitally structured. I also believe that the environmental CGI is really good. There are few if any drastically unnatural-appearing items within the movie. The action was also really well animated. The movement was fluid, the actions all connected solidly, I believe that the CGI quality was the central focus of time and resources on the movie. It also plays very well with the futuristic setting.
Alita: Battle Angel brings a manga future onto the big screen, bringing with it the elements of Motorball, U.R.M., Iron City, Zalem, and near-singularity levels of cybernetic integration into the human form. Motorball is a sport that citizens of Iron City compete in to hopefully gain passage into the mysterious city above theirs: Zalem. It involves holding a ball and delivering it into a hoop at any cost necessary on a long racing track. It is shown in small scale early on to tease Alita’s success to come when she later plays the real thing. U.R.M. stands for the United Republic of Mars and is the nation in which Alita was born and raised. At the time of the movie, it is known as an ancient enemy to the people of earth. Their technology was advanced and their soldiers were skilled, as is typical of the “Advanced Ancient Acropolis” trope. Iron City is the setting, and is shown as a brutal slum below the unattainable heights and supposed riches in Zalem. Alita herself has very little memory of her past before the events of the movie, and the advancements in technology allow a person to live on in a cyborg body even if their head has been severed at the the neck. All of these elements have associated tropes.
As mentioned earlier, the “Ancient Advanced Acropolis” trope is reflected in U.R.M., as their prime time of operation was 300 or so years prior to the events of the movie. The next trope shown is the “City Noir” trope, which shows Iron City as a gutter of violence and corruption sitting far below Zalem. The trope following is the “Naive Newcomer” trope, as Alita’s amnesia allows the viewer to learn about the world alongside her, rather than using more lazy techniques or simply stranding the viewer in a world without exposition. None of the tropes are bad, but they are common. This slightly dings the movie’s rating since it was marketed as “The Cinematic 3D Event Of The Year.” It was not.
Alita: Battle Angel is a good movie, but not one that will define 2019. It was also marketed as a self-contained narrative, which it isn’t. The ending is sequel bait. It also visually reveals the “Man Behind the Conspiracy” as Nova (Edward Norton). The elements of the manga were well placed, the tropes that were used were effective but in turn caused the movie to feel like an alternate and cut-short City of Ember or a mash-up of theme elements from Ready Player One, Eragon, Hunger Games, and Blade Runner. Ultimately, it was fun. It was marketed as a standalone movie, which takes off a star, and it doesn’t feel very original, which takes off another. I rate Alita: Battle Angel 3 out of 5 stars.