Alita: Battle Angel Movie Review


Bhoomi Sharma, Photography Editor

Alita: Battle Angel, was released on Feb. 14, 2019. It’s a sci-fi/ fantasy movie, directed by Robert Rodriguez, about a cyborg found in a scrap yard by a kind, cyber-doctor, who later names her Alita.


Made with a budget of $200 million, the movie was most known for the high tech animation style used to create the main character. Performance capture — a technology slightly different from motion capture, was used to capture both the body movements and the facial expressions of Rosa Salazar, who plays Alita.  According to Mike Cozens, Animation Supervisor, she was the “most ambitious digital character” that they have created.

Much of the background and set design was animated as well to make the dystopian, scrapyard setting believable. Salazar was put in a full body suit with gloves, a mic pack, markers, a helmet and batteries to capture her acting. Then the animators worked tirelessly to make sure than Alita would blend in seamlessly with every other live action figure in the movie. They wanted her to look photo real, so viewers would forget she was animated by artists in a room.


The story follows a girl cyborg called Alita. We open on a shot of a man searching a scrap yard for spare parts, who stumbles upon the upper body of a female cyborg. He then completes her body and names her after his late daughter, Alita. We then watch as Alita wakes in a new world and journeys to find her memory, fall in love and find out more about the world she’s woken up in. The movie ends on a cliffhanger, but tells a good story even as a stand alone.


The overall aesthetic and look of the movie was cohesive and attractive. It had a scrap yard – dystopian look about it in some scenes, and high tech – futuristic looks in others. It gave off a steady vibe and showed a realistic world. The colors used were cohesive and the set designs were well done and changed with the pacing and feel of the movie. There were some classic scenes that you would expect in a setting and story like this as well. Viewers are shown bar fights and cyborg surgeries, along with beautiful action sequences that flow gracefully and have a powerful female lead.


The story was as great as the animation. It shows a low income city living literally and metaphorically below the upper class, a city where anyone who wants to climb up the scale has to either fight dirty or win a dangerous game. The heroes of the story are the underdogs, raised with nothing but still striving for justice. When justice is taken away from them, they take the roles of both jury and executioner into their own hands. Alita collected whatever she needed throughout the story. We get exposition at first, learning about the world as Alita does, and then watch her collect trophies that will help her later on in her journey, such as her new body, her memories, and her sword. Rodriguez took a different turn from his usual movies, and while it wasn’t necessarily the biggest success in the box office (with a 60% on Rotten Tomatoes), it was a good step forward from his older movies.


But as good as these themes were, they were also cliched and repetitive. It was too similar to Ready Player  One, a thriller/science fiction movie released in 2018. It had a the same story of the underdog hero, rising up to undo the work of a rich man through winning a dangerous game. The animation was also similar; better than Ready Player One, but similar nonetheless. The romance was not well developed either. Alita falls in love with the first boy she meets, and it doesn’t seem like he reciprocates her feelings until the kiss near the end. The romance just doesn’t seem like something the viewers would root for. Hugo, the love interest, doesn’t really root for Alita until the very end. He constantly switches sides between Alita and her opponents and usually just thinks about himself. It gives the impression of a one sided relationship and, overall, doesn’t send a good message to viewers.


The dialogue was lacking as well. Many of the lines said in the movie sounded too rehearsed and scripted. Fight scenes seemed great in action, but the lines that made them enjoyable were too long and didn’t seem natural. Many of the lines that made up the romance were cheesy, and they seemed to have been written by someone with an outside perspective, rather than said by a teenager who was in love. The reactions seemed too predictable, as if they were picked out of common movie cliches and just pasted on a different setting with a similar situation.


But still, the $200 million spent on the movie wasn’t completely wasted. Considering all the investment in cameras and the correct software to interpret body and facial markers, the animators did a great job in making a CGI character come to life and blend in with a live action background. Alita might have been repetitive and somewhat poorly scripted, but the animation still is one of the best.