Alita: Battle Angel (Blu-Ray)
The visually dazzling manga adaptation of Alita comes home this week, but is the action-packed story worth picking up, or should you leave it in the store? Come inside for our full review of this week’s new release!
Alita: Battle Angel had a long and winding road to the big screen, but it finally happened earlier this year. It did...okay at the box office, but didn’t exactly blow the doors down either. That means there’s a decent chance you may not have caught the film when it was in theaters and are wondering whether or not it’s worthwhile now that it’s on Blu-Ray/4K.
The story takes us into the far future after a large-scale interplanetary war has devastated the world. The remnants live in Iron City, eeking out a normal life, while dreaming of living above with the elites in the sky city of Zalem. Doctor Ido (Christoph Waltz) spends his time trying to help others, cyborgs who cannot afford most necessary procedures, but his life is turned upside down when he discovers Alita in a trash heap.
After giving her a new body, Alita awakens with no memory of her past and lives with Ido as she learns more about life in the city and struggles to learn more about who she is. Turns out, there’s much more to Alita than anyone expected and she might even hold the key to bringing down the villainous overlord of Zalem, Nova.
Obviously there’s a lot more going on with the story, including some (fictional) sports action, bounty-hunting, and a ridiculous amount of crazy action. Personally, I enjoyed the film quite a bit, but I completely understand why it didn’t work for a lot of people. The screenplay is...well, it’s a bit of a mess. It’s a lot of story crammed into a smaller amount of space. There’s almost too much going on (I suspect in an effort to hit as many moments from the Manga as possible) and makes events in the film feel rushed.
The pacing is strange in that you never get a good sense of the passage of time. There are moments in the film where characters say something, or give an indication that a significant period of time has passed (months or longer), but the way the film is structured makes it seem like it all takes place over the span of a few days.
This makes it tough at times to buy into some of the more emotional moments in the film, while also making certain character decisions feel less than earned. That said, the acting is great throughout, the world is impressively realized, and the visual effects are absolutely stunning. There are a lot of things to enjoy about the film, even though I wish the script had been a little tighter. As such, if you skipped it in theaters, I think you’ll find enjoyment out of it for the home entertainment release.
Sight And Sound
Say whatever you want about Alita’s story, but there’s no denying how impressive it looks. From the grungy feel of Iron City, to the highly technical elements of the various cyborgs it’s a treat for the eyes in pretty much every scene. There are a bunch of little details put into the film that make the world feel alive despite the fantastical elements going on.
All of these are highlighted in great detail thanks to the blu-ray transfer. The image is crisp and clear, making each element pop and taking full advantage of the film’s dynamic color palette. The blacks are sufficiently deep, preventing any crushing/bleeding on the image, so even in the darker sequences (like fighting underground), every detail is clear.
The sound design is given a similar treatment, taking advantage of the disc’s surround sound to make it feel as though you’re in the middle of the bustling city. As Alita is fighting enemies you can hear the sounds of battle coming from behind (and the sides) as enemies approach from multiple angles and makes for a really immersive viewing experience.
Overall, from a technical standpoint, the Alita: Battle Angel blu-ray is pretty damn impressive. It’ll look great on your screen at home.
The Bonus Features
The Alita: Battle Angel blu-ray comes with a DVD copy, a digital copy insert, and these special features on the disc:
Alita’s World – get a deeper look into the world of Alita: Battle Angel with these dynamic motion comics:
The Fall – a look back at the terrible war that almost destroyed two planets and set the stage for the cyborg warrior Alita’s return 300 years later.
Iron City – Hugo gives a guided tour of the Iron City he knows, showing off its dark corners and broken-down neighborhoods.
What it Means to be a Cyborg – hunter-warrior Zapan tracks his mark across Iron City while musing about what it means to be a cyborg.
Rules of the Game – A high-octane “crash course” in Motorball, introducing the rules, game-play, and the top-ranked players and their arsenal of weapons.
From Manga to Screen – a behind-the-scenes look into the origins of Yukito Kishiro’s beloved manga, “Gunnm,” and the long road to bring it to life on the big screen.
Evolution of Alita – how Alita was brought to life, from the casting of Rosa Salazar, to performance capture, and final VFX by WETA Digital.
Motorball – go inside Iron City’s favorite pastime, from the origins and evolution of the sport, to rules on how the game is played.
James Cameron, Robert Rodriguez and cast Q&A moderated by Jon Landau.
Robert Rodriguez’s 10 Minute Cooking School: Chocolate – a cooking lesson on how to make delicious chocolate like that seen in the movie.
2005 Art Compilation (2019) – James Cameron’s original compilation of concept art for the then-titled “Battle Angel: Alita,” presented with new voiceover and music.
Scene Deconstruction – view three different stages of the production – the original live action performance capture, the animation stage, and the final Weta VFX from four different scenes:
I Don’t Even Know My Own Name
Just an Insignificant Girl
I’m a Warrior Aren’t I?
Considering how long it took to finally get this adaptation to screen, it makes sense for it to have so many bonus features on the disc. It’s great. While a couple are goofy (like the cooking thing with director Rodriguez) the sheer amount of featurettes available means fans of the film, and manga, have to plenty to enjoy.
The inclusion of the motion comics, which fill in some of the backstory on the world, is a nice touch and gives you something to think about the next time you watch the film. Personally, I really loved the deep dives into the visual effects of the film. There’s so much going on behind the scenes, it’s neat to peek behind the curtain to see how they managed to create this world and all the cyborg creations.
The blu-ray itself is impressive and highlights the technical prowess of the story, while the wealth of bonus features offers more bang for your buck. If you missed Alita in theaters, I think it’s worth picking up the blu-ray.