Alita: Battle Angel - 4K, Blu-ray, DVD

Friday, 19 July 2019 11:36

First announced in 2003 and a labour of love for James Cameron before he handed over directorial reins to Robert Rodriquez, “Alita” is a wondrous movie about a cyborg rescued from a scrap heap who goes on a quest to find out who she is, and who she used to be. Floating above the Earth is Zalem, the only sky city to survive a devastating war with Mars. Only the privileged live there, whilst those down on the planet’s surface face a daily struggle to survive.

In this dystopia, Alita (Rosa Salazar – “Bird Box”, “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials”) is rebuilt by altruistic Dr Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz – “Spectre”, “Django Unchained”). She befriends a friendly lad called Hugo (Keean Johnson – Nashville, Euphoria) and soon realises that although she is suffering from amnesia, she has very special fighting and acrobatic skills that will come in handy in such a competitive and dangerous environment.

Driven by her nature to protect the innocent and fight for justice, Alita slowly uncovers fragments of her past. As her powers grow, some dark figures allied with Zalem identify her as a threat and recruit terrifying assassins to take her out.

Benefitting from and evolving further the advances in film technology made by Cameron’s “Avatar”, “Alita” is truly marvellous from a special effects standpoint. The central character is entirely CGI, with her movement and facial expressions driven by state of the art performance capture techniques.

Alita’s face features the same enlarged eyes of the Manga character she is based on, but the viewer almost immediately forgets this oddity because her face is so expressive, so detailed and her hair moves with incredible realism. Every feature and imperfection on her face stands out, and the lighting is so spot on that this must surely go down as the next big step in photo-realism.

The movie’s world-building is very comprehensive even though we do not travel particularly far within the Iron City in which Alita and Dyson live. Reminiscent of “Blade Runner”, “A I - Artificial Intelligence” and other SF films of that ilk, the streets are rich with human, cyborg and robotic life. Nearly everyone features some level of cybernetic enhancement or limb replacement, with so-called hunter-warriors (bounty hunters) often reduced to a human face surrounded by a sea of gleaming, death-dealing metal.

The film is part-love story but there are plenty of thrilling action sequences to keep a blockbuster-loving audience glued to their seats. Each fight scene surpasses the previous one, and when the level is sky-high from the start that is no mean feat. The choreography can occasionally be a bit dizzying but it rarely becomes difficult to keep track of the battles despite everything whizzing around in 3D space. Plenty of slo-mo helps to stop it become too frantic.

Although I have focused on the visuals, there is a huge amount of heart in this film, with some great performances to lend substance to the astonishing spectacle.

Despite loving the film, I do have a couple of grumbles. The first is that the movie ends rather abruptly and the makers set up a potential sequel to hopefully tie up the loose ends. Secondly, whilst the minor and mid-level baddies are brilliantly realised, the shadowy, elite enemies working behind the scenes are not as developed or effective as they could have been. Again, a sequel could flesh them out properly.

When all is said and done, I really enjoyed “Alita” and thoroughly recommend it. I seem to recall it did not get a huge amount of attention at the time of release; hopefully the home disc and digital release will see it reach a whole new audience and build up the pressure on the studio to commission a sequel.

Special features include:

  • Alita’s World – get a deeper look into the world of Alita: Battle Angel with four dynamic motion comics: The Fall, Iron City, What it Means to be a Cyborg and Rules of the Game
  • 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 favourite 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?’ and ‘Kansas Bar’

All-told there is around two hours’ worth of bonus content, more than likely encouraging the viewer to sample the original Manga graphic novels to further explore the world of Alita. The Blu-ray version reviewed features exceptional detail, exposing every pore and beautifully animated strand of hair on Alita’s pretty head.

“Alita: Battle Angel” (2019) is released on 22 July 2019 on 4K, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download, courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The main feature has a running time of 122 minutes approx, carries a '12' certificate and retails from £9.99 to £24.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

 

Last modified on Friday, 19 July 2019 11:42

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