New hope for live action manga adaptations

Jordan Boyer, Photo Editor

The following review contains spoilers for “Alita: Battle Angel.”

“Alita: Battle Angel,” based on the Japanese manga series “Gunnm” (“Battle Angel Alita” in the English translation) by Yukito Kishiro, was a success for live action anime/manga adaptations, but failed in many aspects.

The best qualities of this movie by far are the intense action scenes, especially when viewed in 3-D. The CGI and the direction of these action scenes are absolutely incredible. It was so satisfying to see Alita (Rosa Salazar), a small frame teenage cyborg, straight up murder these ginormous cyborgs in quick and fluent motions across the screen. It is made clear that the editors and the people behind the CGI put a lot of thought into these scenes, and it looks incredible.

A major problem I have seen with live action manga adaptations is world-building. In a manga format, the author can organically build the fantasy world the characters live in without the need to do massive amounts of information dumping onto the readers. While in this format, the director and the screenwriters only have a couple hours to build the world of a long running graphic novel series; this usually leads to failure. The world-building could have been better, but at least the world is somewhat established by the end of the film.

The film sets in stone that the city our characters live in is where the lower class resides and crime runs rampant. Meanwhile, Zalem, the city that literally floats above them with futuristic technology, is where the social and economic elite reside, and our characters serve them from below. This is setting the tone for class conflict and the struggles of living in a society with no social mobility. Unfortunately, the viewer only sees small glimpses of Zalem, so not much is known about the city. This is set up later with the end teasing a sequel; I will discuss that more later.

One of the major problems with the film is the characters, specifically the villains. All of the villains are the most boring cliché antagonists, and there is nothing interesting about them. The point of a good villain is to develop a strong character motive and an interesting personality, so we the viewers can enjoy their presence on screen. The villains fall into the cliché categories of “I am evil, just because I am evil,” or “I am evil because I want money,” and it was really disappointing to see this direction for the antagonists. However, there was one villain that was teased a couple times throughout the film that certainly interested me.

Nova (Edward Norton) is a villain that has a small but very important presence in the overall story. Nova resides in Zalem, and from what is seen from him, he can be sarcastic and extremely manipulative, and those are great traits for an antagonist. The ending of the film leaves the possibility of a sequel, because Nova was set up as the big bad in the series, and the sequel would most likely take place in Zalem, not the city we follow in this film.

Another disappointment was the relationship between Alita and Hugo (Keean Johnson). Their romance was over-saturated in the film. It is perfectly fine to throw in a romance aspect to a sci-fi cyber punk action movie, but do no let it overtake the spotlight. Leave the in-depth romance to other story formats, and resume the cyborg warfare that makes this film shine.

While I do have problems with this movie, it is the best live action anime/manga adaptation that I have ever seen. I am also looking forward to the announcement of a sequel (if that ever does happen) because having Norton as the next big antagonist would be certainly interesting to see. This film hopefully sets a precedent for more well-made live action adaptations for years to come. Hollywood has failed multiple times, and this film could be the redemption we anime fans have been hoping for.

I recommend seeing this film if you are a fan of sci-fi action movies. Just don’t get too hung up on the teenage romance and boring villains. It would also be a great idea to see this film in 3-D as well. The 3-D accompanied with the amazing graphics and action was stupendous. I am looking forward to seeing what will happen next in Alita’s story in possible upcoming sequels.

Jordan Boyer is a senior history major. He can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].