‘Alita: Battle Angel’ Review

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Writers: James Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis

Cast: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Keean Johnson, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Jennifer Connelly and Mahershala Ali

Synopsis: A deactivated female cyborg is revived, but cannot remember anything of her past life and goes on a quest to find out who she is.

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Based on the anime and manga series created by Yukito Kishiro, Alita: Battle Angel has been a passion project for James Cameron for decades now, but put if off for Titanic, and because he didn’t think the visual effects were up for the vision he had. Then Avatar happened and Cameron’s focus went to developing those films that he passed along the directorial duties to his friend Robert Rodriguez, who was also a fan of the series. Now, we get the vision that Cameron probably intended with bombastic visual effects, some pretty solid set pieces and a pretty descent cast.

Set 300 years after The Fall, Alita: Battle Angel follows a resurrected abandoned cyborg named Alita (Rosa Salazar), by Doctor Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz). When she awakes, she has no recollection of her former life, despite not being hardwired like a normal cyborg that Ido usually deals with. Alita now has to learn how things work in Iron City, while also dealing with Vector (Mahershala Ali) – the man who runs Iron City from above – a group of bounty hunters called Hunter Warriors, taking an interest to Hugo (Keean Johnson), a local in Iron City, and Iron City’s favorite sport – Motorball.

One of the best aspects going for Alita: Battle Angel is the amazing special effects that Cameron and the special effects department were able to pull off. On top of that, the 3D makes everything pretty immersive from Iron City, to the city of Zalem in the sky and Motorball (although, we can probably safely assume that most of that was CG). Plus, when it comes to Alita herself, she was motion-captured by Salazar herself, with some new motion-capture Cameron is going to use in the Avatar sequels. While most big budget movie – this being Robert Rodriguez’s most expensive movie to date –  have great ambition like Alita: Battle Angel, the adaptation actually works for what it’s trying to accomplish.

Which, of course, is an accomplishment in itself since most – if not all – anime adaptations lose a lot of what made the anime so beloved. I haven’t watched original anime, nor read the manga, but from what I was able to read it seems like Alita: Battle Angel is a pretty faithful adaptation, which should make fans happy. But, you don’t need to watch the anime to really enjoy the movie, because overall, Alita: Battle Angel is a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining film.

The cast is also pretty solid considering how bombastic the movie is, with almost the whole movie being put on Rosa Salazar’s shoulders. Thankfully, Salazar is able to carry it as she brings the right amount of naivety, wonderment and badassery the role requires. Christoph Waltz plays the father-figure role well, but I wish he was in it just a tad bit more, while Alita’s other man in her life is Keean Johnson’s Hugo, who is just a bit wooden at times, and even though his character gets an interesting storyline in the movie, his development is just a tad lackluster. The villains are very mixed with Mahershala Ali’s Vector not getting enough screen time to be a real threat, Ed Skrein plays a Hunter Warrior named Zapan who is just the right amount of smug and Jackie Earle Haley plays the dangerous Grewishka, who Alita goes head-to-head a couple of times. I would mention Jennifer Connelly’s Chiren, but she doesn’t have enough screen time to really make an impact. The movie is also filled with some cameos that could surprise people, especially one that I was shocked, like many, that they were able to keep secret.

The movie does have some minor problems, like some pacing issues here and there, but weirdly – and surprisingly – with the two hour runtime the movie moves are a pretty brisk pace. The overall story misses some beats, and one thing most viewers might not like is the ending. Admittedly, I found out it’s essentially how the anime ends too, but seeing how Hollywood is a different beast, and seeing how they set up it, it should be interesting to see how things work out.

All in all, Alita: Battle Angel has some minor flaws, but overall is thoroughly entertaining and ton of fun to watch. Rosa Salazar holds the movie up on her shoulders, and no the big CGI eyes will not bother you, plus, it actually helps with the character’s situation. Hopefully, Alita: Battle Angel starts a resurgence of good anime adaptations, no matter the result at the box office.

Alita: Battle Angel

4 out of 5

‘Deadpool’ Review

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Director: Tim Miller

Writers: Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Ed Skrein, Morena Baccarin, Gina Carano, T.J. Miller, Brianna Hildebrand, Karan Soni, Jed Rees, and Leslie Uggams

Synopsis: A former Special Forces operative turned mercenary is subjected to a rouge experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, adopting the alter ego Deadpool.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There are post-credit scenes*

 

It’s been a long time, but fans have finally gotten their Deadpool movie, and it doesn’t suck! After the disaster of trying to bring the character to life in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and after the “leaked” test footage that took the internet by storm, 20th Century Fox listened to the fans and decided to give the Merc with the Mouth a chance. Not only that they gave the film the Rated-R rating the film really needed for the character. Finally, we see the end result and its one that can possibly make every Deadpool fan happy. Cue the review.

Deadpool has an interesting set up in the first act. It acts as an origin story, for those unfamiliar with the character – which is probably a lot of people – and a “love story” between Wade Wilson (Reynolds) and Vanessa (Baccarin). However, the origin and love story are told in a flashback form during the heavily promoted expressway action sequences. It’s done fairly well and in a true Deadpool, and even comic book, way. The first time Wade meets Vanessa is at his favorite bar that is run by his best friend Weasel (Miiler). The two start an immediate relationship, but it comes crashing down when Wade finds out he has a serve case of cancer. This leads to an encounter with a mystery man (Rees) who promises him he can not only cure his cancer, but make him a superhero. Wade eventually goes and encounters Ajax (Skrein) and his right hand woman Angel Dust (Carano), who tell Wade they aren’t just curing him, they are making him a super slave and are putting him through a rigorous experiment

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Of course, something goes wrong in the lab and with the experiment and leaves Wade disfigured. Soon after, Wade promises a mission of revenge to find Ajax in hopes that Ajax will fix his disfigurement so he can go back to Vanessa and live their lives in peace. What follows is an action-packed, one-liner dropping comedy antics.

Now, Deadpool definitely won’t be for everyone. It’s brash, over-the-top, some will find it offensive, and with that the humor is something you either go with or just won’t find funny. However, there is no denying that Deadpool is a ton of fun to sit through and watch. Of course, that doesn’t mean its perfect – no film is. Despite the long wait, there are some things that just don’t click in the film, and one of them is something that drives Wade/Deadpool throughout the film: the love story. There’s nothing wrong with Reynolds and Baccarin’s chemistry and most of it is great, but the love story is a bit thin and won’t be the thing you’re talking about walking out.

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The other underdeveloped and weak point is the villain. Ed Skrein fares better here than he did in The Transporter Refueled, but his character is only okay and doesn’t really do anything to stick out too much. Same can be said for Gina Carano’s Angel Dust, although she does have a highlight moment near the end of the film, but the character doesn’t do much other than stand next to Ajax and look menacing.

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The other supporting cast do well with what they have. Going back to Morena Baccarin, she plays the part well and does the best she can with what she’s given. Leslie Uggams, who plays Blind Al, Deadpool’s roommate is pretty great and her scenes with Wade/Deadpool are damn hilarious and is involved in one of the funniest moments of the film. Briana Hildebrand’s Negasonic Teenage Warhead is pretty cool, but her scenes are limited only when Colossus – voiced by Stefan Kapicic and facial performance by Greg LaSalle – is around. Speaking of Colossus, he is treated so much better here than he was in the X-Men films and actually has more screen time than I thought he would. Finally, T.J. Miller, who I’m not really a big fan of, is great in this, especially when he’s with Reynolds. Any time the two are together, you’ll definitely being laughing.

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What makes Deadpool work is Ryan Reynolds. Deadpool I think would have not worked if it wasn’t for Reynolds, his quick wit and perfect comedic timing. Reynolds himself is a huge fan of the character, as are the writers of the film in Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick – both of which also wrote Zombieland and G.I. Joe: Retaliation – and director Tim Miller, which adds a nice added layer to the care that they took to create and bring the character to life on the big screen. The other thing about Reynolds is that he never really lets up. Wade/Deadpool is always talking so the jokes and one-liners are always in full swing. That being said some of the jokes tend to fall flat, but believe me, that’s a rare thing. Deadpool’s humor might be an acquired taste, but I’m sure even non-Deadpool fans or people that are not fans of the humor will find some of the jokes funny. Crass at times, and targets some people, but funny nonetheless.

All that is thanks to the rare comic book movie rating of being Rated-R. I’m not really one to complain about rating or get into a movie rating argument, because honestly for me, it doesn’t matter what a movie is rated as long as it’s good or highly entertaining. However, I did agree with many to say that Deadpool need to be Rated-R to really be a proper adaptation of the character and his wacky – to put it lightly – personality. The personality of Deadpool is also something non-fans will have to get use to, but Deadpool fans will highly appreciate and feels like the character jumped right out of the comic book.

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All in all, Deadpool has been a long time coming, and thankfully it’s finally here and is damn great. Right from the opening credits – which are awesome – you know exactly what you’re getting into. Is it perfect? No, but Ryan Reynolds pulls you in and takes you on this crazy ride and a damn enjoyable one at that.

 

Deadpool

4.5 out of 5