Last week I took a Friday afternoon to go see Battle Angel Alita. I’d heard of the manga (although prior to the movie I hadn’t read any), and was truly curious to see how the source material would be adapted as a modern western movie.
I’ll admit a few things. First, based on the trailer, I wasn’t really expecting a great movie. Combined with the typically poor adaptations that American film-goers experience when Japanese source material is used, my expectations were pretty low. Second, even though I had the chance to read some of the manga before watching the film, I intentionally chose not to. I decided that for once I was going to see the movie first.
I did enjoy my time at the theater, which for me is the sole marker of time well-spent. Although my critiques of the movie are plentiful (see the following paragraph), there were some spectacular action scenes and a few moments where I actually had to fight back the urge to cheer because the moment was so damn cool. Overall, I enjoyed the film, but I don’t think that I would call it good, as much as I hate the terminology.
To borrow the phrase my wife’s students say to her (thus driving her off the wall), Alita was trying to “do too much.” Now that I’ve gone back and started to read the manga, I can see just how true that is. There are too many plots running through the film, making it difficult for any one to have weight. There’s the boyfriend/love interest, the discovery of the new body, the class warfare, sports, body part hacking, the whole works.
It made me think a lot about one of my own personal mottos as of late, which is that there’s no problem with telling a smaller story. End of the world superhero films are all well and good, but a story that’s limited in scope can often be much more powerful. I think Alita is an incredible example of this.
In the manga, the first collected volume, coming in at about 220 pages, if memory serves, focuses only on Alita discovering more about who she is and adapting to a new body. It’s the story of maybe one-third of the movie. Yet in the manga the story has room to grow, and although far less actually happens, its impact is no less than the movie itself.
But that’s my take on the movie – did anyone else watch it? If so, what did you think?