In recent years, many filmmakers from Hollywood have tried to give a shot at adapting anime or manga but not many of those adaptations stood up to general public’s expectations. The 2017 adaptation of Ghost in The Shell shown that a title that seems like a perfect proving ground for Hollywood to make an adaptation from anime, did not guarantee it to satisfy the general public’s expectations (or even my own). In contrary, Edge of Tomorrow, an adaptation of All You Need is Kill light novel Hiroshi Sakurazaka gave a small hope that Hollywood could make a good adaptation from Japanese popular media.
Now, Alita: Battle Angel, an adaptation of a manga created by Yukito Kishiro, came out and convinced that with a good direction, casting, and story writing, any source material can be turned into a great and satisfying action packed film. Being in a production hell for more than 15 years since 2003 surely did not stop Alita: Battle Angel to shine and win my heart as one of the most entertaining Hollywood adaptation of manga or anime.
Directed by Robert Rodriguez and produced by James Cameron and Jon Landau, Alita: Battle Angel is set in the distant future of year 2563 after a huge war known as “The Fall” left the Earth devastated. The story follows a cyborg girl who was discovered by Dr. Dyson Ido in the scrapyard of Iron City and her journey to uncover the truth behind her identity and the floating city of Zalem.
In comparison to its original source material, this film has major adjustments, starting from character name and even how the story flows that seems to allow it to be more easily accepted by Western audience. But even with those changes, the story surprisingly still fits the setting and character development, thus making the changes more acceptable.
In terms of story, Alita: Battle Angel manages to pack a lot of exposition, informations, and action packed battles in just the little time they had but still with some little flaws in it. The story passes like an anime in my opinion, as it is possible to recognize certain anime narrative elements such as coincidences that happen too often or sub-villain with the motive of making the protagonist in a conflicting position. Moreso the occasional flashbacks from the memory loss that adds up to things that have to be solved in this movie. It is clear that in two hours of the film’s runtime, there are too many objectives in its hands midway through the film, they finally got their hands full that it would fall if they did not proceed carefully. Thankfully, they can gracefully save this movie from the danger of gaping plot hole by connecting everything thread by thread in the last act, making the ending satisfyingly good with a possibility of a sequel.
The film has great visual effects and CG as expected from a Hollywood film. The action sequences are very great and well directed putting me on the edge. Looking back, when the first Alita: Battle Angel trailer dropped on the net, there was a controversy regarding Alita’s large eyes which is very anime-like but perhaps would not really work for a live action adaptation. I agree that the eyes surely a nod to its original material, as manga tend to feature large eyes for women characters, and that sometimes it will not work in a live action adaptation, But after I watched the film, I think the huge eyes are not really a problem. Instead, the deeper I got into this movie, the more reason I think it is acceptable like her backstory and character development. Aside from that, the design of Iron City’s landscape is praiseworthy in conveying the dystopian cyberpunk feeling if the film’s setting.
Sadly, while the soundtrack served its part as a great companion for this epic action packed movie, it is certainly not very remarkable. But the theme song from Dua Lipa titled “Swan Song” is worth to check out as it is very catchy.
In the end, Alita: Battle Angel has raised the bar for good Hollywood adaptation of anime and manga. There are many anime or manga narrative elements, yet they are complemented by great visuals and story writing as well, making this film not only a great adaptation of a manga, but also a great Hollywood film. I certainly hope that we will get more good Hollywood adaptations in the future.