A manga come to life indeed
17 April 2019
If someone had told me back in 1984 that James Cameron would one day produce another Terminator movie in which the killer android sports the unnecessarily sexualized frame of an adolescent girl with creepily big manga eyes and is controlled by the brain of a female teenager, I would have slowly backed off, excused myself with the words "my, would you look at the time", and avoided further social contact with this person from there on in. But apparently, this kind of thing is perfectly acceptable when Japan's comic book industry does it first. Not only that, we must pretend that it is a work of art on par with Blade Runner instead of trashy, lurid pulp.

The good news is that Cameron, Rodriguez et al have succeeded in adapting a manga to the big screen. This movie is the sum of everything I love and hate about the manga and anime genres: Whimsical playfulness, beautiful backdrops, and sometimes amazing worldbuilding on the one hand, and stupefyingly simplistic characters and plot lines on the other. The lead character is devoid of personality aside from her childlike wonder that is jarringly contrasted with her outbreaks of ultraviolence. The villains are even more paper-thin, utterly stereotypical and evil for the sake of it. A brute, a mad scientist, and of course the queer-coded dandy who is very concerned with his looks (which leaves a bad taste of the homophobia that is so sadly common in the Japanese entertainment media).

Alita did manage to draw me in a few times, but immediately lost me again with its video game CGI, mindless dialogue, and overlong, excessively violent combat scenes. Far too many times, there is not a single human actor in sight for ten minutes at a time, which makes this supposed live action film feel like a console game cutscene. It worked in Avatar thanks to the incredible realism of the CGI, but I'm afraid that this one won't age nearly as well. Tl;dr: Style over substance, and even the style is of questionable taste. Has its moments, but insults the viewer's intelligence. Add an unresolved plot that sets the stage for an even worse sequel, and you end up with a movie best watched at home on the TV screen (if at all).
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