Alita: Battle Angel

by Sam Cohen
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Jul 29, 2019
Alita: Battle Angel

There's a very long and storied history behind how "Alita: Battle Angel" arrived on the big screen, and two-plus hours of special features on the new Blu-ray of the film takes a deep dive into that history.

One of the best films of the year by this writer's estimation, "Alita: Battle Angel" is a breathtaking visual feat and charming in its brand of emotional simplicity. Director James Cameron shepherded this adaptation of a popular manga for years before handing the reins to Robert Rodriguez, but the blockbuster auteur's touch can not only still be felt, but it's also the beating heart of the film.

"Alita: Battle Angel" takes place in the year 2563, almost 300 years after a devastating battle between warring colonies has left the Earth a shadow of what it once was. Iron City is where most people work and develop crops for the sky city of Zalem, where the wealthy live and stay safe from the danger below. Most of Iron City's inhabitants are upgraded with robotic implants to do things like bounty hunt and play a deadly stadium game called motorball. After Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz) discovers a discarded android, a years-old prophecy of restoring balance to the order of Earth is reignited. Alita (Rosa Salazar), who is reactivated and begins to remember her past, sets her sights on Zalem to finish a job she and her fellow soldiers failed to do during the great war known as "The Fall."

What's most curious about "Alita: Battle Angel" is that not only was Cameron inspired to adapt it, he also wanted to copy over many of the manga's images and put them in motion as he saw them in his head. When he first decided to do something with the material, the digital technology needed to pull off the film hadn't been developed yet. This project got thrown on the back burner when Cameron ventured out to invent the technology needed to go after his other effects-heavy project, "Avatar." In one of the special features, he said he was inspired by Weta Workshops' work on "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and saw that motion capture tech as a way to fully realize his vision for "Alita." But, as is the director's wont, he took it one step further. He waited until Weta honed their motion capture equipment so well that it became performance capture, a way to get an actor's entire physical and emotional performance and repurpose it to develop completely digital characters.

The process behind such a tireless endeavor is explored breathlessly in the special features on this Blu-ray of "Alita: Battle Angel." This release stands as a worthy companion to the visually breathtaking film and gives plenty for fans to chew on. Not only that, but there's a digital comic included that takes a deep dive into "The Fall" and its effect on the Earth as we see it in the film itself. Pick up this Blu-ray immediately if you're interested in Cameron's process or, like me, you're won over by the earnestness and visual splendor of Alita's triumphant story. Other special features include:

• "From Manga to Screen"
• "Alita's World"
• "Evolution of Alita"
• "Motorball"
• 2005 Art Compilation
• Scene Deconstruction
• "Robert Rodriguez's 10 Minute Cooking School: Chocolate"
• James Cameron, Robert Rodriguez and cast Q&A moderated by producer Jon Landau

"Alita: Battle Angel"
20th Century Fox Blu-ray, DVD and Digital

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