Alita Battle Angel Thoughts/Review/Analysis

In a few words: Slick, Futuristic Fun
Pros: Solid worldbuilding, refreshing and  impressive action sequences, well-fleshed protagonist 

Cons: Sequel-dependent and thus underwhelming plot
Themes: Humanity, Class Division 
I went into Alita with the tempered expectations of one who’d read about the production troubles, middling early reviews and felt the general lack of enthusiasm for the film. Despite that, I chose to catch this on the “largest screen possible” as recommended by a number of critics, no less because James Cameron was involved in the project. 
Overall, it was worth the $22 I forked out for the most premium screen in my country. Alita felt to me a good, even great, but incomplete story. The visuals and action set pieces were easily the best I’ve seen in awhile, a refreshing change from the “I punch you, you punch me, explosions, explosion” blockbuster fare of late, specifically the successful superhero films that have come to define the blockbuster formula in recent years. Alita is the hack-and-slash manga adapted slickly and stunningly to live-action form that I never knew I needed to be truly wowed by CGI again. Just the main character herself in a marvel to behold; a more or less fully CGI-ed Rosa Salazar who feels so uncannily real amongst the other characters, realer still even, with a powerful and committed performance by the actress to boot. Around the start of the film, when we first see Alita, we’re zoomed into her face, and somehow, her “large anime eyes” that have been the talk of the film blend perfectly with the rest of her life-like features. Beyond the already impressive work on realising the protagonist, the action sequences are truly amazing. The first real sequence, a fight in an alleyway, blew me away. It felt like a scene from a hack-and-slash game only possible within the confines of animation, but somehow, the filmmakers bring in to stunning, crisp real life. Not only did that first fight scene bring out Alita’s sheer badassery, it also introduced the possibilities of cyborg battles as I’ve never really seen before, with a definite attention to skills with a blade (or multiple blades) and body combat skills, as opposed to the usual reliance on this-and-that gun or such-and-such weapon. The outlawing on guns of any kind in Iron City, which is the setting of most of the film, meant that the subsequent action scenes continued this thrilling mode of combat. It was definitely refreshing to not have fights come down to an explosion or a shot fired from a gun of some sort, which I feel is a formula so abused I’m almost dulled towards such scenes when they occur.

The performances, I felt, were good. With three Oscar winners in major supporting parts, I guess this shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise. Christoph Waltz was a believable father figure to Alita, Jennifer Connelly is nicely vicious and subsequently gives the movie some extra heart, while Mahershala Ali is a respectable villain. But of course, the main protagonist herself, Alita, is very well played. I found her to be a worthy comparison to Wonder Woman; she’s defined by her strength of will, bravery and importantly, her humanity. This makes for interesting analysis when we realise that she is a cyborg, yet her human qualities stand out in comparison to the human antagonists of the film, such as Vector, who is cold and ruthless in an almost mechanical way with his decisions. This perhaps offers commentary on the basis of what it means to be human; where one’s biological construct, in Alita’s case, a cyborg, but extended to the real world as a metaphor, should not confer onto them different standards of humanity.

Like Wonder Woman, the gender roles here are also flipped, with Keean Johnson playing Hugo, Alita’s sidekick and love interest who finds himself in the “damsel-in-distress” situation during a climactic sequence where Alita is the one rushing to save him. As he proclaims emphatically towards the end of a bar fight where Alita had been the one dealing out the punches, with Hugo watching her back, he’s “with her”, and not the reverse of “she’s with me”, a clear indication of Alita’s position of power in their relationship. Further it is made clear that she is physically superior to Hugo, with Hugo noting that she could easily disable him in a fight by “ripping out his arm and smacking (him) with the wet end”. 

Refreshing gender role reversal aside, I enjoyed the Alita-Hugo story, though I feel that the emotional heft of their final scene together was unintentionally lessened by the somewhat awkward CGI (don’t want to spoil it completely, but this was the one time I thought the CGI looked a little clunky).
The rest of the plot as a whole however, is where Alita’s issues arise. As I mentioned earlier, I found this to be a good but incomplete film. I say this because the film had set up many plot points early in the film, and then reinforced them throughout, which logically would make one expect that these plot points reach a resolution at the close of the film. One, for instance, is the character of Nova, established quickly as the main antagonist, when he literally assumes control of his subordinates minds, including Vector’s on multiple occasions. This set Vector up as a pawn, albeit a powerful one, from the start, which made his defeat towards the end of the film feel like the defeat of a powerful and significant but secondary antagonist – Gogo in Kill Bill comes to mind for some reason – which then leaves the feeling of unfulfillment when one realises that the character of Nova had been set up purely for a sequel. Even Alita’s identity in relation to her history is also left overly unresolved – who is Michelle Rodriguez’s character and what happened to her? Another is the floating city of Zalem – we never get a good look into it despite seemingly every character talking about making it to Zalem as a key motivation. I suppose this could have been commentary of social and class boundaries, and how and impossible blockages can form, leaving those below having no chance of of even glimpsing what it’s like on top. Indeed, when Hugo and Alita get close to ascending towards Zalem near the end, they are met with dire consequences. While I thought the physical construct of the city (with Zalem literally floating above the citizens of Iron City) was a nice metaphor for class divide, I still wished we had learned more about the city above. 
Essentially, the film leaves one feeling slightly cheated as the film comes to an end, as so many important plot points are seemingly saved for explanation in the sequel, and the only arc that really seemed to have a definite resolution was the Alita-Hugo one. What was shown in the film was good, but it felt like watching three quarters of a good movie, and then having the credits role with so many built-up things unaddressed. This pan-movie plot structure kind of brings to mind the disappointing Crimes of Grindelwald, which felt like the middle of a film with it’s lack of any real setup and resolution, merely being a filler for future installments. Of course, despite their somewhat similar and awkward structures, Alita was a good film, Crimes wasn’t. Yet it seems Crimes may yet get away with this sort of sequel-dependent plot structure, Alita may not. Because Alita really is asking for a sequel; the worldbuilding is solid and I was quickly immersed and invested in both the world and the fates of the characters. It would be a real waste if the story were left incomplete. 

With that in mind, I truly hope Alita performs well enough to warrant a sequel. It NEEDS the sequel to complete its story. Perhaps, if combined with a second film – which assumedly completes the plot – it could really be a great story and work of cinema, because plot-wise, it simply doesn’t work as a standalone film, with too many boxes left unchecked and viewers like me left needing more.
7.5/10

Spectre and some other stuff

It’s been way too long since I’ve written anything on this blog 😦 but I recently watched Spectre (aka Bond 24) and well… it wasn’t really as good as I had expected it to be.

Those who have watched Skyfall would know that the bar was set really high for Spectre. Skyfall was one of the best movies I watched in 2012 and maybe even one of the best ever, so obviously I expected the follow-up to be close in terms of quality. However, I was rather disappointed.

The film was rather engaging at the start (won’t give obvious spoilers), with an action-packed scene in Mexico City filled with multiple foreshadowings of events to come. What happened after however got more disjointed and confusing with each scene.

Following a seemingly inconsequential scene with Monica Bellucci that seemed only to serve the purpose of reminding the audience that sexual appeal is a critical part of Bond movies, the story takes the gun-wielding protagonist through various cities (which all looked beautiful I’ll admit), it culminates first in a scene involving a certain head surgery that had me gripping my hair in second-hand pain, followed by a final, intense sequence held in London.

While overall it may appear like a solid film, deeper analysis (won’t go into detail though because of spoilers) made me question several things, most specifically, the inconsequentiality of many supporting characters, despite their screen time, the underdevelopment of the villain until so late into the film, and the most jarring one, where a certain character had parted ways abruptly seemingly as a cheap plot device to drive the last 10-20 minutes of the finale (you’ll know what I mean).

I’m finding it really hard to write a review without going into detail because I’m an amateur at review writing so I think I’ll leave it at that. Overall, it was a decent film, though the confusing and at times questionable plot is definitely visible.

In other news I’ll be watching Mockingjay: Part 2 when it comes (HYPE) and the Warcraft trailer comes out tomorrow apparently so that’s something to look forward to.

~

Seventh Son Movie Review

Hey guys!

The movie Seventh Son only comes out in February in the US, but where I come from it’s already been released for a while, and I decided to watch it at the cinema over the weekends despite the telltale signs of it being a potential “bomb”; eg. the delays and negative reviews already surfacing.

However, I honestly thought that it was ok as a film, despite it being clearly lacking in many departments.  Continue reading

What I have to say about “The Interview”

Hey guys!

If you’ve been following the controversy in the previous few days, you’d probably know by now that Sony has cancelled their wide release for The Interview, and instead, they have released it through online platforms such as Google, Youtube and of course their own Home Entertainment branch.

What do I think about all this? Honestly, I think: good for them. While I’m not exactly an extreme advocate of the First Amendment, I do believe that human rights such as freedom of speech are crucial to uphold, in whatever media or platform. In fact, I think it should be upheld even more stringently in the entertainment industry, because as far as I see it, no government or political body should have any significant hold on these products. You can phrase it one way or another, but filmmakers, songwriters, actors… everyone in the entertainment industry, I believe, at their very base, are artists. Continue reading

The Giver Film Review

Hey guys!

I recently watched the film The Giver, and actually quite liked it! I realise it has a 30% rating on RottenTomatoes, but personally I definitely found it to be a good film.

I haven’t finished reading the book (it got kinda boring), but apparently, from some review I read, the film doesn’t go deep enough into the source material apparently. I’m guessing that’s one reason why it didn’t perform too well critically? For me, I’ll just be talking about the film as it is. (well it’s not like I can do otherwise.)

Firstly, I thought the concept was explained rather well; it is set in a futuristic society with no pain, war or sadness, but no colour, emotions and feelings either. The main character, Jonas, is appointed the role of Receiver of Memories, being the only person there able to access the memories of the past. Well, him and his mentor, the former Receiver of Memories, The Giver.

I won’t spoil anything plot-wise, though I’ll say that I thought the plot was rather smooth, there aren’t really any bumpy or questionable parts. I actually loved the visuals, especially as it alternates between black/white and colour. Those sections where they played montages of various activities in colour were some of the highlights for me. There is definitely emotional appeal here, I found myself tearing up every now and then… once again mostly during these short segments where they showed life in colour.

The more action-y sequences were good too, they really helped add suspense to the film and ensured it wasn’t boring at any time (unlike the book. :/ sorry).

On the cast, I thought everyone played their parts well, highlights being Meryl Streep (though that’s a given), and I actually really liked Odeya Rush’s character and portrayal.

For me though, the ending was a little abrupt, though I realise that was how it is meant to end. Also, after watching, it seemed like nothing much went on in the film? I guess maybe because there aren’t any moments that really stand out, or that the entire movie was rather good as a whole, but somewhat on the bland side.

Yup, that’s about it, don’t really want to spoil it, but definitely worth watching in theatres; I realise the box office sales for this movie aren’t spectacular, but you guys should check it out!

Overall rating: 7/10 (my middle finger to RT)

Thanks for reading 🙂

Please comment/follow/like! 😀

-J.K

“A once-in-a-lifetime experience” – Boyhood Review

Hey guys!

So, I’ve been hearing all this critical praise about the film Boyhood, and when I googled it, and after some clicking around, I realised that it was actually showing at a nearby theatre! So I instantly went down and bought myself a ticket, because I was just so intrigued by the entire concept behind it, being a movie filmed over 12 years, and that 99% on Rotten Tomatoes and 100% on Metacritic made me tear down the road like a mad horse to the cinema because the seats were filling up fast.

And I’ll say it, this is one of the very, very few things I would call a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

First, I want to say that this is the only film I’ve ever seen (and maybe ever will see), that can be both mundane yet captivating and beautiful all at the same time. It doesn’t have the drama, suspense/action of most blockbusters of Oscar Best Picture frontrunners, but there’s this beauty to is that is pretty unparalleled… and I think that’s because this film brings out life and its imperfections in such a way that is completely relatable to the audience, and not in a detached, I-am-actually-a-Hollywood-Star kind of way.

The acting was spectacular; Ellar was great a true anchor to film, completely captivating me throughout his childhood (or boyhood, as the title reads) despite his moody composure. Ethan Hawke was good as Masons’ father, and it was kind of interesting see the star mature, haha. Patricia was a true standout, she was the emotional centre of the film for me, especially with that scene near the end of the film. But honestly, the character who hooked me the most was Samantha, Masons’ older sister played by Lorelei Linklater, the directors’ daughter. She captured my attention ever since that hilarious and impossibly cute introduction. (“Oops, I did it again.” :D)

Truthfully, words cannot fully describe this film, because it’s an experience that you have to go through yourself to truly appreciate. The technical aspects of the film really seem secondary (eg. cinematography, music, sound etc), though the directing is remarkable, considering the whole 12-year period thing.

Also, this is because this is really less of a narrative, and more of actually living the life of a person, and I really felt like I was going through Mason’s childhood with him in that short span of under 3 hours. Despite the movie being over 2 hours and 40 minutes long, there was not a moment I was bored or disinterested, even as the movie touched on the small things in life; no big, popcorn-munching kind of drama, but the parts of life you would likely never see in Hollywood blockbusters. In fact, when it ended, I felt sad because I actually wished it had lasted longer, and I could know continuing living this life with Mason.

Most films have themes or morals; pretty much every Marvel/ Superhero film has the underlying theme of courage or heroism. Other dramas and tearjerkers definitely have their own morals or underlying themes as well. But Boyhood doesn’t really seem to possess one, or at least an underlying one, instead, to me, it simply seems to channel the flow of real, earthen life in it’s own intricate, muted way.

And to me, that was what made this film so quietly beautiful.

Rating: 10/10

What did you think about this now much talked-about movie? How did you view this film, did you take away any message/moral? Please comment/ follow/ subscribe 🙂

-J.K

Movie Review: Into The Storm

Hi guys!

So I watched Into The Storm recently, and I’d like to give my opinion on it.

Basically, on a whole, I thought it was a rather decent film, and I actually went in with rather low expectations, given the reviews of Rotten Tomatoes (anything below 20%… 30% even usually is a huge warning sign), but I actually rather enjoyed it, despite it flaws.

It’s basically one of those “found-footage” kind of films, and we follow the perspectives of several different characters, mainly Richard Armitage and Matt Walshs’ characters. I’ve… forgotten their names already :/, which I guess is an indication of the rather poor character work, but anyways.

The story follows the development of this freak storm, with tornados just showing up around the town, until the climax where there’s “the biggest tornado ever recorded”, as I heard being mentioned. The build-up is exciting, the tornados/visuals look rather good (I mean, this is one of those B-grade movies, so you can’t expect Gravity standard graphics) and it’s actually really exhilarating every time some characters are trying to survive the tornado, and there’s just chaos everywhere.

There are a few moments in the movie where there’s just the cacophony of noise and then suddenly everything is silent, which I thought was a pretty good “sound-effect” on their part haha. The destruction looks life-like and is pretty frightening at times (that airport/planes scene was a little nerve-tingling), especially as the scale of the destruction gets progressively bigger and bigger.

Unfortunately, there’s not much to say about the characters; the two high school students probably had to most development (I can’t remember their names >.<), and the scene where they are filming their “last words” was probably the emotional highpoint of the film, if it had one.

To sum up, this movie was all about the visuals and the tornados, and all the thrills you would expect from a B-movie disaster flick. I actually found it pretty exciting throughout, exhilarating, even at some points, and even to the point of being mesmerised at the kinda-climax of the film (the final journey of the “tank”). So, all in all, it was pretty good, and it’ll be a good film to watch if you’re just looking for a (rather) short, exciting movie that keeps you hooked throughout.

Final rating: 6.5/10

Have you watched Into the Storm?

Please comment/share/follow 😀

-J.K-