Alita: Battle Angel
July 1, 2020
(The Channel Awesome logo is shown. Then we cold-open on what looks like a dump, which is apparently home to James Cameron's abandoned projects, according to a helpful sign. Here, NC comes across a binder and what looks like Spider-Man's mask, which would have been used for a Spider-Man movie by Cameron)
NC: Oh, yeah, you sure changed the comic world with that one.
(He tosses the mask aside and looks at the binder. The cover reads "True Lies 2 By James Cameron")
NC: Oh, they should still do that. The Jamie Lee Curtis dance will be hilarious.
(He reaches into the binder and pulls out a CD which has "DARK ANGEL – SEASON 3" writte on it)
NC: (reads) "Dark Angel". Oh, yeah, wasn't that the training wheels for that anime he never got off the ground?
(Suddenly, his attention is grabbed by something else in the pile. He runs over to it and stares in awe)
NC: It's amazing!
(It's a discarded Blu-Ray release of Alita: Battle Angel)
NC (vo): It's still alive! (He picks it up and looks at it closely) How could you survive years of neglect?
(He holds it up and spins around in a circle, laughing elatedly. Then a different title sequence than usual (with credits and all) is shown over a shot of the sky over the junkyard. Then we cut to black)
NC (vo): It's incredible the movie turned out as good as it did.
(Then the camera starts fading in ever so slightly on NC and Rob looking at something. The view of the brothers is blurry and has a hard time coming into focus)
Rob: Look, she's waking up.
(The view finally comes into focus)
NC: Hi. Well, you're a surprise. What's your name?
(They are looking at the Alita Blu-Ray disc)
Alita Blu-Ray disc (voice of Tamara): My...name is...
Rob: It's no use. She's been in development hell too long.
NC: I'm sure she'll still kick ass.
Rob: Are you planning to regenerate her?
NC: Oh, yes. She's the most promising anime adaptation adaptation I've seen in years.
(There is a white flash, and we see the disc is now in its proper case)
Alita Blu-Ray: Wow, this new body looks great.
NC: (seated at his desk) Well, you deserve it. You've been through quite a bit.
Alita Blu-Ray: Really? I-I don't remember.
NC: That's not surprising. A lot of people forgot about you for a bit. But I never gave up.
Alita Blu-Ray: I...I don't understand.
NC: Well, maybe it's best I start from the beginning.
(The title for Alita: Battle Angel is shown, followed by footage of the original anime show on which the movie is based)
NC (vo): In 1993, a Battle Angel OVA was released, based on (A shot of the original manga is superimposed) the 1990 manga. It was the first anime I ever saw that was meant for adults. It was one of those few VHSes at rental stores (A shot of a Battle Angel VHS is superimposed) that had that (A "not for kids" label is added to the VHS) wonderful sticker that called to every teen like the Pied Piper's flute. While it wasn't anything groundbreaking, it had memorable characters, good world-building, and some bloody-as-hell action. I was immediately hooked. It got me to read the manga, opened a world of anime (Shots of other anime shows are shown: Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and Ninja Scroll) that was even bigger and better than I imagined, and I had this VHS (The Battle Angel VHS is shown again) to thank for it. And I wasn't the only one who was taken by it.
(An image of James Cameron is shown)
NC (vo): In the '90s, James Cameron absolutely fell in love with Battle Angel and declared he would one day make a movie out of it.
(Now a montage is shown of Cameron's work, including Titanic)
NC (vo): But as other projects grabbed his attention, (A shot of the poster for Avatar is superimposed) some developed, (A shot of the title character in Spider-Man is superimposed) some abandoned, the film kept getting postponed.
(Cut to shots of Dark Angel and Avatar)
NC (vo): Some projects even served as tests, with his show Dark Angel testing the idea of a futuristic action girl, and Avatar testing if he could CG an entire person to look believable.
(Cut to another shot of Cameron)
NC (vo): Nevertheless, it still didn't seem ready, and he was constantly distracted by other endeavors.
(Cut to a shot of Robert Rodriguez)
NC (vo): It wasn't until Robert Rodriguez stepped in to help condense the script that Cameron realized the only way this was gonna get made was if someone else took the helm.
NC: And I know I've mocked (The poster for Sharkboy and Lavagirl is shown in the corner) some of his movies in the past, (A shot of Rodriguez replaces the poster) but not only is this guy one of my favorite filmmakers, but he is perfect for directing this.
(Footage of Alita is shown)
NC (vo): Well, it had a Cameron look, it felt like a Rodriguez story. Super gritty and over-the-top with almost violence and random deaths around every corner. (A shot of Jon Landau, James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez is shown) It was also a perfect mix of two opposite styles: Cameron famously went over budget making some of the expensive films ever made, Rodriguez made several films in his garage, so for a future that's supposed to be half state-of-the-art and half low-tech, this was a match made in heaven.
NC: But there was still one question: What version of Alita do you adapt?
NC (vo): The manga and anime (The manga pops in on the left side while the anime is shown in the right) were surprisingly quite different with several elements and characters created and other elements and characters cut out.
NC:The solution? Do them both.
NC (vo): Alita ambitiously combined both stories resulting in critics giving it mixed reviews because they thought there were too many side stories and characters making you feel crowded.
NC: Yeah, that's called an anime.
NC (vo): I'm sorry Cameron didn't sell you Ferngully again, but I thought this was a lot more creative than at least acknowledged the source material it was based on this time creating one of the best anime adaptations if not the best anime adaptation ever shown on the big screen.
Alita Blu-Ray: Wow, so with all that time, I must be the most perfect film ever made.
NC: You are awesome!
Alita Blu-Ray: So I'm perfect?
NC: Well, you are awesome!
Alita Blu-Ray: Doesn't that mean I'm perfect?
NC: Funny enough, being awesome rarely means you're perfect. In fact, often it's part of what makes something so awesome.
Alita Blu-Ray: That makes no sense.
NC: Okay, look I'll go over what's perfect what's not and how they're sometimes the same.
Alita Blu-Ray: As long as one of us follow that sentence, we should be alright.
NC: This is Alita: Battle Angel.
Alita Blu-Ray: I know, I'm right here.
NC: Oh, I was talking to the audience that time.
Alita Blu-Ray: This is gonna be confusing.
NC: Yes it is.
Alita Blu-Ray: But I'm used to it by now.
NC: Oh, good.
(The Alita: Battle Angel variant of the 20th Century Fox logo is shown)
NC (vo): We opened to how Dark Phoenix left 20th Century Fox and come across a sort of cyborg doctor named Dyson Ido, played by Christoph Waltz, who rummages all the dead Terminator franchises coming across something unique.
NC: It should be pointed out that the attention to detail in creating certain scenes is crazy.
NC (vo): (A clip from the anime is shown on the top left) This isn't surprising seeing is Rodriguez did Sin City, which basically use the comics as storyboards, but the little touches for die-hard fans really deserves a golf clap. (NC does a golf clap)
NC (vo): He brings what he found to his assistant who I don't mind changing from the original, but look at the original. That has so much more character to it. I don't care if you make him a black woman, but go with someone like (image of...) Whoopi Goldberg, that'd be fitting and more memorable.
Dr. Dyson Ido (Christopher Waltz): What are you dreaming, little angel?
NC (vo): Okay, that was creepy, and probably belongs in the manga. They start off a little creepy, too. They give her a body, and she wakes up with...those eyes.
NC: So, people have a lot of thoughts about these eyes, and honestly, they're all kind of right.
NC (vo): They are freaky, but they emphasize her expressions. They're distracting, but they also give the character in a film more of an identity. Oh, yeah, Alita the girl with the big eyes. Without that, it'd be, what, that robot girl in the future movie? There's like a million of those. (Posters for Ex Machina, Ghost in the Shell (2017) and Metropolis are shown) It's not like an anime because (An image of five anime girls is shown) everybody doesn't have the big eyes, but I think that confirms her as a bit of an outsider.
NC: The only issue I have with them is that they do distract from what an amazing effect the rest of her is.
NC (vo): I mean, the eyes are obviously CG, but the rest of her is, too. Look at the shirt, the pants, the skin, the hair. All of that is from computers; she wasn't wearing any of that on set. I feel bad as this actress, Rosa Salazar...
(A montage of shots of other shows that Salazar has done is shown: Undone, Big Mouth, ???)
NC (vo): ...seems to never show her real face in anything.
NC: She's like the Tom Hardy (Shots of Hardy's work are shown along the bottom, including Venom, are shown) of anime filters.
NC (vo): But the effects are so good, all her charm shines through. She is disgustingly likable in this.
(A montage of clips of Alita's charm is shown)
Alita: Does anyone ever go to Zalem? We should go! / I'm so good. / Who is that? / Yeah!
Hugo (Keean Johnson): You want to join in? (Alita smiles)
NC (vo): If I didn't have recurring nightmares of (A Margaret Keane painting of a big-eyed little girl is shown in the corner) Margaret Keane children eating me, I'd call her "cute as a button". Part of that charm, though, is also from Waltz, who takes whatever adorableness she throws at him and knocks it right back with his own brand of "Awww..."
(In one scene, she takes a bite of an orange, peel and all. She reacts in confusion and Dr. Ido reaches his hand out)
Dr. Ido: Taste receptors are working.
NC: She can tell this fruit is from Walmart.
NC (vo): She can't remember anything, not even her name, so Ido calls her "Alita" and shows her around Iron City, the slums compared to the sky city of Zalem, just above. This place is great because everywhere you look, there's something going on. It's like a Ren Faire, except slightly less embarrassing to be at. (The audience is heard booing) I said "slightly"!
(Suddenly, a giant Centurion advances on Alita)
Centurion: STEP ASIDE. OUT OF THE WAY. (Alita stands, ready to fight)
NC: (pointing and shaking finger) Look out! A meat cute!
(A youth, however, suddenly runs and grabs Alita, pulling her out of the way)
NC (vo): Alita is...kinda-ish saved by a boy named Hugo, played by Keean Johnson, and despite this film probably having an overshare of exposition, it's kinda like Fury Road in that the storytelling is mainly in the expressions. Every time I watch this film, I see a reaction I never noticed before. Like, look at her expressions here when she's recognized as a cyborg.
Hugo: You're a cyborg. Can I see?
(Alita stares, somewhat embarrassed, and then reaches her hand out to him)
NC (vo): There is so much vulnerability, shame, joy, curiosity, excitement, all in just those few seconds. Look at Ido's face when he names her Alita.
Ido: (stares) Alita. It's a nice name.
Alita: (smiling) I love it! (reaches out and hugs him)
Ido: (awkwardly) Okay.
NC: Don't you just immediately know he had a daughter and that was her name?
NC (vo): We all got that, and it was just from a look. If you saw this movie and didn't like it, I highly suggest you watch it again and just read their expressions. There's so much good acting going on that isn't given enough credit. Speaking of which, Alita becomes suspicious when she hears about murders happening around town, and Ido returns with a bloody wrist.
Cyborg: (restrained by Ido) I heard that guy carves girls up and sells their body parts.
Ido: Shh, shh!
NC (vo; as Ido): Don't give away my calling card!
(As Alita walks out, a woman, played by Jennifer Connelly, calls out to her)
Woman: Hey, kid!
NC (vo): They're visited by Ido's ex-wife Chiren, played by Jennifer Connelly...
NC: Hmm... (The poster for House of Sand and Fog appears on the right) House of Sand and Fog trying, (The poster for Hulk appears on the left) or Hulk-phoning-it-in trying?
Chiren: (to Vector, played by Mahershala Ali) Because I'm a doctor and...I'm a mother. And somehow I forgot that.
(As we cut back to NC, the Hulk poster disappears, but the Sand and Fog poster remains)
NC: Sand and Fog, man, Sand and Fog!
NC (vo): She [Chiren] meets with Ido, disturbed that he's using the body of their dead daughter on Alita instead of helping her make breakthroughs so she can go to Zalem.
Ido: I won't help you build monsters.
Chiren: Gonna get back to Zalem somehow. I'll claw my way their with my bare hands if I have to.
Sarah Williams (audio from Labyrinth): Someone take me away from this awful place!
NC (vo): Meanwhile, Alita meets up with Hugo, and they play a nice game of fuck-you ball.
(As one of Hugo's acquaintances, Tanji (played by Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) knocks her down, Hugo helps her back up)
(As she gets up, Alita glares at Tanji)
NC: (as Alita, imitating her expression) Have a sudden urge to stitch a bitch!
(Alita grabs Tanji by his arm and pulls it behind him)
NC (vo): She ends up winning...
(Alita then trips him up, sending him flying. The sound of Tom (of Tom and Jerry fame) screaming is added in as Tanji flies through the air before hitting the ground)
NC (vo): ...as well as showing up the guy who hit her.
Tanji: (to Hugo) Your freak girlfriend's got some serious malfunctions!
Hugo: She's not my girlfriend.
NC: (as Hugo, pointing to camera) She is my sex bot and nothing more! (A shot of a female sex robot is shown in the corner) Don't act like that isn't our future!
NC (vo): Hugo continues to introduce her to all the wonders of the city.
(As Hugo drives her around on the back of his scooter, Alita gasps and giggles. A clip of The Little Mermaid is edited in, showing Flounder jumping out of the water repeatedly as he watches Eric and Ariel go by in their carriage. Then we cut back to Alita as the titular robot is eating a bar of chocolate)
NC (vo): Including, of course, chocolate.
Alita: (her mouth is full) That's so great! I have a favorite food now.
NC (vo): Because it's always chicks and chocolate!
(Cut to a montage of women and their love of chocolate, starting with another scene of Alita)
Alita: (to Dr. Ido) Do you have any chocolate?
(Cut to a clip of an episode of The Fairly OddParents)
Wanda: (going crazy) Did you say chocolate?!
(Cut next to a clip of Frozen)
Anna and Elsa: (in unison) Chocolate. (both giggle)
(Cut to a clip of My Fair Lady)
Prof. Higgins (Rex Harrison): (holding up a tray of chocolates) Have some chocolate, Miss Eliza.
NC: I know women love chocolates, but this has been done so much. Can't we get something a little different, like...
(Cut back to Alita)
Alita: Do you have any...
NC (vo; satanic voice): HAM!!!
NC: All right, maybe chocolate's not that bad.
NC (vo): Hugo reveals that he too has dreams of going to Zalem.
Hugo: (to Alita) If I was as strong as you, I'd climb that tube to Zalem right now.
Alita: They don't let anybody up there.
Hugo: That's what they want you to think.
NC: And we're all living on this (A shot of the Earth appears in the corner; makes "finger quotes") "fear planet", right? (scoffs and rolls eyes)
Hugo: You just can't remember. If you can just tell me those eyes are seeing...
NC (vo; as Alita): They're literally seeing every pore on your face now. I don't think I can take any more how much these eyes can see. (normal) Later that night, she sees Ido going out and follows him, afraid he might be the killer. But she discovers he's actually a bounty hunter, AKA hunter-warrior, trying to find the real killer.
(A cyborg named Grewishka (played by Jackie Earle Haley) appears before Ido)
Grewishka: Looking for me, Doctor? Or should I say, "hunter-warrior"!
NC: (as Ido, crosses arms) It's "Doctor Hunter-Warrior".
(Another cyborg jumps down from a rooftop, this one with swords for arms: Zapan (played by Ed Skrein). He jumps Dr. Ido, who slices off one of his arms. He cries out in pain as he is hit)
Zapan: Nice shot...for a meat boy!
NC: (amused) You just know, to get that delivery, Rodriguez was like...
NC (vo): ..."Say that line more...Rodriguez-y."