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Alita: Battle Angel (4K UHD & Blu-ray 3D Review)

Alita Battle AngelAlita: Battle Angel was always going to be an interesting film to me. The trailer alone made me want to see it immediately. The story seemed to go just a little bit deeper than your average sci-fi action thrill ride and the scenes shown were stunners meant to draw you in. As you know, a trailer can be the taste film fans need to make them go see a film, or it can be all the best scenes thrown into a short spot to make people think the film will be good. Either way, people who make trailers are geniuses of marketing… The people who made the Alita trailer should then be totally praised. They not only didn’t give away much of the movie, they gave just enough to make you want more. The film is a sprawling visually stunning near masterpiece of the genre. I can’t wait for you to see my thoughts on Alita: Battle Angel below! It just may be as effective as a trailer! As an added treat, my esteemed colleague Mr. Brian White has checked out the 3D version of Alita: Battle Angel and shares his expert thoughts on that disc here too! 

Film 

Alita: Battle Angel is based off of a manga by Yukito Kishiro and is about a far away future (2553 to be exact) of the world after “The Fall”, a Great War. There is no explanation of what took place in the war and that, for me anyway was refreshing. We first meet Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz) rummaging through piles of trash. In his digging he happens up a female cyborg (Rosa Salazar) who has an intact brain. The brain is more human than a typical cyborg and he takes her to his office and gives her a new body. Ido makes the cyborg Alita after his late daughter. When Alita wakes up with memory, she begins to discover life as it unfolds in front of her. 

As the opening unfolds Alita takes in the happenings of the city around her. There’s hustle and bustle and so many things to take in. The earth of old doesn’t exist. People are crammed in city like areas where it’s dirty, dingy and although not ideal, people at least seem to get along better. In her first days, Alita tries foods for the first time, makes a friend, Hugo (Keann Johnson) and meets another doctor, Dr. Chiren (Jennifer Connelly) who has a connection to Dr. Ido. Along the way, Alita also sees some insight to her past when she has a moment where she needs to defend herself. Following Dr. Ido one night, Alita has an altercation with some cyborg killers and learns she was once trained in the art of Armor. She fights with everything and is able to save Dr. Ido. When Dr. Ido reveals he is a Hunter-Warrior, Alita too wants to use her battle knowledge for good and join up with the Hunter-Warriors as well. 

Not all of the people Alita meets along the way are kind. Vector (Mahershala Ali) is an entrepreneur who helps fun Motorball, an insane and exciting sport involving motorized skates and a huge stadium. He has a shady way about him from his first scene. Zapan (Ed Skrein) is a bounty hunter who seems threatened by Alita’s skill and immediately sees her as an enemy. Grewishka (Jackie Earle Hailey) is a criminal who attempts to assassinate those who stand in her way. There are a ton of characters in Alita and that’s saying very little. Throughout all these meetings, alley battles, and Motorball games, Alita sees flashback moments of her training and what led up to her being discovered in the heaps of trash. When all those lost ends are found and put together, Alita learns she was always meant to be someone who saves lives and fights for the good of humanity. 

Synopsis aside, there is a lot to take in during this film. First of all, this one is stunning in more than just visuals. Upon the first discovery of Alita, the care that Ido places upon his finding. He puts so much care into her that when she first wakes up, you also feel as if you’ve been on a very short journey. Personally, I felt connected to the Alita character the moment she opened her big CGI eyes and discovered she has been repaired. She has such genuine emotion despite not being a human character and immediately you are drawn into her search to find herself and put some good into the world. Dr. Ido also pushes for the good of the world, giving services and helping those in need for free. He is an admirable man. Even the villains are thoroughly interesting. You question whether they’re truly evil or if there just been through the ringer and are now jaded with the good. You find yourself even caring about those characters too from time to time. Others, you’re waiting for their comeuppance or for someone to set them straight. 

The plot moves right along in this film as well. Set pieces are strong and draw you in. The Motorball sequences are especially exciting. Battle and fight scene are all brilliantly realized the smaller more dramatic scenes are handled just as lovingly. The James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez team really seems to have a full grasp on how to make film fans feel for their movie and love each scene as it unfolds. The only unfortunate moments of the film are that some looser ends aren’t tied up. It’s as if the filmmakers are leaving room for a sequel to answer those questions but one wonders if we will see that. I for one would be all in for that. This film for me stands out as one of the better films of the year. It takes all of the necessary senses for total enjoyment and really thrusts you into that future world.

Special thanks to Adam as he gave me some artistic freedom to express some of my thoughts haven seen Alita: Battle Angel now both in 4K and 3D.  While my film score would probably be a 3.5 I felt much of the same passion for the film that Adam did up above.  Alita: Battle Angel is more than just a pretty face.  I was initially worried it may be too cartoonish, but that’s not the case at all.  Not only is the subject matter deep and meaningful, but the motion capture or however they did things looks exceptional.  So much so that with the exception of Alita herself the other performances were dead on, eerily human and not a Polar Express looking moment to be had (not that there’s anything wrong with that).  Truth be told though I was invested in the story and for me it only got better as it went along, especially with the reveal of the villainous force behind everything.  Then the unthinkable happened.  It just ends.  It’s not a complete movie.  I feel ripped off.  What just happened?  I was telling this to Adam today.  If no sequel ever gets green lit, then I’m not sure how much replay value this one holds for me as spoilers aside it’s just not a complete story (probably none).  Think Matrix Reloaded, but not as severe.  I came all this way with Alita.  I want to see her to the end.  Here’s hoping there’s a sequel some how, some day.  – Brian White

Video 

The below video score and relative comments are based upon my viewings of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray presentation of Alita: Battle Angel.  However, this one also comes packaged with both a 1080p Blu-ray presentation (review of that video can be found HERE) and a Blu-ray 3D one (Blu-ray 3D only comments are in red below).

  • Encoding: HEVC / H.265
  • Resolution: 4K (2160p)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • Dolby Vision: Yes
  • HDR: HDR10+
  • Clarity/Detail:
  • This particular transfer is one of those that immediately shows the advantages of a 4K display. Right off the bat, your eyes are treated to tons of elements that pinpoint the exact look of a modern film. Detail is everywhere in this digital version of earth. From the dump scenes in the beginning on, the uptick and detail from an already nice looking 1080p Blu-ray are huge. The details in Alita’s body and various armor, the crowds inside and during Motorball sequences and the interiors of shops, ships, bars and marketplaces are all standouts. I didn’t see many, if any at all soft moments on this disc. 
  • Depth:
  • Looking at the image, the foreground and background are all treated with love. You see great depth throughout and even on the 4K disc you can see moments created for the 3D presentation. The image has a more subtle pop at times but that’s to be expected as the 3D Blu-ray is included for you to make your choice of how you’d like to see this film. 
  • 3-D: I really couldn’t be happier over the fact that Fox included the Blu-ray 3D disc in this 4K Ultra HD package.  However, haters are going to hate.  Although I operate by the slogan beggars can’t be choosers I feel that others are going to complain over the fact that the 3D disc doesn’t contain the 1.90:1 IMAX shifting aspect ration.  Boo boo!  What it does offer is one hell of a 3D experience in the home.  Even if you don’t have a way to play this 3D disc all you have to do is watch the 2D 4K presentation to see how this one is framed perfectly and I’m sure you can clearly imagine how much this would pop in 3D.  Just like it is in the 4K presentation image depth is fantastic here down to the littlest details in sets, backgrounds and even wires too.  That’s not to say things are perfect here though as action and darkness play a little havoc on things.  First of all though the colors are turned up a bit brighter to compensate for the darkness here that 3D presentations create (via the glasses and whatnot).  So with that being said things do get a little flat when compensating for some of the darker scenes.  Also, some of the fight and action sequences with Motorball can get a tad blurry too.  The goodness of this solid 3D presentation though completely outweighs the bad.  Because of this added depth here I’m perfectly fine popping this in any time over the 4K presentation.  But with most 3D efforts you have to be willing to wear the glasses and watch head on.  So there’s a small trade off, but if you want more discs like this (and I don’t think we’ll see many more to be frank), you have to support the format.  – Brian White
  • Black Levels: Black levels are solid overall. The scenes at night are just the right amount of dark, leaving you just to the point of doing a squint. Detail is not lost in the darkness and grey blacks (which are a huge pet peeve to me) are not in this one at all. 
  • Color Reproduction: Gorgeous is one way to describe the color palette of this movie. The colors are rendered throughout very wonderfully. There is no dullness in this presentation. Viewing the film in HDR10+ showed a slightly brighter image than the Dolby Vision counterpart may reproduce (My setup include HDR10+ but not Dolby Vision, but checking on that presentation at my neighbor’s home showed a slightly darker image.) Brighter colors and images are very bright but not blinding and never washed out. A great presentation for the colors!
  • Flesh Tones: Flesh tones, human or cyborg look great. Blemishes, scarring, and other facial and body anomalies are shown here in detail. 
  • Noise/Artifacts: This is a clean image overall! 

Audio 

The below audio score and judging comments are based upon my viewings of the 4K Ultra HD, 3D and 1080p Blu-ray presentations of Alita: Battle Angel.  It should be noted that only the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray set houses the  Dolby Atmos surround track.  The Blu-ray 3D disc and the 1080p HD versions of the film house a DTS-HD Master Audio surround track (as reviewed HERE).

  • Audio Format(s): English: Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD MA 7.1, DTS-HD MA 2.0; Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0; French, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian: DTS 5.1; Czech, Cantonese, Thai, Hungarian, Polish Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hindi, Mandarin (simplified), Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Swedish, Thai
  • Dynamics: Right away, you are treated to a great use of dynamic sound. Surrounds are alive with the sounds of the world around you. Each speaker is used to compliment the story and you don’t miss a moment as the sound continuously draws you in to each scene, even the quieter ones. Best of all, the sound is very even! You won’t be reaching for your remote as you go from scene to scene. 
  • Height: Height channels are used for all action oriented scenes. You hear music, sound effects and crowd noise up above. Again, the Motorball sequences utilize the height channels best of all as there is crowd noise, announcers and skaters whizzing all across the sound field. 
  • Low Frequency Extension: LFE is beautifully done here. When there are more action moments with an emphasis on sound effects, music drains of some of its bass to concentrate more on the action. When music is the dominant part of the mix, it takes the subwoofer over. It’s a very creative use of the low end and for me the first time I’ve seen that done with a home audio mix. 
  • Surround Sound Presentation: Sound, sound everywhere and every speaker is used! This mix is one of those ones you’ll pull out to show the benefits of actual surround sound. Sounds fly by and subtler crowd noises envelope you. The Motorball sequences are of course reference quality. There are no missed opportunities for surround usage on this disc. 
  • Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is faithfully reproduced. For the most part the presentation is front and center. For dialogue off screen the speaking is done from the appropriate speaker always. 

Extras 

The following verbiage here is taken directly from Aaron Neuwirth’s Blu-ray review HERE “Alita: Battle Angel arrives with quite a few bonus features to satisfy those wanting to get a sense of how they brought the title character to life. We also get some thoughts from the cast in the digital exclusive extras, along with a deeper look at some other aspects of the production. This is mainly a display of the technology used to bring the character to life, but there’s a lot of good material to watch. A lack of a commentary track also hurts, given how much fun it is to hear Cameron and Rodriguez talk about filmmaking, but I always welcome one of Rodriguez’s cooking school segments.”  It should also be noted you’ll get a redemption code good for redeeming the feature film in 4K UHD via Movies Anywhere.  And now without further ado here are the extras you’ll find here (including digitally).

  • Alita’s World – A series of motion comics used to help explain the world of Alita.
    • The Fall (HD, 5:05) ­– This chapter goes over the war that led to Alita’s arrival in the scrapyard.
    • Iron City (HD, 3:19) – This chapter focuses on Hugo’s life as a scrap dealer.
    • What It Means To Be A Cyborg (HD, 2:28) – Zapan, the cyborg bounty hunter, goes over his life as a machine.
    • Rules of the Game (HD, 2:52) – A look at the rules of motorball.
  • From Manga To Screen (HD, 20:47) – A look at the original manga, the adaptation process, and what it means to combine the film and the original art, and what the process was to hand the movie off from Cameron to Rodriguez, featuring interviews with the cast and crew.
  • Evolution of Alita (HD, 19:43) – A look at the technology, design, character, and depth of Alita, featuring interviews with Salazar, and the cast & crew.
  • Motorball (HD, 6:02) – A more in-depth look at the awesome sport that is motorball.
  • London Screening Q&A (HD, 26:38) – The cast and crew sit down to discuss the making of the film.
  • 10 Minute Cooking School: Chocolate (HD, 5:28) – One of the best features on any Rodriguez film, his cooking school.
  • 2005 Art Compilation (HD, 14:20) – A recreation of some the film’s key sequences, using 2005 art as a storyboard.
  • Scene Deconstruction (HD, 10:47) – A neat feature that allows you to watch multiple scenes from the film in different stages of production to see how the CG animation process and use of evolving technology work in bringing Alita to life.

Digital Exclusive Extras:

  • Streets of Iron City (HD, 17:15) – Robert Rodriguez provides a tour of Iron City, featuring interviews with the cast and crew.
  • Musical Themes (HD, 5:36) – A look at the development of the film’s terrific score.
  • Allies and Adversaries (HD, 25:32) – A brief breakdown of all the various characters in the film, featuring interviews with the various members of the cast.
  • 2016 Art Reel (HD, 11:58) – Concept art from 2016 matched against the final film, to give more of an idea of the evolution that took place.
  • Theatrical Trailers (HD)

Summary 

Alita: Battle Angel proved to be much more than just a throwaway. It’s U.S. box office receipts may seem paltry to most of the standard blockbuster fare around today. I’m immediately reminded of the response to Ready Player One (that movie sucked – Brian White) last year and how critics weren’t always kind and the movie only managed to bring in a little less than $200 million in the U.S. itself. We seem to be longing for material not sourced from books or rebooted from classic films of the past. On those terms alone Alita: Battle Angel seems to have been doomed from the start. The unfortunate part of that is now movie fans may well be missing out on something great in the line of quality sequels. This to me shows an unfortunate state of film today. All of that aside, film fans and especially home theater enthusiasts should savor this disc. It’s a game changer featuring both Dolby Vision and HDR10+ and has a near reference grade transfer for 4K and that amazing Dolby Atmos soundtrack. If you haven’t already snagged a copy, don’t hesitate. This is a great choice for a movie collector! 

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Alita Battle Angel 4K

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