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Hollywood’s latest fail: Battle Angel Alita

What’s up with Hollywood’s inability to do justice to Japanese animation on the big screen? Whether it was the absurdly bad live-action Dragon Ball movie, to the more recent turd based on Ghost in the Shell, Hollywood just can’t seem to wrap its head around the pop-cultural phenomenon that took Westerners by surprise beginning sometime in the late ’70s.

But while Dragon Ball, with its over the top characters, outfits, and action scenes probably never stood a chance of being taken seriously as a live-action film, Ghost in the Shell and Battle Angel Alita were practically made for it. And yet, here’s where we are in 2017. And what do we have? A fucking gender-swapped sequel to that Cher classic, Mask.

In case you’re wondering, no, the main character Alita doesn’t have Crouzon syndrome. She doesn’t have extraordinarily large eyes. Reading the comics, or watching the anime adaptation, the viewer’s attention is never meant to be drawn to her eyes in this way. She is supposed to be a pretty, but normal looking girl who just happens to be a robot – revealed by her metallic arms.

There’s no reason for an expensive team of cg animators to digitally mess with the actress’s face. Somehow, somewhere, some clueless suit must have said, “Hm, these anime characters all seem to have big eyes. That must be what the fans like about them, so let’s make her eyes extra big!” This is such a colossal fail it beggars belief.

It’s amazing this movie-destroying mistake survived from concept through to production. I’ll give the creators the benefit of the doubt, and assume there were some meetings between art directors at some point. Did they even bother to ask Battle Angel’s creator, Yukito Kishiro, what he thought of this? Is it possible he was so gratified that an adaptation was happening at all, after years of the project collecting dust, that he was fine with it?

Why is hack Robert Rodriguez directing, and not James Cameron, who saw the potential in it years ago and bought the rights? Did Cameron simply hand it off to Rodriguez because he’s too busy with Avatar sequels, and didn’t take 5 minutes to check in on it? Why oh why didn’t Cameron keep this one in his quiver until he could do it justice?

Personally, what I find much more disappointing than the bug eyes disaster, is that James Cameron isn’t directing it. I have been a lifelong fan of Cameron’s films and was really looking forward to seeing what he could do with Battle Angel’s characters and setting and action sequences. So, congratulations Mr. Cameron! You managed a bigger fail in 2017 than the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

By the way, the trailer makes it clear that this waste of money and effort is basically just a lifeless, ugly, live-action version of the excellent anime adaptation, which covers just a tiny fraction of the Battle Angel story. That being the case, if you’re at all interested in knowing what made Battle Angel Alita cool in the 1990s, just watch the anime instead.