Alita: Battle Angel Blu-ray Review – Imperfect Yet Immersive
Alita: Battle Angel, now out on Blu-ray, 4K, and VOD, is a better movie than it probably gets credit for. After nearly twenty years of development, the fact that the manga adaptation was even halfway successful is a miracle in itself. It’s not perfect by any means, but the movie is well made enough to be enjoyable.
As Robert Rodriguez’s first foray into mega-budget blockbuster studio filmmaking, the direction here is solid. While the writing is decent, the movie’s third act is still a bit of a mess – even on a second viewing. Although the film does an excellent job of characterization and relationship building, the finale negates much of this effort.
It’s not that the ending is terrible; it’s just that it is filled with would-be emotional beats that ultimately don’t resonate. Moreover, the last twenty minutes of the story are so concerned with setting up sequels that the film forgets to finish the story it’s telling at the moment. This is probably a result of the many compromises that were made to get James Cameron’s original 600-page script down to a feasible shooting length. Consequently, the climax of the film has no emotional weight whatsoever. In this respect, Alita: Battle Angel isn’t a bad movie. The film is just so rushed that it ends up negating much of what works so well about the movie to begin with. Regardless of these deep flaws, the film features a magnetic leading performance from Rosa Salazar, incredible effects work, and an immersive score, making for an enjoyable experience overall.
For my expanded thoughts on Alita: Battle Angel, you can check out my theatrical review of the film here.
The Blu-ray of Alita: Battle Angel features a MPEG-4 AVC 1080p encode. Sorry folks – no IMAX ratios are included on this disc, as the Blu-Ray presentation retains the theatrical 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Right off the bat, the limitations of the 1080p transfer on this disc begin to show in the opening shot. As a whole, clarity, and detail – especially in the wide shots – are a bit of a disappointment. In particular, backgrounds and set extensions are just a little bit soft and muddled in terms of image sharpness. It’s not that it isn’t a sharp image, it’s just not razor sharp.
Conversely, image detail in close and medium shots are excellent, ultimately making for a slightly disjointed and compressed encode. Skin tones are excellent, especially considering the mixture of CG and real human characters. Image depth is a highlight, mostly because the film was shot with a 3D presentation in mind. Black levels are reliable during the nighttime sequences but also slightly washed out during the daytime scenes. Color and brightness are adequate, although nothing about the color reproduction of this disc is particularly mind-blowing. Luckily, no digital noise or artifacts can be found, which offers a consolation for the drawbacks mentioned above in terms of clarity. While certainly not the best visual representation of the film’s theatrical presentation, this is a stable video transfer nevertheless.
Technically speaking, the audio mix for the home video release of Alita: Battle Angel is a highlight of this disc. Presented using a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track, the audio on this disc is an excellent representation of the theatrical presentation. While not a particularly bombastic track, the mix for the film’s home video release is compelling nevertheless. The Motorball sequences are a highlight of the track, especially in terms of environmental ambiance and overall surround activity. Low-end frequencies are also hugely prominent in many of the action sequences. Junkie XL’s score for the film is given substantial prominence on this track, and for a good reason.
Dialogue levels are well represented through the front channel of the track, while channel separation overall is distinct and formidable. Clarity, positioning, and overall immersion are all well-balanced here, making for an enjoyable and sometimes overwhelming mix. If there’s one complaint, it’s that this track may require volume calibration for some viewers. The track is a little soft at lower levels. Kick the levels up a few decibels, however, and this 7.1 mix delivers. It’s not a disc-killer by any means, but this holds the mix back from genuinely standing out amongst its competitors.
The Special Features
The special features for the home video release of Alita: Battle Angel are solid. The featurettes are excellent and lengthy, and the included Q&A is worthwhile. An included scene deconstruction reel is a highlight of the supplemental material. Besides this, we are also privy to the return of Rodriguez’s “Ten Minute Cooking School.” Unfortunately, however, there’s no director’s commentary, which is a huge disappointment. A series of Digital Extras are also included.
From Manga To Screen (20:47; 1080p): A healthy development featurette that looks at how Yukito Kishiro’s source material inspired the film adaptation. Features an extended interview with Kishiro himself about the origins of the Manga, its rise in popularity, and themes. It also covers the early development stages of the film with Cameron at the helm & why he left, as well as how Robert Rodriguez came aboard the project. Overall, this is an interesting featurette that also touches lightly on Pre-Production.
Evolution Of Alita (19:43; 1080p): Another lengthy featurette that delves into the production of the film itself. Using a nice mix of interview and b-roll footage, it covers Salazar’s crucial in the titular role & her training process. It also delves into the design choices, Alita’s different looks throughout the film, and the production challenges. Of course, a significant portion of this featurette focuses on the performance capture and digital effects, which are indeed impressive. This featurette is pretty informative but is also fascinating enough to have easily been expanded into a feature-length documentary.
Motorball (6:02; 1080p): A short featurette that showcases the featured sport in Iron City. Aside from explaining the basic rules of Motorball, it delves into the design of the visual representation of the futuristic sporting event. In addition, it covers the VFX techniques used to bring the sequence to life, while also showcasing some of her opponents in the race.
London Screening Q&A (26:38; 1080p): A typical produced Q&A that adds more detail to what we know from the featurettes above. Hosted by Jon Landau – who asks fan questions – the Q&A features Rodriguez, Cameron, Salazar, Jennifer Connelly, and Christoph Waltz. Naturally, it covers the gamut of information from pre-production to the film’s release.
Ten Minute Cooking School: Chocolate (; 1080p): The return of Rodriguez’s recurring cooking segment on his home video releases. While only tangentially related to the film itself, it’s still fun to see this recurring featurette make a return.
2005 Art Compilation (14:20; 1080p): Self-explanatory highlight reel of the film’s original 2005 concept art under the direction of Cameron. Interestingly, it includes narration, as well as being accompanied by sound effects and music/score. While there’s some good stuff here, the look of Iron City has changed so drastically that it feels inconsequential.
Scene Deconstruction (10:47; 1080p): Perhaps the most exciting supplement on this disc. These scene deconstructions allow viewers to see the three levels of completion (original raw footage, animation stage, and the final.) If there’s one nitpick about this supplement, it’s that it should have included more sequences. Note: You must hold the different “angle” buttons on your remote to access the various stages of completion.
- I Don’t Even Know My Name
- Just an Insignificant Girl
- I’m a Warrior Aren’t I?
- Kansas Bar
Alita’s World (1080p): A handful of motion comics that further explore the mythology of the world & backstory of our characters.
- The Fall (5:05)
- Iron City (3:19)
- What It Means To Be A Cyborg (2:28)
- Rules of the Game (2:52)
- Streets of Iron City (1080p; 17:15)
- Musical Themes (1080p; 5:36)
- Allies and Adversaries (1080p; 25:32)
- 2016 Art Reel (1080p; 11:58)
- Theatrical Trailers (1080p)
As a whole, this Blu-ray release of Alita: Battle Angel is solid. Although the picture is a slight letdown, the excellent sound mix makes up for the 1080p compression issues. There’s no doubt that the 4K release of Alita: Battle Angel improves on the picture & sound quality. With that said, however, this disc is surely is a nice consolation for those who don’t have 4K capabilities. The supplements are easily a highlight, offering an educational and well-rounded behind the scenes look at the making of the film. Overall, this release from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment comes Recommended, especially if you’re a fan of the character or even the source material.