In 1990, the Japanese manga artist Yukito Kishiro started up a cyberpunk manga called Gunnm. In short, the manga was centered on a female cyborg named Gally, whose head and chest are found in a garbage dump by the cybernetics physician Daisuke Ido. Eventually, Daisuke Ido is able to restore Gally to a functional state, with the result that he becomes her surrogate father of sorts when he finds out that she has lost her memories. Curiously, Gally retains knowledge of a cyborg-oriented martial art called Panzer Kunst, which proves to be very useful when she starts interacting with the post-apocalyptic world of the 26th century. Currently, the original Gunnm has come to a conclusion, but the story continued with Gunnm: Last Order and is continuing with Gunnm: Mars Chronicle.
When Gunnm was brought over to the United States, its name was changed to Battle Angel Alita. Furthermore, Gally’s name was changed to Alita, which was but one of the name changes that happened in the process of localization. The exact reasoning for the changes remains unclear, but it seems to have been motivated by the wish to make the series more accessible to people who weren’t already interested in anime and manga. Something that was much more common among translators in those times than in the present time.
Regardless, Battle Angel Alita was a success, as shown by the fact that Gunnm: Mars Chronicle is being released in the United States and related markets as Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicle. In fact, it is interesting to note that James Cameron, which is why he picked up the rights to make a live-action movie but chose to wait until the CGI tech was ready. Now, Alita: Battle Angel has come out as a movie directed by Robert Rodriguez while produced by both James Cameron and Jon Landau, which might be something that cyberpunk fans might want to check out.
How Does the Movie Compare to the Manga?
While Alita: Battle Angel hasn’t been released in the movie theaters in most markets, a lot of reviewers have already offered up their opinions on the movie. Unfortunately, the general consensus seems to be that while the movie looks pretty cool, its storytelling is not particularly great.
For starters, Alita: Battle Angel draws material from not one, not two, not three, but four separate volumes of the manga. As a result, it is crammed full of storylines, which include but are not limited to Alita investigating a serial killer, Alita becoming a bounty hunter, Alita becoming a participant in a very dangerous cyborg sports league, and Alita uncovering the reason behind her own existence. On the one hand, this might come as welcome news for people who prioritize faithfulness to the source material over all other concerns when it comes to adaptations of their favorite works. On the other hand, this makes the resulting movie more than a bit cramped because it is effectively squeezing hours and hours’ worth of story into 122 minutes.
Due to this, there are some reviewers who feel that Alita: Battle Angel feels rushed. Moreover, there is an impression of very episodic storytelling in which action scenes are intervaled with plot exposition, which can work out with a TV show but makes for a much rougher impression when used in a movie. On top of this, the cramming means that Alita: Battle Angel actually loses out on one of the biggest draws of the manga, which would be the focus on the inner life of the titular character as she deals with the existential crisis born of her unknown origins. Due to this, Alita: Battle Angel comes off as being a rushed attempt to make a popcorn blockbuster, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but is definitely not what its source material was supposed to be.
Summed up, the most common opinion seems to be that Alita: Battle Angel isn’t as good as its source material, which is a real shame when a lot of reviewers also seem to think that the director, the actors, and the special effects team did great work on the movie. It remains to be seen how the movie will perform, but unless it can roar to success in overseas markets, its prospects are not looking particularly good at this point in time.