Tag Archives: Alita: Battle Angel

My Thoughts on: Ad Astra (2019)

*minor spoilers may follow for Ad Astra*

Well that was…different.

There is no doubt that 2019 has been a really good year for science-fiction films. There was Alita: Battle Angel waaaaay back in the first part of the year; then there was High Life and Aniara, both amazing films in their own right. And now as the year begins to turn towards the end, we have Ad Astra, a film that’s been in the pipeline for quite some time. Having seen a wide variety of science-fiction films, both this year and in years past, I wasn’t sure what to expect with Ad Astra. But I think I’ve been spoiled by all the action flicks I’ve been watching as of late, because I definitely wasn’t expecting what I saw.

First, let me make one thing crystal clear: Ad Astra is a good film, it really is. The visuals are stunning, the cinematography is on point, and I actually like the voice-over from Brad Pitt’s character. That being said, this film is a lot more…cerebral…than what I was expecting. There are a few beats of action here and there, but most of the story is devoted to much deeper issues. This is a film designed to make you think about what exactly it is you’re being told (maybe not as much as Annihilation, but headed in that same direction).

brad-pitt-just-chilling-on-this-giant-space-antenna-in-ad-astra.jpeg

And what exactly are we meant to think of Ad Astra? What story is being given to us? Honestly, I’m still piecing that together, but I have managed to work out a few of the pieces. First of all, on the most simple level, Ad Astra looks at how humans affect outer space. The commercialization of the Moon, for example, was nailed so perfectly it physically hurt. There’s also the recurring trope, one I see in most science-fiction films, that points out in several ways that no matter how advanced our technology becomes, the lowest aspects of human nature (greed and a base desire for violence) will out in the end. But on that deeper level I alluded to before, Ad Astra looks at what outer space does to humans, in both good ways and bad. On the one hand, it’s not so bad to spend some time in the near infinite void, because it really gives you a sense of perspective for what matters (and this is what I believe happens to Brad Pitt’s character by the end). But on the other hand, there’s the opposite end of that spectrum, where humans become so wrapped up in exploring space that they forget where they came from, and are in fact driven to insanity after being in space for so long.

m4BUfJzeGYsXNkHkEpktg5.jpg

Those thinking points aside, I should mention that Ad Astra is not without its flaws, most notably in the realm of physics. After all these years, it astounds me that films are still being made that lean on long since debunked film tropes (the one that annoys me the most involves explosions in space creating shockwaves, which is impossible in a vacuum). I understand films need moments of action now and then, but surely there are ways to create these moments while still obeying the laws of physics. Also, I feel like one section of the plot was almost completely unnecessary (I mean that little side trip to the Vesta en route to Mars). The rest of the film can be neatly compartmentalized into my mind, all except that part. That part feels like a relic from an earlier draft of the script when the film was meant to go in an entirely different direction. Seriously, cut it out and I don’t think you’d have noticed the difference.

Even with those issues, Ad Astra is a good film. I get the sense that this is a film that will reveal different messages and ideas each time you watch it. Do be sure to see this on the big screen if you can, these visuals were meant to be seen in the theater. There’s so much more I could say, but I think I need further viewings first.

Let me know what you think about Ad Astra in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Reviews

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook

Soundtrack Review: Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

We’re over halfway through 2019 and Alita: Battle Angel still remains one of the best films I’ve seen this year, and it’s soundtrack is firmly in my top 5 for the year as well. If you didn’t have the chance to see the film in theaters, Alita: Battle Angel hits Blu-Ray/DVD on July 23rd, and I highly recommend picking it up. However, the soundtrack has been available for quite some time and that’s what I’m going to be reviewing for you today.

The soundtrack for Alita: Battle Angel was composed by Tom Holkenborg (otherwise known as Junkie XL), and as I said before, it is by far one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard this year. Regarding the soundtrack, Holkenborg had this to say:

“…it was very important to feel the heart of the film. Movies like this about a dystopian future with monsters, robots, action figures might fall too quickly into something very electronic in nature or very noisy. And it was very important because of the music we stay with Alita the main character throughout the movie. It was very important that it was a pretty, soaring melody that could be easily bent into something emotional, but also into something positive and heroic. She is a person who is constantly wondering what is out there, and that is very important in the music and the instrumentation. And because she is a CGI character with motion capture from [Rosa Salazar], it was very important that it feel very organic. That’s why for her I went for very organic instrumentation, a flute or a clarinet or strings or a Glockenspiel. It needed to feel organic and natural.”

(full credit to Nerdist.com for this interview with Tom Holkenborg)

 

The soundtrack for Alita: Battle Angel does indeed feel very organic and natural, which surprised me when I listened to the soundtrack without any distractions from the film (which can cover over many musical details). It really doesn’t sound like the music for a film set centuries in the future, in a world populated by cyborgs, but I agree that this is a good thing. After all, at her core, Alita is a human (remember her brain is very much real), and the music should reflect her humanity in a world where this quality is in increasingly short supply.

The soundtrack is full of traditional action beats, as you might expect, but the actual spectrum of emotions covered by the music is quite large. There’s triumph and challenge in “Raising the Sword” (the music that ends the film before the credits start), despair in “In the Clouds,” and mystery in “Double Identity,” just to name a few examples.

Holkenborg crafts the music in a way that keeps you engaged and grounded in the story. I agree with what he says in the interview; it would have been far too easy to create a generic sci-fi electronic score for Alita: Battle Angel. While it would have been the expected thing to do, I also think it would have ruined the film as a whole.

I highly recommend checking out the soundtrack for Alita: Battle Angel, it’s a beautiful piece of work, and it can keep you occupied until the film hits Blu-Ray/DVD next month. Hopefully we’ll get to hear Holkenborg work on the score to a sequel film, since he’s established some character themes that I would like to see expanded.

Let me know what you think about Alita: Battle Angel and its soundtrack in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

Film Soundtracks A-W

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook 🙂

My Thoughts on: Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

*note: spoilers for Alita: Battle Angel can be found below

After being forced to delay my trip to the movie theater for a week (blame my sinuses), I finally got to see Alita: Battle Angel last night and all I can say is wow! This might be the best Western adaptation of a manga I’ve ever seen. For those not in the know, this film is based on Yukito Kishiro’s manga series Gunnm (better known to Western audiences as Battle Angel Alita). The film was in development for close to 20 years (it was originally announced in 2003) and while the film isn’t perfect, honestly I feel like it was worth the long wait. Alita: Battle Angel is directed by Robert Rodriguez and produced by James Cameron.

First, an overview. Alita: Battle Angel is set in the year 2563, 300 years after a devastating war known only as “the Fall.” Alita (Rosa Salazar) is salvaged from a junk pile by Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz who for once isn’t playing a villain) and awakens with no memory of who she used to be. The story is set in Iron City, a cyberpunk metropolis located directly underneath Zalem, a floating sky city. Under Ido’s watchful (and protective) eye, Alita sets out to discover who or what she used to be. Along the way, she discovers the insane sport of Motorball (imagine roller derby, NASCAR racing, and pro wrestling combined into a single sport where you fight to the death) and falls in love with a human named Hugo (Keean Johnson) who in turn is entangled with the dangerous Vector (Mahershala Ali).

Alita-Battle-Angel_1_WEB.jpg

While this film is incredibly beautiful, it is, as I said, flawed. The biggest problem is the story makes a hundred times more sense IF you read the manga first (or at least the first two volumes). While the broad strokes of the film are largely faithful to the original story, there are a myriad of background details that you’ll miss or otherwise not understand without the manga’s explanations. To be fair though, I feel like Alita: Battle Angel tries very hard to explain as much as it can without being too exposition heavy. Another issue I noticed right away is how the story begins. The discovery of Alita and her reawakening literally takes place in the first five minutes of the film. This is more of a personal preference on my part, but I feel like the film should have started with some of the flashback material we get throughout the film playing at the beginning instead as a sort of prologue.

And speaking of the flashbacks…I loved watching them, but they almost create more questions than answers. This is largely due to the fact that Alita: Battle Angel is blatantly setting up for a sequel that we may or may not get. I’m not against sequel hooks per se (Battle Angel Alita is hardly the kind of story you can tell in one film) but to leave several story threads hanging in the hopes that a sequel will finish the job…that I have a problem with. This leads to the biggest problem in the film: Nova (Edward Norton in a non-speaking role). While the film implies that Nova is the “big villain” of the story, we learn next to nothing about him (aside from the fact that he’s apparently immortal). This is very frustrating especially if a sequel never comes.

screenshot_378.jpg

Aside from these problems, the film really blew me away at times (in a good way). The setting of Iron City and Zalem looks like it came straight out of the manga. While I do agree that Alita’s over-large “anime eyes” look a little peculiar, for me I was able to adjust to them fairly quickly. I also love the motion capture that was used to bring Alita to life, she looks very real (no sense of the uncanny valley at all). I was also pleasantly surprised to not be bothered by the romantic sub-plot between Alita and Hugo, which comes across as incredibly sweet (if somewhat rushed). I did roll my eyes a little when the film included a stereotypical kiss in the rain, but it felt like a good kind of cheesy at the same time.

If you’re on the fence about seeing this film, I highly recommend checking it out. Despite the flaws, it IS a good story and one that deserves to be continued. Let me know what you think about Alita: Battle Angel in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Soundtrack Review: Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

Film Reviews

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook