Film Title: Alita: Battle Angel
Release Date: 2019
Runtime: 122 minutes
Region Coding: Region Free
Audio Format: Dolby Atmos
High Dynamic Range: HDR10, Dolby Vision, HDR10+
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Version Reviewed: 4K UHD Blu-ray
Release Date: 7/23/19
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Keean Johnson, Jorge Lendeborg Jr.
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Full 4K Tech Specs found at the bottom
“Alita: Battle Angel” was a 2019 film adaptation of the Japanese graphic novel (Manga) series “Gunnm” (translation: “Gun Dream”) created by Yukito Kishiro. Since its original releases that ran from 1990 through 1995, it has become more known in its English translation version as “Battle Angel Alita“ or “Battle Angel“ which was a 2003 anime adaptation.
The screenplay here to this live-action film was adapted by James Cameron along with the help of a Laeta Kalogridis. Most anyone should know who James Cameron is but in case you don’t let me refresh your memory with some of his works. He is responsible for directing (and even writing) such legendary films as “The Terminator” (1984), “Aliens” (1986), “The Abyss” (1989), “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991), “True Lies” (1994), “Titanic” (1997), and “Avatar” (2009). The last of those until last week was the highest-grossing film of all-time and before that the other one was. No joke. He’s kind of a big deal.
Cameron also served as a producer on the film, along with Jon Landau (also of “Avatar” fame). The film was directed by Robert Rodriguez. Rodriguez is best known for directing the films “Desperado” (1995), “From Dusk Till Dawn” (1996), “Spy Kids” (2001), “Once Upon A Time in Mexico” (2003), and the live-action adaptation of “Sin City” (2005).
The story here takes place in a post-war future set in the year 2563. The people of “Iron City” live below one of the final standing major sky cities (“Zalem”). There was a great war 300 years ago discussed called “The Fall” (or Great War) that took place and that’s pretty much what we know going into this. The opening of the film starts us out in a junkyard where pieces of androids and other mostly electronic waste is being disposed of from the overhead sky city.
A man wonders through the junkyard looking for parts. This man, a human, is “Dr. Dyson Ido” (Christoph Waltz) and he has just stumbled across a living female cyborg, only missing a body. Being a man of science and working in the field of repairing cyborgs he decides to take the girl in and offer her a body. Thus we get the revival of sorts of a girl who has no memory (yet) of her past. She is given the name of “Alita” (Rosa Salazar) by the man who brought her back to life.
The future society here seems to revolve a lot around cyborgs and there is a mix of both them and humans living together. However, the humans seem to be very interested (up above in Zalem) where the wealthy live in gambling on a sport known as “Motorball” where cyborgs compete in a very aggressive manner for a chance to go above to the sky city. Obviously, down below in Iron City, the cyborgs are obsessed with trying to compete in this sport for your typical reasons like wealth, buying themselves new upgrades for their bodies, and whatnot.
It’s a very, very strange world we’re introduced to in this film. Along the way, our female protagonist will meet a human male (seemingly her age) by the name of “Hugo” (Keean Johnson) who she develops a fondness for. Meanwhile, the whole city is living in fear of cyborg serial killers. They all come together in a bar called “Kansas” where Alita meets some unsavory cyborgs such as “Zaphan” (Ed Skrein) and “Grewishka” (Jackie Earle Haley). To avoid dishing out any “spoilers” let’s just say Alita manages to find her place in this new world she’s been strangely awakened in.
Overall “Alita: Battle Angel” is a really unique film and feels like it has taken what foundation James Cameron‘s “Avatar” laid for motion capture films and really went with it to the next level to finally tell a story he wanted to tell all along. The story here adapted by Cameron himself partially as co-writer of the screenplay is really heartfelt and has a very episodic feel to it. You, as the film progresses, know that there’s more of a backstory to this and even get some flashbacks of sorts. Inevitably this movie does set itself up for a sequel. I’ll leave it at that and just say that I rather enjoyed it as a film.
Movie Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
This comes to 4K UHD Blu-ray presented in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio, just as it was shown during its theatrical run. In its 4K debut, “Alita: Battle Angel” gets not just the HDR10 form of High Dynamic Range included on this release but also HDR10+ and Dolby Vision forms as well – for those with displays and players properly equipped to decode them. According to IMDb, this was shot digitally in 3.4K resolution using the ARRIRAW codec. The cameras used here included the Arri Alexa Mini with Panavision Primo Lenses in a dual-strip 3-D and the PACE/CAMERON Fusion Camera System.
The film received a digital intermediate (DI) master but it’s unclear if it was in either 2K or 4K. Sadly it’s not confirmed via IMDb‘s technical specifications listing page. Personally, I felt that because of Cameron and Rodriguez being involved it would have got the higher-end 4K master. These filmmakers are known for being into technology, plus a lot of effort was put into this in terms of the VFX (done by WETA Digital) and their animations used with the mo-cap live-action source material. It to me just seemed that they’d have gone with a 4K master? However, we really don’t know for sure, so let’s move on.
Now, the movie visually looks sharp overall in terms of detail and this can really be seen in close-ups such as in the screenshot a bit above. However, the opening scenes of the film and some others can feel a tad bit soft – perhaps though by choice? Regardless, the digital animation from the folks at WETA Digital put with the motion-captured live-action source really blends together nicely for a final product.
The black level here is very solid, many thanks to the variety of HDR forms you can choose from that are included with this release. The color palette here can feel a tad bit subdued to fit the visual style and is toned back in its HDR presentation in comparison to the SDR (standard dynamic range) Blu-ray. However, there are some very bright and vibrant scenes here that really will make your jaw drop at the detail. The close-ups on the mechanical parts or the action sequences involving a lot of mo-cap and animation blend make for good examples. The flesh-tones appear accurate, as you’ll get to examine on actors like Cristoph Waltz during his facial close-ups and so are Alita’s even with the animated version of the performance.
This was shot in true 3D using dual-strip 3-D and PACE/CAMERON Fusion Camera systems. As a result of all of that, you get some of the best 3D on the Blu-ray 3D format. In all honesty, I’ll go as far as saying that I find this film almost as impressive, in terms of 3D here, as James Cameron’s own “Avatar” film was on that format.
Everything here in the 3D presentation stands out, from the very subtle things in scenes such as basic objects to give the early sense of depth all the way to some downright jaw-dropping special effects sequences. The real things in 3D here that push things to the limit are the Motorball race scenes which serve as the major 3D highlights – throughout the latter half of the film. The aforementioned action-packed races come with just a really over-the-top and literal in your face sense of a three-dimensional presentation. The action, in general, feels that way when viewed in 3D.
If you, like myself, held on to a 3D capable HD display or have an HD projector capable of it I would highly recommend this 3D in addition to giving the film a 4K viewing. This is one of those films you really should have seen in 3D during the theatrical run and there was a certain reason for that. Films that are actually shot in true 3D tend to be amazing, even without someone like Cameron and his technology involved. This is one of the finer Blu-ray 3D titles I own in my library of 3D films. Now, with that all being said, this will be the end of the 3D specific discussion, for now. An update will be coming with even more specific details.
— END OF 3D SPECIFIC DISCUSSION —
So, back to the 4K and general visual aspect of things. Simply put, looking at this 4K with HDR presentation, you will have to remember that this film has one very, very unique style to it and it for the majority looks very impressive. However, as mentioned, at times it can have a bit softer feel and the detail doesn’t quite seem as intense in comparison as to the Blu-ray counterpart (included). That being said, I can’t say I really found anything to complain about it aside from those softer scenes that I think could just be the filmmakers’ intentions. Plus, there’s this absolutely stunning 3D presentation (as discussed) on the Blu-ray 3D which is included exclusively in this 4K set. So, with all that taken into consideration, I am factoring that slightly in here and I can’t help but say (to me) this earns itself every bit a perfect video quality rating in 4K.
Video Quality Rating: 5 (out of 5)
Audio here is presented in Dolby Atmos, with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core for those without the proper equipment to decode Atmos. There’s also a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo mix, likely intended for soundbars. It is worth noting that included Blu-ray only features a DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio sound mix.
This is hands-down one of the best Dolby Atmos mixes that I’ve heard in a very long time. From the very opening of the film, you’ll notice there is a great use of the height channels to really deliver an audio atmosphere that makes you feel almost right there in the Iron City. Background chatter in the large crowd scenes really makes use of the height speakers to deliver a large sense of the scale of the city and also make amazing use for sound effects during the “Motorball” sequences. The front speakers are your source of most of the music and sound effects, but the rear channels get an exceptional amount of the mix thrown their way to feel you surrounded – as surround sound was intended to do but on a much greater level.
The amount of low-end bass here is sure to leave your room shaking from the subwoofer if you’re listening on at least a 5.1 configuration. In fact, the sound mix itself here is just massive and it’s a real blast for most all ages. Dialogue is delivered straight-on from primarily the center channel with a few occasions where it is mixed to almost pan across the left to right during an action sequence. The film’s original music (composed by Junkie XL) sounds excellent all throughout and fills the entire sound space perfectly. The action, very important, is done complete and utter justice here with this lossless object-based sound experience you get from this Dolby Atmos. This, no joke is right on par with what you would expect to hear in a theatrical showing – if you have the right sound system.
“Alita: Battle Angel” on 4K UHD Blu-ray with its massive Atmos mix has easily become one of my new favorites. This sounds absolutely stellar from start to finish and is definitely what I would consider “demo material” on more than a few occasions.
Audio Quality Rating: 5 (out of 5)
Bonus materials physically included on this release include:
- A Digital Copy of the film via Movies Anywhere is included, which is compatible with services like Apple’s iTunes and VUDU. Here you get a paper insert inside the packaging that contains a code you put in at the URL listed. Digital exclusive bonus materials come with this, as you’ll hear me discuss further below.
- A Blu-ray Disc of the film is included. It features a DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio sound mix as well as Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo.
- A Blu-ray 3D of the film is included for those with a 3D display and Blu-ray 3D capable Blu-ray Disc player. It features a DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio sound mix as well as Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. I’ve covered this [3D] a bit above in the video quality section in regards to the 3D effects and how well they come across visually.
The Digital Copy of the film comes with the following Exclusive Digital Extras :
- “Musical Themes” (5:37 – HD) features an interview with producer Jon Landau first discussing the choice to pick Junkie XL (Tom Holkenborg), also interviewed, to be the composer for this film’s original score. The composer discusses some of the musical themes that we hear throughout the film, hence this title.
- “Allies and Adversaries” (25:32 – HD) includes interviews with the supporting cast of characters. In this featurette, you’ll hear from the following people: Jon Landau (producer), Robert Rodriguez (director), Ed Skrein (“Zaphan”), Ben Procter (concept design supervisor), Rosa Salazar (“Alita”), Eric Saindon (visual effects supervisor), Michael Cozens (WETA animation supervisor), James Cameron (screenwriter/producer), Jackie Earle Haley (“Grewishka”), Nick Epstein (WETA Digital limited VFX supervisor), Richard Hollander (visual effects supervisor), Joe Letteri (senior visual effects supervisor), Eiza González (“Nyssiana”), Derek Mears (“Romo”), Jeff Fahey (“McTeague”), Mahershala Ali (“Vector”), Jennifer Connelly (“Chiren”), Keean Johnson (“Hugo”), and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (“Tanji”). This has some great behind-the-scenes concept art, early animation, the mo-cap sequences, on-set footage, clips from the film, and even a screen test thrown in.
- “Streets of Iron City“ (17:15 – HD) is a set tour hosted by the film’s director Robert Rodriguez. You’ll get some insights (interviews) here with cast and crew members Jon Landau (producer), Steve Joyner (production designer), Gaylah Eddleblute (production designer), David Valdes (executive producer), Rosa Salazar (“Alita”), Keean Johnson (“Hugo”), Richard Hollander (visual effects supervisor), Ben Procter (concept design supervisor), Dylan Cole (concept design supervisor), Nick Epstein (WETA Digital limited VFX supervisor), Eric Saindon (visual effects supervisor), A. Todd Holland (supervising art director), and Mahershala Ali (“Vector”). This actually was mostly a live-action practical set and not some giant green or blue screen type situation that you might have expected. Along the way here you’ll get to see a lot of on-set footage (as expected), clips from the film, and get to see the original manga and concept art compared to the final set design. It’s fun to see how a parking lot became the city that we see a good deal of in the film itself.
- “Production Materials: 2016 Art Reel” (11:58 – HD) comes as a joint collaboration between Lightstorm Entertainment and Robert Rodriguez to form a “compilation of concept art” used to convey the film’s overall style and design. This plays on its own with musical accompaniment and is simply breathtaking.
- “Scene Deconstruction” (HD) discussed further below in the Blu-ray bonus section is included in a slightly different way digitally. Here, instead of using the remote to switch through the views you can just choose which stage to view and then the scene individually. These show the original live-action motion capture footage, the WETA Digital animation pass stage, and then the final VFX shot (product) – as seen in the film. The four scenes all feature Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and are listed below.
- “I Don’t Even Know My Own Name” (1:49 – HD)
- “Just An Insignificant Girl” (2:34 – HD)
- “I’m A Warrior Aren’t A?” (2:24 – HD)
- “Kansas Bar” (3:59 – HD)
- Theatrical Trailers (with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound) include:
- Official Trailer (2:29 – HD)
- “Battle Ready” Trailer (2:23 – HD)
Bonus materials are primarily found on the Blu-ray Disc and are ALL presented in HD video with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound – unless otherwise noted below. These include:
- “Alita’s World” serves as an animated backstory and includes four chapters:
- “The Fall“ (5:05 – HD) focuses on the war itself.
- “Iron City“ (3:19 – HD) features “Hugo.”
- “What It Means to be A Cyborg“ (2:28 – HD) features “Zaphan.”
- “Rules of the Game“ (2:52 – HD) features “Motorball.”
- “From Manga to Screen” (20:47 – HD) takes a look back on the Japanese graphic novel (manga) origin of this story. This featurette includes interviews with the following people: Jon Landau (producer), Robert Rodriguez (director), James Cameron (screenwriter/producer), Rosa Salazar (“Alita”), Yukito Kishiro (Manga creator), Dylan Cole (Concept Design Supervisor), Caylah Eddleblute (co-production designer), Steve Joyner (production designer), and Brian Procter (concept design supervisor). NOTE: The creator does speak in Japanese and you’ll get English subtitles throughout. One of the coolest things discussed here is James Cameron discussing how his friend and fellow filmmaker (Guillermo del Toro) suggested that he check this out and he was immediately drawn to it. You’ll learn that they were working on this as far back as 2005 with some artwork and that it took James Cameron over 5 years to get a script ready he was happy with. Cameron actually almost did this film himself instead of “Avatar” (2009). Things end with a bit of on-set footage thrown in during the interviews.
- “Evolution of Alita“ (19:43 – HD) takes a look at the character through interviews with Rosa Salazar (“Alita”), James Cameron (screenwriter/producer), Jon Landau (producer), Robert Rodriguez (director), Garrett Warren (stunt coordinator), Steve Brown (assistant stunt coordinator & fight choreographer), Steve Joyner (production designer), Caylah Eddleblute (production designer), Ben Procter (concept design supervisor), Nick Epstein (WETA Digital limited VFX supervisor), Joe Letteri (senior visual effects supervisor), Michael Cozens (WETA animation supervisor), Richard Hollander (visual effects supervisor), Richard Baneham (visual effects creative supervisor for Lightstorm Entertainment), Emile Ghorayes (WETA Digital limited CG, compositing, motion, and FX supervisor), Eric Saindon (visual effects supervisor), Dejan Momcilovic (visual effects plate & motion capture unit supervisor), Mark Haenga (WETA Digital limited lead artist), and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (“Tanji”). This includes clips from the film, training footage, concept art, and on-set footage taken during motion-capture performance sessions thrown in between the interviews.
- “Motorball“ (6:02 – HD) focuses on the fictional racing sport from the manga and featured in the film. This includes clips from the film involving the Motorball tournaments and interviews with Rosa Salazar (“Alita”), James Cameron (screenwriter/producer), Jon Landau (producer), Robert Rodriguez (director), Ben Procter (concept design supervisor), A. Todd Holland (supervising art director), Garrett Warren (stunt coordinator), Steve Joyner (production designer), Caylah Eddleblute (production designer), Joe Letteri (senior visual effects supervisor), Michael Cozens (WETA animation supervisor), and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. (“Tanji”).
- London Screening Q&A (26:38 – HD) played as promotional material before the premiere of the film. This Q&A panel was moderated by producer Jon Landau and included James Cameron (screenwriter/producer), Robert Rodriguez (director), Rosa Salazar (“Alita”), Christoph Waltz (“Dr. Dyson Ido”), and Jennifer Connelly (“Chiren”). They manage to answer quite a few questions here that were submitted online as well as discuss the making of the film and what they took away from it in terms of an overall message.
- “10 Minute Cooking School: Chocolate” (5:28 – HD) is hosted by the film’s director Robert Rodriguez. You’ll be wondering, as I was, how he managed to cram a “10-minute cooking school” into just 5 and a half minutes but he manages to get the job done. Hopefully, you will be able to get your own chocolate done and have cooked a tasty treat after you’ve viewed the film. Rodriguez is the more serious man about making chocolate than even that “Wonka” guy. Joking aside, I’m getting hungry watching this and now I’m going to be craving chocolate all day. Thanks, Robert.
- “2005 Art Compilation (2019)” (14:20 – HD) is comprised of James Cameron‘s original 2005 concept art and is now presented with new voiceovers and music.
- “Scene Deconstruction” (10:47 – HD) in 5.1 sound, allows you to change which stage of either motion capture or combination of motion capture and animation you view as you watch some particular scenes from the film. This can be done using the red, green and yellow buttons on your 4K UHD Blu-ray player’s remote control. There are four scenes here included total.
Overall the bonus materials here are lengthy and span across both the physical Blu-ray Disc as well as the digital version included. The digital exclusives themselves are actually some of my favorites here in terms of the extras. It made perfectly good sense to include the bonus materials somewhat in a digital streaming form here instead of attempting just to fill the Blu-ray to its capacity and make the film quality on that version suffer. You get well over 2 hours of special features here, just as the sticker on the front of the packaging promised. It’s great to also get the Blu-ray 3D included which I’d really consider an extra of sorts here, even though it is just another form of the film itself.
Bonus Materials Rating: 4.25 (out of 5)
“Alita: Battle Angel” is one of the more unique films I’ve seen to date and has its near “eye candy” level of realism which comes thanks to the CG (computer-generated) animation and mo-cap (motion capture) technologies blending together that are currently available. Producer James Cameron and director Robert Rodriguez here deliver a very cool film, that you likely won’t be forgetting anytime soon. At times it can be downright intense as hell, let’s just leave it at that. The performances here from the cast are top-notch and really make this film work, especially those from Rosa Salazar and Christoph Waltz.
This 4K UHD Blu-ray release in terms of the video comes with it being a first to include all three of the current forms of HDR (high dynamic range) via HDR10, HDR10+ (HDR Plus), and Dolby Vision. Of course, you’ll have to be on a 4K display that can decode these forms as well as a 4K player that does. If you don’t have a display or player yet that supports one of these (very likely), don’t fret as you’ve basically future-proofed yourself into having a version ready for when you make the upgrade(s) needed to enjoy whichever (HDR10+ or Dolby Vision).
This release comes with a very impressive 4K visual presentation, many thanks to the HDR and its very cool VFX to accompany the motion-captured performances. This also comes with on absolutely intense Dolby Atmos sound mix that certainly is what I’d consider reference material. That awesome of a sound mix should really have been expected of a film that James Cameron produced and Robert Rodriguez directed. The action makes it all the better as the film progresses along.
Lastly, the bonus materials here are remarkably lengthy, informative, and a tad bit innovative in ways (using the digital to deliver exclusive extras). All and all, “Alita: Battle Angel” makes for one Highly Recommended 4K release.
In terms of 4K UHD Blu-ray release, this gets:
5 (out of 5) for video quality
5 (out of 5) for audio quality
4.25 (out of 5) for bonus materials
4K UHD Blu-ray Screenshots:
Review Exclusive 4K Screenshots: