Category Archives: Reviews

Reviews of books, movies, music, and maybe even games.

Alita: Battle Angel

I’m having difficulty summing up my feelings about Alita: Battle Angel. In part this is because the family trip to the movies ended up in an argument about whether or not it was a good movie, and the argument was not one of those pleasant “discuss the film things,” so on that level the film was an utter disaster. I had nothing but regret for the time and money spent on it.

But that’s hardly a fair measure. My 16yo son’s opinion of the film is probably a better metric:

SON: “We need to own this.”
ME: “I thought you didn’t like it.”
SON: “I didn’t like the story.”
ME: “So…”
SON: “I still want to watch it again.”

I think the largest part of my difficulty in summing things up is that Alita: Battle Angel had difficulty summing itself up. At various levels it’s a morality play, a sports story, a coming-of-age story, a romance, a noir thriller, a cautionary tale, and a visual spectacle. But unlike many films which try to be too many things, Alita: Battle Angel put in the energy to be each of those things pretty well.

What it didn’t do was finish the job.

To me, it felt like the first two episodes of a ten-episode SyFy series in which they spent their entire ten-episode budget on the first 20% of the production.

It’s gorgeous, and everyone performs perfectly, but it left me unsatisfied, and not in the “leave them wanting more” sense. This was more like “I want a sequel to exist, but I don’t want to have to go see it.”

For my own part, I found Alita: Battle Angel pretty disappointing. And yet I’m with my son on this… I want to get the Blu-Ray so I can see it again.


Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Filmmakers, especially those working on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, have done a fine job of showing us what super-hero movies can be.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, shows us what a comic-book movie can be. Also, it demonstrates the difference. A super-hero movie might be based on stories told in comics, but a comic-book movie tells its story the way a comic-book tells it, using tools that movies don’t often use.

Marvelously, no, miraculously, it did that without being silly, or looking down its nose at the art form in the way the 1960’s Batman TV series seems to.

I could say more, and do so at great length, but to my mind this film expands the very syntax of cinematography, making it difficult for me to describe the experience to anyone who hasn’t experienced something like it.

As I can’t think of anything else like it for you to experience, I guess you’ll just have to go see it.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse clears my Threshold of Awesome, and additionally clears my “let’s spend enough money so all four kids can see it in the theater” threshold.



On the one hand, Jason Momoa is frighteningly formidable, so I would never tell him to his face that Aquaman was anything short of awesome. On the other hand, Mr. Momoa seems genuinely nice, very much not the sort of person to punch people for rude and uncalled-for comments. As it is vanishingly unlikely for me to meet Jason Momoa in a circumstance where I’d feel even remotely tempted to diss any of his work, none of this is relevant.

Besides, Momoa’s work was my favorite part of the movie. My only complaint is that Aquaman was far longer than it needed to be in order to tell the pair of stories it set out to tell. It is an origin story whose inciting incidents take place before the events of Justice League, and it is a hero’s journey story which takes place after the DC super-team-up. That may seem like a lot, but it didn’t need to take two hours and forty-three minutes.

That’s not to say that the film wastes any time. Everything happening on screen was interesting and/or beautiful and/or exciting. I was never bored. And really, how do you tell Nicole Kidman that she’s going to appear in a mere thirty-seconds of flashback? The woman deserves serious screen time, and she makes the most of it.

I suppose I could complain about the world building here, but DC comics has always pushed me out of the story with “Gotham,” “Metropolis,” and “Central City,” so I shouldn’t expect Atlantis to somehow make more sense.

It might be best, then, to compare Aquaman to the other DC Snyderverse films: it was far better Batman Vs. Superman, and Man of Steel. It wasn’t quite up to the level of Wonder Woman, but it did have five times as much Momoa as Justice League. I think it fares pretty well.

Aquaman doesn’t clear my Threshold of Awesome, but I’ll be picking up the Blu-Ray and watching it again when I can pause for trips to the restroom, and if you think it might be unfair for a relaxed bladder to be what puts a film over the top, well, you’re not wrong.