Alita: Battle Angel

The eyes! The eyes! Why does Alita: Battle Angel look so creepy?

Robert Rodriguez’s forthcoming live-action cyberpunk movie retains the character design of the manga on which it is based. What were they thinking?

Reviewers are on the fence about Robert Rodriguez’s Alita: Battle Angel. The consensus seems to be that it walks the fine line between being “a mesmerising feat of film-making” and “a very bad film”. But really, it doesn’t matter so long as everyone can agree on one thing: boy, those eyes are creepy.
Alita: Battle Angel review – lovestruck tweenies do battle in robot dystopia
3 out of 5 stars.
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Perhaps you’ve seen the trailer, and are aware that the film-makers have decided essentially to turn the lead character into a photorealistic manga creation, complete with distractingly large eyes that look as though director Robert Rodriguez shot the whole thing through the second-worst Snapchat filter. It’s weird, right?

It’s so weird. The character is played by Rosa Salazar, a human woman with regular human woman eyes. Her normal human face is left looking humanoid, but her eyes have become so big that she looks like a 1960s Chuck Jones cartoon wolf that has just seen another, sexier wolf. There’s a moment early in the film’s trailer when Alita says to her love interest: “Does it bother you that I’m not completely human?” Presumably he has been labouring under the misapprehension that she is somehow actually a giant Bratz doll that has been brought harrowingly to life by a malevolent wizard.

And it could have been worse. Eagle-eyed (not literally) fans have noticed that the film’s publicity materials have gradually toned down the bugged-out nature of Alita’s eyes. Between trailer releases, her design changed from “I am on drugs and I AM FREAKING OUT” to “I am just on drugs now” . It’s an improvement, but it still isn’t enough to stop you from thinking of the 1999 PlayStation advert about the girl with the giant head.

I may be completely on the wrong side of history, of course. Perhaps Alita: Battle Angel will be the vanguard of new movies in which characters have massive eyes or tiny mouths or chins that have been deliberately altered to resemble genitalia. Perhaps this is the future and I’m too slow to cotton on. Perhaps I’m the 2019 equivalent of the rubes who ran screaming from L’Arrivée d’un Train en Gare de La Ciotat, because I can’t shake the image of Alita going elbow-deep trying to fish out an errant contact lens. If that’s the case, then I reluctantly accept all future mockery.

But I’m not sure. I only know that my excitement about watching Alita: Battle Angel has been almost entirely extinguished by the fact that the lead character looks like the result of a drunken bunk-up between a robot and a bush baby. Nevertheless, I hope it does well enough to secure a sequel, if only because I want to see the scene in which she gets grit in her eye and has to spend the entire second act getting it hosed out with Optrex.

• Alita: Battle Angel is released in the UK on 6 February.
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