The biggest praise I can give to Alita: Battle Angel is that the visually stunning world they create on screen feels “lived in” and real. I found it easy to accept and understand the rules of that world they built and explained throughout film. And while we are not given a full history of their world, we are given enough explanation to understand how or why something existed in their world. This gives us the opportunity to focus on the story of “self-discovery” that Alita ultimately is.
Rosa Salazar motion capture performance of Alita is excellent. Not only in movement but in emotionally delivery. You get the real sense of discovery with this amazing world that Alita is being exposed to. Additionally, as she begins to become more self-aware of who she is, you can understand the emotion and she struggles with love, trust and obligation. Furthermore, from a technical standpoint, by the end of the movie, I was not thinking of Alita being something that is motion captured and instead just accepted her as part of this onscreen world they delivered. This is really something that becomes make or break with this film for some people and it’s easy to dismiss it based on the trailers. However in context of the film, it works and does a good job drawing you in.
In addition to Alita, we are given strong performances from the ensemble cast of characters in the film. Christoph Waltz play’s Alita surrogate father Dr. Dyson Ido, Keean Johnson as the street smart and resourceful Hugo, Mahershala Ali as the gangster type gate keeper Vector, Jennifer Connelly as the morally ambiguous goal focused scientist and Ed Skrein as the cocky bounty hunter. Each of these characters play their roles well and help usher in the different levels of the society they live in. Perhaps the once complaint I have of this film is that the pacing of this film is so fast that we miss an opportunity to obtain a bit more backstory from some of these characters. It is not a big loss, but it makes you wonder if this film would have been better served as a 10 episode Netflix series or something of that nature.
In the end, I found myself enjoying this film more than I expected I would. Is it a perfect film? No. Nor does it invoke emotionally deep existential thought that the manga it is based on provides. But it does tell a sold story of self-discovery in a visually stunning and fully realized world. It is fun, fast paced and something that should be seen in the theaters. And if possible, do yourself a favor and watch it in 3D. This film has some of the best 3D effects since Avatar. The 3D doesn’t feel like an afterthought or gimmicky, but instead works to enhance the on screen world.
With 19 movies under its belt, dozens of video games including the ridiculously popular Pokémon Go, and countless TV series, Pokémon is an occurrence that doesn’t come around too often. Now, to celebrate the brand’s 20th anniversary, Nintendo has released this; Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! But does being the 20th film in the franchise mean it’s not worth a watch?
Acting as a soft reboot of sorts, Pokémon: I Choose You! follows franchise hero, Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town, as he starts out on his journey to catch as many Pocket Monsters as he can. For fans of the brand, what follows next needs no introduction; he meets Pikachu and the rest as they say, is history.
Or is it? Well, in this case, not so much. The basic story that delighted kids in the 90s has been slightly reset as we are taken through the pairs journey, meeting people and Pokémon that weren’t in the original 1st television series. This has both positive and negative results on the finished product.
The plot is as simple as you would expect from a children’s film and it’s clear that Nintendo are out to make as much money from this as possible. Pre-film adverts were all Pokémon related and the cost of a ticket for this particular showing was double the normal price.
Why? Well, this is the first Pokémon film to be released in the UK in 15 years. That’s not a milestone to be sniffed at, and it’s clear the producers, animators and orchestras have gone all out for this instalment.
The film itself is beautiful to look at. Pokémon has always been criticised for its rather lacklustre animation compared to other Anime features like Spirited Away, but I Choose You is right up there with the very best. It’s colourful and drips with detail. From gorgeous sunsets to damp caves, the animation comes alive.
Elsewhere, the score is nicely integrated into the film with a single, haunting piano playing through much of the succinct 98-minute runtime. The familiar theme tune that kids and adults have come to know and love over the years is given a lovely instrumental upgrade and this is when the flutters of nostalgia start to kick in.
Unfortunately, the removal of Ash’s companions, Brock and Misty, from the film undoes some of the hard work for this 20th anniversary as they were such an integral role in the first films and television show. However, newcomers Sorell and Verity each provide the story with a couple of different layers.
I Choose You also tugs at the heartstrings more than previous instalments. As the title suggests, this is about Ash’s journey with Pikachu and that doesn’t just include the happy times. Younger viewers may find some of the imagery on screen a little disturbing as we’re taken through an at times, dark and menacing backstory.
Overall, Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! is a film that absolutely represents 20 years of the beloved series. With gorgeous animation and an intriguing change to the story that kids and adults have come to know, it’s definitely the best Pokémon movie out there. Let’s be frank, each of the films has been made to sell Pokémon toys and games, but never has it been done so beautifully.
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It’s hard to believe that the movie I would end up saying that about would be an animated one. Nevertheless, I left the theater this time feeling a sense of warm satisfaction for the first time since Sony originally graced us with Tobey Maguire.
Spider-Ma n: Into the Spider-Verse is the most poignant statement that Sony could make about their recommitment to all things webslinger. The star-studded cast for this film includes Academy Award winners like Nicolas Cage and Mahershala Ali as well as the likes of Lily Tomlin, Chris Pine, and John Mulaney. But those aren’t even the main characters. Along with the stellar writing, an unbelievably well curated soundtrack and art direction that can only be described as sublime, Into the Spider-verse was exactly what we all needed right now.
This entry into the world of Spider-man actually brings us up to date with the comics by introducing us to Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), the black teenager from Brooklyn who has taken up the mantle of Spider-man following the death of Peter Parker (well, one of them). Witnessing Parker’s demise at the hands of The Kingpin, Morales promises to help destroy the weapon that killed him. Little does he realize that the weapon has opened a hole in the multiverse and multiple other spider men, women (and things) have been drawn through the rift into his universe. They all have to work together to get back to their own universes and to prevent the destruction of reality itself.
The soundtrack for this movie really brings Spider-man into modern times. Artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Eminem and Run the Jewels speak to the Brooklyn upbringing of Morales as the new webslinger. At the same time, it also serves up artists like Marshmello, Pendulum and Prodigy who demonstrate how action can be fueled through their EDM stylings. The music here is the most perfect complement to each part of the action and drama alike. Just as you will see multiple different Spider-men, you’ll be taken through a wide spectrum of musical stylings to match each hero.
The animation style displayed here really can’t be appropriately categorized. Part graffiti, part moving comic book and part CGI, the film brings together numerous different styles and effects such as cell-shading, anime breaks and word bubble subtitles to create something truly unique. The medium itself is perfect because we can finally see everything that a live-action film couldn’t execute. But unlike other animated superhero movies, this feature brings the artistic nature of illustrations to new levels. The mix of styles is unlike any cartoon you’ve ever seen (or are likely to see again). Beauty and realism combine to actually take you into a comic book instead of simply translating one for the screen.
The writing for Into the Spider-verse achieves something that few producers have managed to do in the animation field: it’s equally appealing to both children AND adults. These days it’s rare to see an animated superhero film being made for the big screen instead of going straight to television. As a result, Into the Spider-verse offers up plenty of quick witted and intelligent jokes for adults without crossing the lines of propriety. In addition to the quality humor, the story includes a number of emotional moments that all manage to evoke real feelings instead of coming off as just pandering. So, if you’re planning to take your children to this movie, you’ll certainly both enjoy it.
All-in-all, Into the Spider-Verse brings together all of the best elements in film-making and executes them to perfection. Writing, drawing, music all come together to create an experience that you have to see to believe. The only disappointing part here is that we had to wait 16 years for a Spider-Man movie this well done.