Alita: Battle Angel Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

A deactivated cyborg is revived, but cannot remember anything of her past life and goes on a quest to find out who she is. Check out Ralph Potts’ Ultra HD Blu-ray review of Alita: Battle Angel from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

97

Details:

Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox – 2019
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 122 minutes
Genre: Sci-Fi/Action/Drama

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.39:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earl Haley, Keean Johnson
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Music by: Tom Holkenborg
Written by: James Cameron, Laeta Kalogridis
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: July 23, 2019

“Her Legend Begins…”

Synopsis:

“A centuries old and deactivated cyborg is discovered and revived, but cannot remember anything of her past life and goes on a quest to find out who she is.” – 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

My Take:

When Alita (Rosa Salazar) awakens with no memory of who she is in a future world she does not recognize, she is taken in by Doctor Ido (Christoph Waltz), a compassionate man, with a complicated past, who realizes that somewhere in this abandoned cyborg shell is the heart and soul of a young woman with an extraordinary history.

As Alita learns to navigate her new life and the treacherous streets of Iron City, Ido tries to shield her from her mysterious past, while her street-smart new friend Hugo (Keean Johnson) offers instead to help trigger her memories. It is only when the deadly and corrupt forces that run the city come after Alita that she discovers a clue to her true origins – she has unique fighting abilities that those in power will stop at nothing to control. If she can stay out of their grasp, she could be the key to saving her friends, her family and the world she’s grown to love.

Upon seeing the trailer for Alita: Battle Angel I was instantly hooked. Being a fan not only of the genre but, of films that feature strong female characters, I was all in and there to see it when it opened in theaters. Co-written by James Cameron and directed by Robert Rodriguez Alita: Battle Angel was essentially everything I hoped it would be. No, it’s not an end to end film experience that cinephiles are going to wax poetic about. Based on the graphic novel (‘Manga’) Series Gunnm by Yukito Kishiro it is a sci-fi adventure with a thin but, solidly executed story with a multi-genre tone that revolves around a wonderfully drawn character on a path to discovery.

The narrative isn’t deep but, it’s Alita’s journey and what we come to learn about not only her ability to kick some serious ass but, also her humanity and the potential complexities associated with her past life that make the film work. I enjoyed seeing Alita: Battle Angel in the theater and that didn’t change upon this second viewing. Rosa Salazar owns the character and her performance is a key component in its telling. I will take any opportunity to watch Christoph Waltz onscreen and enjoyed the chemistry he shared with Salazar here. The remaining members of the cast which consists of some quality actors, were fine but, added little to the film’s overall impact.

Aside from Salazar and Waltz, the star of the show is the production elements which is fantastic. Motion Capture is just so cool and it works so well in this application. The action is terrific, offering fans a number of big set pieces that deliver the goods within the context of the storyline. I recall saying to my wife (who also enjoyed the movie) during the theatrical presentation that this is sure to look and sound great in our home theater. Read on to see if my prediction was true. As a genre fan I am pleased to report that [i]Alita: Battle Angel] is popcorn entertainment at its best.

Replay Value:

Parental Guide:

The rating is for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation(HDR-10): 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

UHD Presentation (Dolby Vision): 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

Dolby Atmos Rating: 98
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Level of immersion: 
  • Soundstage integration: 
  • Audio object placement: 
  • Effectiveness of Atmos platform: 
  • Entertainment factor: 

Alita: Battle Angel comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

Alita: Battle Angel was shot digitally, derived from a 3.4K source, and rendered from a 2K DI for its presentation in Ultra HD.

The 1080p transfer looks solid and this Ultra HD rendering takes it up a notch with a discernible increase in detail, and emboldened highlights, both light and dark. Alita is a visually dazzling film that benefits from the enhanced resolution and emboldened contrast. Primary colors are scant but are beautifully rendered when present. The first glimpse of the streets of Iron City with its plethora of colors looks wonderful.

Intimate details can be seen, both in wide-angle and close-up perspectives, imparting a discernible increase in depth/dimension. The extensive use of CGI imparts some innate softening. I didn’t find it compromising per se, but I wouldn’t describe the overall nature of the video to be consistently razor sharp.

The use of HDR is spot on, driving the story’s use of moody visual cues offset by gleams of light that illuminate dark environs, like the alleyway where Alita has her first battle encounter, the Motorball arena’s track, or Alita’s flashback where she and her fellow soldiers attempt their incursion on the sky city. The film’s plethora of shadow laden environs offer increased resolve in terms of interstitial details that promote depth of field. Blacks are inky without compromise to fidelity.

Stylistically speaking, Alita: Battle Angel isn’t the type of film that is going to dazzle with its use of eye scorching dynamism or vivid color. There is no question that its Ultra HD presentation appears faithful and makes for a distinct improvement when compared to the 1080p Blu-ray rendering.

Dolby Vision vs HDR-10:

I utilize the TCL 55P607 UHD Dolby Vision HDR flat panel in my review system to enable me to compare the visual quality of titles that contained the Dolby Vision metadata versus its HDR-10 counterpart on the same disc. All titles are first watched via my JVC front projector. I then select specific scenes which are watched on the TCL, first via HDR-10 then via Dolby Vision. The TCL isn’t among the top tier flat panels with DV, however it came recommended by AVS Forum Senior Editor Mark Henninger, and calibrates/performs extremely well for a set at its price point.

* The cumulative A/V score will still be based upon the HDR-10 rating, with the DV rating serving as informational only for now.*

In comparing the DV and HDR-10 renderings I ran the same scenes using my reference Panasonic UHD player (in DV) and Oppo UHD player (HDR-10 only). The title looked terrific on both formats with respect to the reproduction of HDR. While I found that the DV presentation offered slightly better delineation of color it wasn’t enough to warrant a rating difference. Inevitably you can’t go wrong with either but, if pushed, my preference was the Dolby Vision presentation.

Dolby Atmos:

In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be of the active variety that makes steady use of the platform. Its use of audio objects placed above is a mix atmospherics, discrete effects and music accompaniment. This is done to very good effect and creates a tangible level of immersion that coincides with the onscreen in an involving and sometime visceral fashion. The sequence in the first act where Alita protects the little dog from being stepped on by the centurion offers insights into what lay instore as the audio cues wash over the listening position. The effect is outstanding and sounds terrific.

There are several key moments that are worthy of mention, the alleyway battle, the barroom brawl which segues into the underground battle with Grewishka and the final Motorball arena sequence. Each contain a host of swirling effects, nearfield pans, and ambience that comes together in a resplendent blend of room traversing sound that shows what this format is capable of. I consider this Dolby Atmos mix to be involving, entertaining, and among the best that I have heard.

It should be noted that I found that the Dolby Atmos mix added another layer of richness to the reproduction of bass versus the DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio mix on the Blu-ray/3D Blu-ray. Both sound great but, my preference is definitely the Atmos presentation.

For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1: Alita: Battle Angel Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: Alita: Battle Angel Blu-ray
  • Disc 3: Alita: Battle Angel 3D Blu-ray
    • Alita’s World – get a deeper look into the world of Alita: Battle Angel with these dynamic motion comics.
    o The Fall – a look back at the terrible war that almost destroyed two planets and set the stage for the cyborg warrior Alita’s return 300 years later.
    o Iron City – Hugo gives a guided tour of the Iron City he knows, showing off its dark corners and broken-down neighborhoods.
    o What it Means to be a Cyborg – hunter-warrior Zapan tracks his mark across Iron City while musing about what it means to be a cyborg.
    o Rules of the Game – A high-octane “crash course” in Motorball, introducing the rules, game-play, and the top-ranked players and their arsenal of weapons.
    • From Manga to Screen – a behind-the-scenes look into the origins of Yukito Kishiro’s beloved manga, “Gunnm,” and the long road to bring it to life on the big screen.
    • Evolution of Alita – how Alita was brought to life, from the casting of Rosa Salazar, to performance capture, and final VFX by WETA Digital.
    • Motorball – go inside Iron City’s favorite pastime, from the origins and evolution of the sport, to rules on how the game is played.
    • James Cameron, Robert Rodriguez and cast Q&A moderated by Jon Landau.
    • Robert Rodriguez’s 10 Minute Cooking School: Chocolate – a cooking lesson on how to make delicious chocolate like that seen in the movie.
    • 2005 Art Compilation (2019) – James Cameron’s original compilation of concept art for the then-titled “Battle Angel: Alita,” presented with new voiceover and music.
    • Scene Deconstruction – view three different stages of the production – the original live action performance capture, the animation stage, and the final Weta VFX from four different scenes
    o I Don’t Even Know My Own Name
    o Just an Insignificant Girl
    o I’m a Warrior Aren’t I?
    o Kansas Bar
  • Digital Code

Final Thoughts:

Based on the graphic novel (‘Manga’) Series Gunnm by Yukito Kishiro it is a sci-fi adventure with a thin but, solidly executed story with a multi-genre tone that revolves around a wonderfully drawn character on a path to discovery. While it may not rise to level of cinematic greatness, as a dyed in the wool popcorn flick it ticks all the boxes. It comes to Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment in this Ultra HD/3D Blu-ray/Blu-ray Combo Pack featuring reference quality Ultra HD video, a slamming Dolby Atmos immersive listening experience, and a fan friendly supplemental set. For those that enjoy the genre, Alita: Battle Angel is simply a must have.

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS2000 4K Ultra High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Panasonic DP-UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems


Ralph C. Potts