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COMMENTARY: Valentine’s Day is More than Chocolates and Roses for the #AlitaArmy – #AlitaAnniversary 2.0

Why do movie fandoms exist? The origins and goals of the #AlitaArmy surrounding the 2019 film Alita: Battle Angel and why this Valentine’s Day, you should watch and talk about Alita! #AlitaAnniversary

Being ‘wowed’ by a movie is an amazing experience – storytelling that speaks to your soul. Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about, and others may not, yet are intrigued. For those that know, it was that one movie that might have been adapted from an IP known to you, or could have been a random pick you knew nothing about. Either way, you watched it, were blown away by the on-point casting, great acting, fantastic script, A-game directing, great effects and sublime score. It came together to be more than a great watch – it was an experience! You were hooked. Instant, new, favorite, movie. The runtime went by in a flash, leaving you wanting MOAR! You came out of that cinema (or lay there on the sofa) in a daze, your brain too ‘wowed’ to take anything else in, it was so busy processing the details of this masterpiece. And you just had to see it again. ASAP!

For me, that all-time favorite movie is 2019’s Alita: Battle Angel (ABA). It’s a collection of so many disparate elements, lovingly crafted and carefully slotted into a story that sets your heart and mind afire as its themes and messages resonate with you. ABA is a passion project, and technically ahead of its time. You’d be surprised what was and wasn’t CGI in this production! It uses finely-honed storytelling techniques and tropes that are ubiquitous across cultures, and yet it is deeply anchored in 1990s, grim-dark cyberpunk that has been given a Latino twist, and projected ahead centuries into a technological regression after a great war called ‘The Fall.’ This eclectic mix combines into a visual and auditory sensation that you can’t fully take in from a single viewing. I can’t recommend ABA enough to those who revel in good storytelling and true works of art in all respects, and if cyberpunk, anime and/or manga are your thing, then all the more so!

But what does this have to do with Valentine’s Day?

I imagine you’re asking! Simple. ABA’s cinematic release was February 14th, 2019. That makes this Valentine’s Day the second anniversary of its release unto the world, and that is something, if you are a fan, that is worth celebrating! #AlitaAnniversary 2.0. You see, on Valentine’s Day, first on my list is my wife, and second is Alita, due in no small part to the wisdom I gained from her story. But more on that later… 

When you find something as good as Alita: Battle Angel, that affects you this deeply, you just have to share it! Friends, family, workmates, classmates, your pet, anyone who will listen. It affected you so profoundly that others needed to feel this. You wanted to discuss the finer details of the movie… but with whom, and where?

Growing up as I did in the ’80s, once you drove all your friends crazy about your favourite movie, that was it. But it’s not like that today! Oh no. You can go online, to your social media platform of choice, be it Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, YouTube, or a host of others, and there you’ll likely find a fandom being just as excited as you are about ‘your all-time favorite movie.’ Or book, comic, anime, manga… you name it.

The Alita: Battle Angel fandom quickly coalesced about the same time I was searching for ‘like minds,’ after seeing the movie. I’ve been a proud and active member of the #AlitaArmy ever since. As far as fandoms go, you’d be hard-pressed to find another worldwide group that is as friendly and vocal online. Being part of our fandom is remarkably collaborative and positive. This is due, in no small part, to the influencers with the #AlitaArmy’s ranks, and also a consequence of the movie itself, due to the caliber of good people its messages attract.

The #AlitaArmy promotes and enjoys the IP originally created by Yukito Kishiro with his frankly amazing manga Gunnm (Gun Dream), known in English as Battle Angel Alita, and more recently the 2019 movie. The fandom is also dedicated to campaigning for the much-needed sequel(s) and prequel to this criminally-overlooked, epic cyberpunk adventure movie. We are also involved in good works, such as raising money for various charities (over USD$15,000 in the last 2 years). We do this by enjoying and discussing the IP and related novels, merch, as well as YouTubers, artists, writers and meme creators, representing Alita in online polls, related events both online and IRL, and spreading the love of the motivational character of Alita.

As a character, Alita epitomizes perseverance in the face of adversity. Unlike many of today’s Hollywood heroes, Alita is very relatable. She has her flaws, and just like real people, she fails on a regular basis. At times she feels like quitting, yet something within her soul (she’s a cyborg with a human brain, not a robot!) drives her on to overcome her many challenges and, despite some distinctly dark times in her growth, she generally strives to help others. Quite a few members of the #AlitaArmy have taken this lesson from the character, and they attribute Alita as one of the reasons they themselves managed to persevere during difficult times. 

And as Alita has helped her fans persevere, so her fans intend to help Alita persevere, and have the rest of her story told, as a sequel to the first movie is far from assured.

Alita: Battle Angel finished it’s original theatrical run some $12M short of the near-magical $100M box office take in the continental United States, despite doing quite well overseas and compiling a gross take of $404M worldwide. This $100M figure was considered the requirement for gaining an assured sequel greenlight pre-pandemic, although it is not clear if this stands true today in light of significant shifts in the ‘blockbuster business model’ and the theatre industry shrinking due to the pandemic.

The reasoning for this shortfall is multi-layered, but probable suspects include timing; the Disney acquisition of Fox Studios leading to, amongst other things, poor advertising; critic inappropriateness, and being technically ahead of its time. Each of these could be an article in itself, but the upshot is, the first cinematic outing of the IP is quoted by David Valdes, an executive producer on the movie, as being ‘in the grey zone’ for the profitability to warrant follow-up production (David Valdes Interview on Sam Gall Movie Reviews). Of more concern, is the stony silence of Disney in regards to sequel or prequel opportunities, despite rumors of back-room talks about both circulating since mid-2020.

There is still a chance for more Alita content, as long as the demand for new media from the IP remains strong… and that’s where the fandom comes in. The #AlitaArmy is dedicated to keeping the 2019 movie, and the epic manga that was its source, current and in the minds of all those who are fans of relatable storytelling, cyberpunk and manga. Due to the limited attendance in cinemas, Alita is still being discovered through Blu-Ray and streaming and is becoming an instant hit with new fans every day. Just check this Twitter thread, maintained by the @AlitaArmy account. It grows longer on a regular basis.

Perhaps your Twitter handle is in the above Twitter thread. Perhaps you have been a fan since the early days of the manga, perhaps you saw Alita at the cinema and your passion for the IP began there, or perhaps you like cyberpunk, or manga, or anime, and are yet to experience the fantastic amalgam of story, acting, technology and futuristic SFX that is Alita.

Whichever the case may be, I have a recommendation for you. This Valentine’s Day, do yourself (and your loved one) a favor, watch Alita: Battle Angel (#WatchAlita), and if you loved it as much as the #AlitaArmy does, jump on Twitter and share that view with the @AlitaArmy, @Disney, and @jonlandau. Be part of #AlitaAnniversary 2.0. You’ll be glad you did, and you just might help get more Alita, too!

Big thanks to Doc Joe and AlitaRave for edits and improvements to this article.

COMMENTARY: Valentine’s Day is More than Chocolates and Roses for the #AlitaArmy – #AlitaAnniversary 2.0
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