“Alita: Battle Angel”- Movie Review
Based on Yukito Kishiro’s manga series, Gunnm, this cyberpunk epic takes place in 2563, several years after a massive global war devastated the Earth. It stars Rose Salazar as Alita, a cyborg who was rescued from a garbage heap then brought back to life by Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz). The two reside in Iron City, a futuristic low-class metropolis that sits in the shadow of a wealthy sky city called Zalem. Alita awakens with no memory of her past, but as she begins weaving through the city’s criminal underbelly, bits and pieces start flooding back. At the same time, she finds herself entangled in a dangerous conspiracy orchestrated by a mysterious figure named Nova. Rather than run, she’s determined to face this enemy head on.
Despite not always hitting bulls-eye in terms of narrative execution, Alita: Battle Angel is still a high-energy spectacle that’s bursting with creative ideas. Visually speaking, it’s beautifully crafted. The environment has a typical future dystopia design, though it all feels organic, like you could step through the screen and roam the streets. The mythology surrounding this world and the characters within it is also very rich. The film does throw a lot at you, and if you check out for even a nanosecond, you’ll miss some crucial tidbits. Though the info you’re given is easy to grasp.
The action sequences are also nothing short of fantastic. Usually when you have CGI-heavy movies like this, the flow of the action is very fluid, but it can lack any sense of weight and be visually muddled. Thankfully, this film doesn’t succumb to this pattern. Director Robert Rodriguez (notable for such classics as Spy Kids and Sin City), takes a grittier, more aggressive approach. The fight scene choreography is fast yet brutal. You feel the impact of every punch and every kick all the while being able to make out everything that’s happening.
Each actors’ performance can be measured on a scale of good to great. Christoph Waltz is good, and Mahershala Ali and Jennifer Connelly put in solid efforts. The highest praise, however, goes to relative newcomer Rose Salazar, whose motion-capture portrayal of Alita is strong on multiple fronts. She brings a genuine innocence and likability to the character, and conveys a kind of badass confidence through her physicality. The animation on her is well-rendered. Sure, the bulging anime eyes is a bit much, and some people can be deterred from seeing this movie because of that. But the rest of the character is so well-realized that it didn’t bother me.
What does bother me is the structure of the story. For the most part, the narrative moves at a steady pace. Sometimes you’ll run into awkward dialogue (which usually came from Alita’s love interest) and plot threads that are set up at the beginning then wind up evaporating into thin air. But even then it’s not too distracting from the rest of the film. The issue is its length, which you can start to feel towards the third act. Considering how much lore and character backstory it throws at you, the movie comes off as the first season and a half of a television show that’s been balled up into a 2-hour runtime. By the end, you’re left exhausted. Satisfied, but mentally exhausted.
As a slice of entertainment, Alita: Battle Angel is a pure adrenaline rush. It’s wildly ambitious on both a creative and technical level, and the passion put into bringing this character and her story to life is evident in front of and behind the camera. James Cameron, who serves as producer and screenwriter for this film, tried for years to get this off the ground. Now it’s here, and it’s certainly an achievement. If you’re even the tiniest bit interested in this movie, please check it out. It deserves a lot of love. I can’t guarantee you’ll get over the eyes. Though if you’re in the mood for something fun, I promise you’ll have a good time.