Directed by Robert Rodriguez
Starring Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earl Haley, and Keenan Johnson
It seems that Alita: Battle Angel is one of those films I’d been reading about online for years. About 15 years ago, James Cameron, he who gave us The Terminator and Titanic, announced he was developing two films that would rely heavily on the new field of performance capture animation. One was an adaptation of the manga Gunnm (English title Battle Angel), and the other an original project he was working on, Avatar. Avatar got made first, and it was assumed that Battle Angel would be next. However, Cameron got wrapped up in developing four or five sequels to Avatar, so he gave Battle Angel to Robert Rodriguez, he who gave us Spy Kids and Sin City, to carry across the finish line. And now it’s finally here! Was it work the 1.5 decades of waiting?
In the 26th Century, 300 years after a world war known as the Fall, in a city known as Iron City, which sits beneath the last floating city of Zalem, we meet Dr. Dyson Ito, a doctor and cybernetics expert. While scavenging a scrapyard for parts, he finds the discarded remains of a cyborg. He gives her a new body, and a new name — Alita. Alita has no memories of her past life, but she instinctively knows an ancient martial art known as Panzer Kunst. Intense combat situations seem to trigger memories of her past life, so she soon signs up to be a Hunter-Warrior (this world’s name for bounty hunters), and her new friend Hugo introduces her to the sport of Motorball. And there’s no shortage of intense combat situations, as many people start coming out of the woodwork to kill Alita. Will she regain her memories? Why do people want her dead? Will Hugo achieve his dream of making it to Zalem?
What I Liked
The film is visually stunning. Again, with Cameron on board, you knew it was going to look fantastic, and again, probably the most seamless blend of live-action and performance capture characters in a long time. And Rosa Salazar is absolutely charming as our heroine Alita, as she starts learning who she is and living life for the first time. And it was good seeing Christoph Waltz playing against type, as a kindly father figure rather than the scary German villain he usually plays.
What I Didn’t Like
Well, I had the same problems that I had with John Carter many moons ago. You really get the feeling that, with some plot threads, Cameron and Rodriguez were behind the camera going, “Aw, man! I can’t wait to get into that in the sequel!” And when such threads start piling up, you start feeling a little…unfulfilled.
But don’t let my above objection turn you off. It does have a pretty satisfying conclusion and remembers to focus on the story at hand. “Leave them wanting more,” is the old showbiz adage, and I truly felt that way with Alita.