Alita: Battle Angel (2019)
Director: Robert Rodriguez | Runtime: 2h 2mins | Sci-Fi, Adventure, Action
Somewhere in the future, the robotic surgeon Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) recovers an advanced cyborg in the scrapyard that he names Alita (Rosa Salazar). With no memory of her past life, Alita adapts to her new surroundings and tries to find out who she really was.
Despite this being a Robert Rodriguez film it will forever be associated with, and sold as, a James Cameron film. It’s been said that with such a dedication to the upcoming Avatar sequels Cameron never saw this being made, but eventually it was Rodriguez who would step up and take the helm. With Cameron producing and writing, along with Robert Rodriguez’s experienced eye, there is no doubt that the anticipation for Alita should be extremely high, especially if what you’re looking for is spectacular visuals and a heavy focus on action.
Even from the images above it’s clear to see just how well the visuals come across, even the smallest details seem lively and despite a lot of films being too high on the CGI nowadays, it plays so well in the films favour (what do you expect from the directors of Sin City and Avatar). It’s very easy to be hypercritical with the special effects as they are so predominant, but from Alita’s emotional ticks, to the huge Motorball arena, and even the floating city of Zalem that sits above the poverty stricken civilians, each part can rejoice in it’s ability to, not necessarily be realistic, but feel authentic in the world it’s trying to build.
The problem with budgets spanning an estimated $170m is that the effects are treated second to none, and in this case Alita‘s screenplay is what really comes up short. Oddly it follows a similar path to Cameron’s Avatar, which bolsters a huge visual experience but gets lost in weak characters and a seemingly tiresome story. Whilst building the world that Alita has awoken to, the story continuously brings new aspects to light and brushes previous ones aside, losing any kind of emotional levity that is required near the end of the film.
What’s a real shame is seeing some of the best actors working today being unable to save their characters, Christoph Waltz is used more for his exposition than anything and Mahershala Ali is a lackluster villain that becomes a glorified mouthpiece. The only redeemable character is Jennifer Connelly’s Chiren, a grieving mother who’s only wish is to return to Zalem by any means possible. She is a great example of the individuals that build the world around them, something the film should of really focused on more, but doesn’t.
Your enjoyment of Alita: Battle Angel really depends on what kind of viewer you are, if you enjoy the visual aspect and relentless action then this is a film for you, but sadly the story and a very unearned ending are such big flaws it distracts from any visual feast this film may try to throw at you.