STARRING: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Keean Johnson, Mahershala Ali, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Lana Condor, Michelle Rodriguez, Eiza González, Idara Victor, Jeff Fahey, Rick Yune, Marko Zaror, Elle LaMont, Leonard Wu and Casper Van Dien
A deactivated female cyborg is revived, but cannot remember anything of her past life and goes on a quest to find out who she is.
Alita is a creation from an age of despair. Found by the mysterious Dr. Ido while trolling for cyborg parts, Alita becomes a lethal, dangerous being. She cannot remember who she is, or where she came from. But to Dr. Ido, the truth is all too clear.
After decades of being in development, this year we’ve finally got the release of James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez’s Alita: Battle Angel, the live-action adaptation of the 90’s manga Gunnm. Set in the year 2563, a war known as ‘The Fall’ has left the Earth devastated. During a routine of scouting the scrapyard in Iron City, scientist Dr. Dyson Ido discovers a disembodied female cyborg with a functional human brain. Alita is brought to life, unable to remember anything from her past and sets to find out who she is, though everyone around her may know more than they’re letting on.
Given Hollywood’s treatment of adapting anime for Western audiences, it’s usually met with a rather negative response (see Death Note, Ghost In The Shell and absolutely Dragonball: Evolution). However, Alita: Battle Angel makes the case of being the best anime to live-action adaptation from Hollywood to date. Visually the film is a marvel, with stunning use of size and scale of Iron City’s landscapes, the grittiness look of the city in particular at night and of course, the visual effects when it comes to Alita herself and also when she’s in action. The action feels fluid, thanks in part to the long shots and lack of cuts in particular action sequences, with the most memorable action sequences involving Motorball and the Kansas Bar. James Cameron may have helped shape the world that we see, but Robert Rodriguez excels in the action scenes in this film and still manages to bring in a few familiar faces from his previous work (Jeff Fahey is always welcome on my screen). I also really enjoyed the father-daughter dynamic between Ido and Alita, it feels authentic and their bond is the main spark of the film outside of the visuals. Christoph Waltz gets to play a role outside of his norm (aka a villain) and is great as Ido, trying to see his own daughter in Alita, creating an interesting dynamic and arc of realising how he can’t hold her back from becoming who she really is. Rosa Salazar I’m not overly familiar with (outside of her small role in Bird Box, I haven’t seen her in anything else) but now I hope she gets to become a bigger name as I thought she was terrific as Alita. Her warmth and naivety in the first half of the film is great to watch, and to see her transition to warrior in the second half is played effortlessly by Rosa and with the film resting on her shoulders to make a CGI-faced character work, I completely bought into it.
For me personally, the script is the weakest aspect of the film. There’s so much attention to world-building going on, to giving us glimpses into Alita’s past, as well as present multiple characters, the film at points in the middle does feel like it starts and stalls, not quite sure on what plot to focus on as there’s alot of storylines going on at the same time. The final act could also be argued of being anti-climatic but it definitely sets things up nicely for a potential sequel (if the film makes bank at the box office). The romance plot itself is also pretty weak here too, primarily because Keean Johnson’s Hugo does feel like a generic romance pawn 101 and it’s not having a go at the actors performance (you work with what you’re given), but rather that the Hugo character in itself was just dull and never cared for him. As much as I like Jennifer Connelly as an actress, her role as Chiren and arguably Mahershala Ali’s as Vector could’ve been played by anybody really as their screen presence is pretty limited and pretty wasteful of their talents.
Alita: Battle Angel is ambitious in scale and in terms of visuals, it’s an amazing spectacle to watch and is worthy of your money to see on the big screen. Rosa Salazar is terrific in the lead role and her chemistry with Christoph Waltz provides the heart and soul of the film. The script is pretty weak as it pays more attention to the worldbuilding for potential instalments, rather than focusing a tighter story arc in the middle section and the romance subplot is a bit bland but not offputting. 7/10