Alita: Battle Angel Movie Review
“Alita: Battle Angel” is a new visual treat of a movie that is based on a long admired Japanese manga series. The people behind this movie are superb craftsman; Robert Rodriguez as the director, and James Cameron as producer and co-writer. However, perhaps that is part of the disconnect of this movie. There is a fully realized vision of a bleak future landscape. Yet the story-line bumps and clunks along with the grace of an ancient Model-T running in the Daytona 500 NASCAR. The characters are one-dimensional, even at the same time the screen pops with a vivid 3-D treatment of the visuals.
In a far, far future Earth, there are only leftovers and broken remains from the destruction due to the Earth’s war against URM (United Republics of Mars). The planet-bound people are poor and insignificant. However, up above there is a wealthy and powerful population in a floating ‘sky city’ of Zalem. There are few that go from the crusty and rusty Iron City up to glowing wonder of Zalem. Many are discarded and fall from grace, but the few that rise are the champions who can win at a most violent (and popular) sport called Motorball. It is full of speed and of danger and violent death. But most of the contestants are Cyborgs (half human, half robo-mechanical creatures). So, they never really die, they are rebuilt by people like Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz).
Dr. Ido finds a valuable treasure in the trash heap that is under the floating Zalem paradise. Anything that is considered junk is dumped from the city down in the pile of junk. But Ido finds a discarded ‘CORE’ of a cyborg. It is a teenage girl head and torso, which Ido attaches to a fitting cyborg body. Alita (Rosa Salazar) is created out of excess junk but she becomes a stand-in for Ido’s dead daughter. She is young and naive, but she quickly picks up battle skills. She is noticed by Chiren (Jennifer Connelly), who is Ido’s ex-wife. She and Ido once had a high place up in Zalem but were ousted for some reason. Alita also meets Hugo (Keean Johnson), while he is out collecting scraps around Iron City. He sells stuff to make a living. Alita is smitten with the world-wise scavenger and entrepreneur.
But there’s trouble afoot, up in the Zalem city – there is a bad guy named Nova. He sees Alita as a threat to him and to his henchman Vector (Mahershala Ali) in Iron City. Vector sends robotic cyborg bounty hunters named Zapan (Ed Skrein) and Grewishka (Jackie Earle Haley) to track Alita and kill her. Alita finds an upgraded body based on URM technology. Once Dr. Ito takes care of the body upgrade for Alita, she finds that she can fight and defeat anyone, human or cyborg. Dr. Ido and Hugo are also targeted for death, and Alita is worried about them. The only way that she can get up to the floating Zalem city is by playing and winning the next Motorball contest. That is difficult thing to do, but Alita is souped-up and ready to rumble.
“Alita: Battle Angel” takes some difficult source material and has attempted to do it justice. When this has been done before, the results are always hit or miss. That same thing goes for this movie. The visual world that it creates is a big thumbs-up hit. The characters that populate this movie, with all the odd personality tweaks and clunky dialog, is a bit of a miss. The CGI effects are world-class, especially Alita with the super-sized ‘manga’ eyes. All the robots and cyborgs and the city design and the battle scenes are amazing to watch. Too bad the story and dialog does not reach up to the same lofty levels as the rest of the movie.
The movie hits a home run with the beautiful formation of the visual landscape, and the people and creatures that roam in this world. But it plays some sour notes with the ‘borrowed’ story elements (from ‘Elysium’, Rollerball’, even the doomed love affair from ‘Titanic’). There are too many 2-D characters in this vivid and lush 3-D movie.
Alita: Battle Angel Review
Alita: Battle Angel Summary
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Screenplay by: James Cameron, Laeta Kalogridis
Based on: "Gunnm" (Japanese cyberpunk manga) by Yukito Kishiro
Starring: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Edward Norton, Keean Johnson
Length: 122 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language
Genre: Japanese cyberpunk manga, fantasy