Review: Alita: Battle Angel.
I hope you all had a lovely valentine’s day, whether you spent it with a loved one or by yourself watching 10 Things I Hate About You whilst crying into a packet of crisps. We’ve all been there. I was going to make a post about my favourite rom-coms of all time but I didn’t realise that cooking a three course meal was such an all-day commitment.
Today though, I’m going to be reviewing James Cameron’s Alita: Battle Angel, directed by Robert Rodriguez. The only thing I knew about this film going into it, was that it was produced by James Cameron and therefore I expected a visually stunning but quite hollow move. To be honest though, it did exceed my expectations.
Alita: Battle Angel is set several centuries into the future after a great war that transformed the world as we know it, leaving a hierarchy between cities on the ground and floating posh pits in the sky. The movie is very quick to introduce us to Ido, the cyber-doctor played by (Christoph Waltz), finding an unconscious cyborg head and taking her back to his clinic to completely rebuild and later call her, Alita (Rosa Salazar). From this point onwards we follow Alita as she tries to remember who she is and navigate herself around an unfamiliar world. As things unfold, the audience begin to understand that Alita is powerful and important, and this makes her a target to a lot of enemies.
I think one of the really great things about this film is that the world building and context was efficiently communicated to the audience. Although we are constantly curious about Alita herself, I found that I completely understood and believed the world she woke up in, and the hierarchy of people within it. What encouraged believability the most was of course the stunning visuals. The special effects in this movie were insane. So much time and attention to detail went into every shot and it really shows.
Known for his strong action sequences, director Robert Rodriguez does not disappoint with this big budget action extravaganza (I always hear that word in my head in RuPaul’s voice). The Motorball sequences in particular had me thinking, “I’m entertained as hell right now”. The fight scenes were badass as well and it’s interesting to watch how a protagonist so small can defeat such huge and threatening enemies with just physical combat. I will say though, the action for me lost some grip when I realised that this chica was never going to lose a god damn fight. Without consequence, fights are just a bit of visual fun, but add little to the story or the characters.
Aside from the action and visual effects though, the narrative and characters felt far less impressive to me. On the one hand I did really enjoy the character of Alita and her relationship with Ido. The acting between these two really worked for me and created the only real emotion to bring humanity to such a detached and robotic world. On the other hand, a lot of the other characters just did not work. For starters the character of Zapan was so painfully regurgitated and predictable. Oh no, a sexist, condescending pretty boy with a big ego. Really? I could point out 10 Zapan’s at the local bar on a Saturday night. Maybe I’m being harsh on this one, but his ‘evil’ laugh and dialogue just felt really forced and sloppy to me. In fact, a big problem I found with this movie was lack of antagonist presence. The main villain is supposed to be Nova, a man at the top of the hierarchy, puppeteering less important villains from up in Zalem. But because we never really conflict with him, all the enemies that Alita fights against down in the Iron City feel quite two-dimensional. I even feel a bit sorry for them, being used as weapons. Although I don’t feel too bad for Grewishka (Jackie Earle Haley) because I’m still pissed off about the dog. (You’ll know what I mean if you’ve watched it.)
Then there was this incredibly flat relationship between Hugo (Keann Johnson) and Alita. As we left the cinema, my boyfriend pointed out how this movie falls into the same stereotype of the curious girl falling in love with literally the first guy she sees. Then again, with so much to cram into this already exhaustive run time, I guess they didn’t have the leisure of developing anything properly with this relationship. Hugo’s character is very cheesy and the relationship between him and Alita just wasted time and made me cringe. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but towards the end of the film there’s this weird section where a character goes from one state of being to another for no reason? I’m not sure why they thought that would be effective but honestly I just didn’t care about the character and neither ‘tragic’ events had any emotional impact on me. It was too drawn out and honestly I think the film would have benefited from cutting that part out completely.
I also felt like a lot of good actors were wasted. Jennifer Connelly and Mahershala Ali’s character’s felt like they could have been interesting if they’d been given any time for development whatsoever, but they weren’t. So, the character’s lacked depth and didn’t really impact the story in any way.
But in all honesty, I know I just ranted on for ages about the flat characters and plot points but this is one of those films where I really enjoyed it at the time, and upon reflection I found far more I didn’t like about it. For the most part, I found Alita: Battle Angel really engaging and interesting in the cinema, it felt fresh and they had a great cast and storyline. As much as some of it didn’t work for me, I’m excited to see a sequel if there is one, because the filmmakers successfully caught my interest with this film and to be honest I think the main character was pretty awesome.
So yeah, a lot of positives and negatives, but overall I do recommend Alita: Battle Angel, especially for Sci-fi / Action fans and of course any Anime fans who like the source material, Gunnm by Yukito Kihiro.
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