Review: Alita, Battle Angel

“Back so soon??? It’s only been 5 hours…you have a problem, sir.” Nobody has actually said this to me, yet. But yes, I enjoy using my weekends to catch up on any film interest I have yet to explore (theatres first, of course), and today that just so happened to be the newest Cameron-involved film, Alita: Battle Angel. This film was not only worth the popcorn, but also the deep dive via Google to read up on the rich history that it has! And so that’s where I’m going to start.
Allow me to paint a picture: 60% on Rotten Tomatoes, 5.95 average rating, and 54/100 on Metacritic. But, also this: CinemaScore of A-, and 94% Audience Score. Lots of numbers, right? But can you see the divide? Critics are iffy on this one, but the audience is definitely all-in. Generally, critic reviews like this will be expressed as, “Well, I really liked what they did with the action sequences, and the CGI was incredible, but the romance doesn’t work and the fact that it’s just setting up future movies takes away from what could have been a much better film…” or something like that. Look around, I’m sure you can find more than a couple. And while you’re at it, don’t bother listening. Because this movie has a lot going for it. But I’ll get to that in a second, I have some more good backstory for you first.
The idea for the film was picked up by James Cameron around the turn of the century, and was shelved for over 15 years while Cameron began work on his worldwide phenomenon that was Avatar. In fact, he was so engrossed with the Avatar franchise (Avatar 2 is set to release in December of 2020), that he had to bring on a new director for Alita: Battle Angel because he just didn’t have time to do both. However, using the film technology that Cameron created specifically for shooting Avatar, he was also able to help bring Alita to the screen. How cool is that?!?
So anyway, Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Grindhouse, and….all of the Spy Kids movies) was given the reigns by Cameron for this movie, and I think he did a pretty great job. The appearance of every CGI detail is stunning. Alita is completely CGI, and most other film characters are an actor’s face on a CGI body, which is done without being a distraction. And critics are right, because the action sequences are amazing. Truly, for CGI fights, they have come a long way since The Matrix. I was a bit put off by the romance piece of the plot and some cheesy one-liners, but I also see how it is used to humanize the title character and help us to empathize with her storyline.
The movie does resemble the over-used dystopian plot, specifically I was thinking Maze Runner-esque (which I thought amusing, once I realized that the voice of Alita, Rosa Salazar, was in those films as well), but it has yet to focus on the “woe are we, for we live in a pretty messed up place after the inter-planetary war happened upon us” nature of such movies. There have just been too many attempts at that in the last 10 years, and I’m glad that this one steered mostly clear (a couple brief mentions/explanations of “The Fall,” which I forgive) and instead took us along for a ride of re-discovering a forgotten past and preparing to fight the future battle. I also like their character choices in Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, and the big bad guy whose last-minute reveal I won’t spoil for you (but I’m excited for because I haven’t personally seen him on the big screen in a while). I will say, the character depth and relationships was a bit lacking for a James Cameron film, but then again he was only partially involved? I hope they do a better job in the next installment, especially between Salazar and Waltz. But, can I just give a quick shout out to Mr. Waltz? He worked for 30 years in theatre and television and movies before he really broke through with his role in Tarantino’s 2009 film, Inglorious Bastards. He’s had a few great performances in the years since, and I hope he just keeps going 🙂
Well, this supposed-to-be-short review got pretty long and very much away from me. I didn’t even tell you about the movie plot that much! Too focused on facts and backstory….okay, quickly now…
Alita is just a cyborg head and heart who is discovered in a trash heap and repaired by a cyborg-repairs guy, who becomes like a father figure to her as she begins to remember pieces of her past and carve out a “battle angel” role for her future. Along the way, bad people figure out how unique and valuable she is and they want to destroy her, but upon learning the truth about her destiny, Alita must clear the path of bad guys in order to move forward with her previous mission. Oh, there is a boy she falls in love with too, and he teaches her how to play Motorball.
So hopefully all of that got you interested if you weren’t already! I recommend that you take the time to go see Alita: Battle Angel in theatres and enjoy some of Cameron’s latest work as a nice filler until we get the long-awaited reveal of his newest technology and screen presence in Avatar 2. I can’t wait to see how they continue this franchise, and hopefully it is released in much less than 11 years down the road 🙂 Thanks for reading, cheers!

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