Apocalyptic action and more galore in ‘Alita: Battle Angel’
“Alita: Battle Angel” is the newest sci-fi cyberpunk ride from director Robert Rodriguez and writer/producer James Cameron. Based on the classic manga by Yukito Kishiro, the film takes place in 26thcentury, where the world has been ravaged by a great war known as The Fall. A disembodied female body is discovered by scientist Dr. Dyson and is brought back to life as a cyborg. Now named Alita, the young woman attempts to discover more about her past, which she feels she can unlock by becoming a bounty hunter.
What immediately stands out with “Alita” are its use of visual effects, which, for the most part, are remarkable overall. While the heavy use of CGI can be overbearing and distracting at times, most of it ultimately helps in realizing this world. The production design is well done, offering a creative take on a futuristic landscape by utilizing a variety of influences to create a unique world that appears rustic and worn out, while still feeling believably livable.
The effects also lend themselves to what may be the film’s highlight, the action sequences. Even though the cinematography and editing could have used a bit more of punch to fully deliver these scenes, the choreography and effects themselves were incredible achievements. The fast-paced, slick movements gave these scenes a high level of energy that were always entertaining and creatively done.
On top of the execution of these scenes, the setup and context of them added a lot to the level of investment. What was at stake during these set pieces was made clear before they would start, and this allowed for the buildup and tension to never let up. While there are a lot of moments worth mentioning, a bar fight scene towards the middle of the film was easily the highlight in both action, tone and pacing.
The character of Alita, herself, was well developed and enjoyable to watch. Alita’s (literally) wide-eyed, naïve nature made her character very easy to like and connect to during the emotional scenes. But when she needs to become go full on battle mode, the transition made feels smooth as butter, and our investment in her character is consistently high due to her development. The rest of the cast deliver decent performances, with Christoph Waltz’s Dr. Dyson and Mahershala Ali’s Vector being notable additions to the cast.
This is where some of the film’s problems start to show, however. Overall, it all boils down to the very crammed nature of the movie that doesn’t allow for certain plot points and characters to shine. It becomes obvious that the movie exists to hopefully launch a franchise yet still feels like it doesn’t have the patience to fit some of its content into a later sequel. This becomes apparent towards the end, as the film’s final act feels tacked on. Taking place after the film’s central action piece, the final act lacks the same level of tight pacing or investment as the rest of the film.
A lot of this could be because the movie is banking on its audience to be very invested in the romantic relationship between Alita and her love interest Hugo, which, sadly, is not the case. While their relationship is given a lot of time to receive development, it is the lack of originality or personality given to Hugo that ultimately leaves the romance feeling flat. Because of this, as well as some weak twists revealed, the final act drags on and losses any of the tension or energy present elsewhere in the movie.
“Alita: Battle Angel” may not be anything great, but it remains a fun, energetic sci-fi flick worth giving a shot. Despite a flat final act and some plot points that could have benefited from more exploration, there is still enough to take away from the movie to ultimately enjoy it, even if there isn’t much that will stick with you by the end.