Film Review – Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

Title – Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

Director – Robert Rodriguez (Sin City)

Cast – Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Keean Johnson, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley

Plot – Female cyborg Alita (Salazar) is taken under the wing of Dr. Dyson Ido (Waltz) after he finds her left for dead on a scrap heap. Learning to come to terms with who and what she is, Alita must fight for her survival on her quest to discover her true calling.

“This is just your body. It’s not bad or good. That part’s up to you”

Review by Eddie on 15/02/2019

A long-term passion project for producer James Cameron, who handed over directing reigns to Robert Rodriguez after deciding to make 100 Avatar films, Alita: Battle Angel is one of the years biggest blockbuster risks as the $200 million dollar production looks to bring Yukito Kishiro famous graphic novel and anime to life for audiences around the world.

To say the risky production pulls off the difficult tasks completely would be wrong, as there’s a lot within Battle Angel that could’ve done with some refinement and readjustment but as a popcorn shoveling big screen spectacle, this visually stunning ride is right up with the best of them.

Set hundreds of years into the future, where humans and cyborgs have morphed into one, Battle Angel offers viewers a smorgasbord of visual delights as Cameron and Rodriguez’s production team push modern technology to the limit as they bring Rosa Salazar’s motion captured Alita to life and the hustling and bustling futuristic Iron City into existence.

Alita the character is the films biggest triumph. A photo-realistic creation that’s imbued with heart and soul by Salazar’s energetic and creative performance, any concerns fans had about Alita being done well should be well and truly put to rest within the films opening segments and full credit must go to the filmmakers and crew behind her creation.

Whenever Alita is front and centre to proceedings, the film feels like an adrenaline filled and heartfelt ride, but suffers in most departments around her.

Never a strong suit for the director, Rodriguez struggles in telling the story and explaining the world that encompasses Alita and her journey. There’s a lot of ground to cover for the film but in trying to do so supporting characters, dialogue and world building all suffer.

From barely explained past occurrences (wars with Mars, floating cities) to cookie-cutter or threadbare supporting turns (was that Jai Courtney I just saw? Why is Edward Norton dressed up like a Crash Bandicoot villain?) and some extremely cringe worthy dialogue, Rodriguez’s known flaws as a filmmaker do hold Battle Angel back from achieving something truly special, and you can’t help but feel if Cameron did indeed take hold of the reigns of this project the heart and soul and storytelling know-how would’ve matched the visual joys that are had.

One thing that not even the experience of Cameron could’ve saved however is a collection of irksome performances.

Lead by the far to gracious screen-time of Keean Johnson as Alita’s instant-boyfriend and scrap collector Hugo, Battle Angel gives some fairly so-so roles to performers who feel like they’re not having the best of times. Christoph Waltz looks bored and stilted as Alita’s new daddy Dr. Dyson Ido, Jennifer Connolly gets very little to do as Dyson’s ex-wife Chiren, while poor old Marershala Ali and the usually awesome Jackie Earle Haley (hidden in a completely CGI’d role) don’t have much luck as villains Vector and Gewwishka respectively.

The other big issue that will hold Battle Angel back in a lot of people’s books is in the fact despite its two hour plus run-time, you come away from the film feeling like its saved many of its huge spectacles or narrative pay-offs for its hopeful sequels, a shame as one feels like its unlikely Battle Angel will become the hit its filmmakers and studio expect, meaning we the audience have been in turn kept in the dark from the best this world and story has to offer, with the films ending a mostly buzz-free affair.

Final Say –

A visual and technical delight that should be enjoyed on the big screen, Alita: Battle Angel can’t match its spectacle with storytelling and character building, a shame since Alita is a lovable protagonist and creation, in a world that seems ripe for cinematic exploration.

3 hearts out of 5   

12 responses to “Film Review – Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

  1. It’s weak on the writing end, but Rodriguez certainly deserves credit for the visual stunner. I do hope we get a chance to see what happens next, for I’ve heard good things about the original manga!

    • Mate its so similar! I was talking to someone the other day about the exact thing. It’s a shame both films lacked in the character and storytelling departments.
      E

  2. If Rodriguez stuck to Cameron’s script without rewriting the dialogue, I’m not surprised most of the lines are clunky. I felt Rodriguez did a commendable job with the action and effects, but perhaps the story and dialogue issues came from Cameron trying to cleave close to the source material.
    Still, highly enjoyable movie tho.

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