Written and produced by James Cameron and directed by Robert Rodriquez (Machete Kill/Sin City: A Dame to Kill For), Alita: Battle Angel grants all the spectacle one would expect and then some. As was expected, Alita offers the audience a beautiful and massive sci-fi world that I fully expect to be the best looking 4K film that will release for a few years. Much like Valerian it is a visually stunning achievement that should be congratulated and hopefully given some nods when award season comes around. Luckily, it is much better than Valerian despite that fact that Alita will likely go down as a box office dud much the same.
The film is no masterpiece but it is a darn great time! Full of action packed sequences that left me extremely entertained it delivered exactly what I came for; visually stunning, adrenaline pumping action. Anyone that expected this to be anything other than a fun popcorn flick will be disappointed as Alita: Battle Angel has very little substance beyond that. I don’t personally see this as a bad thing, rather I view it as a positive. Too many TV shows and movies today are trying to push a message. To be fair, Alita has a small message about corrupt governments but it played more like a story point rather than an agenda. Ultimately the film is intended as an adeventure full of spectacle and energy and it delivers in both regards.
The lead actress Rosa Salazar (Maze Runner: The Death Cure/Bird Box) delivered an outstanding performance. Considering that her face was 100% CGI the entire film and that Rosa is in her mid 30’s, she did a great job playing a character that is meant to act like a teenager. When Alita is first introduced into the world, she is amazed at all she sees. Her sense of wonder and excitement drew me into the world that was built here. The world itself was nothing new. If you have seen Elysium, it felt a lot like that in many ways. A world below for the average person and a world above for the rich and powerful. It focuses much less on the upper world but still had a similar feel to Elysium and other films that focus on the same ideas. Despite the world feeling familiar, Alita’s excitement and joy with it made me more immersed and interested in what I was watching. The cyborgs, futuristic technology, culture and more were fun to behold for a sci-fi nerd like myself. A bit generic in nature yes, but pure joy nonetheless.
The supporting cast comprised of big names like Christoph Waltz (Spectre/Inglorious Bastards), Jennifer Connelly (Requiem for a Dream/A Beautiful Mind) and Mahershala Ali (Moonlight/Luke Cage) was great except for Alita’s love interest Hugo, played by Keean Johnson (Nashville/The Fosters). Keean and Rosa (Hugo and Alita) had little on-screen chemistry and the love story between them was exceptionally weak and uninteresting. Keean offered little in the way of like able characteristics and his acting was sub-par to say the least, especially when stacked next to Rosa Salazar who played Alita charmingly. The writing in their romance was so one sided that it never felt real. Alita was clearly obsessed with Hugo who didn’t show the same level of interest until much later in the film. By the time they got around to him feeling strongly for her, it had developed so poorly it felt rushed. I understand the appeal of adding a love story into the film but this one was so embarrassingly bad that it didn’t need to be there. The relationship between the two characters is key to the story but I feel that a platonic relationship would have been far better in this situation.
Where the love story lacked, the visuals and action made up for it. Wow is the best way to describe it. Alita is extremely strange looking at first with her massive eyes but she fit into the environment quite well, especially considering so many characters were similar in the fact that they had machine bodies and human heads. I fully anticipate some award nods in the effects department. When comparing the battle sequences from Alita to a film like Deadpool 2, the CGI fighting was not even close. Near the end of Deadpool 2, two CGI characters fight in a rather poorly rendered sequence. Alita on the other hand executes these computer generated battles so flawlessly that it often felt like these two cyborg combatants were real machines fighting one another.
Alita: Battle Angel is a film that may unfortunately be a flop but one that does not deserve to be. It’s a silly film that feels very much like a Japanese Manga (which it is based on) but that is where its charm lies. It isn’t trying to be a serious Oscar worthy movie. Instead, much like Ready Player One from last year, Alita: Battle Angel seeks to entertain and provide an escape from the reality we live in now. The world in which the audience is taken is comprised of wonder, beauty, despair and excitement. Much like the world we live in now, it contains good and bad people. Alita finds its strength in being a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously and in being something that we need right now… fun. I had a blast in the theater and look forward to re-watching the bar fight scene in 4K when it releases in a few months. Alita is a first class bad-ass and the film named after her character deserves to be watched again and again. I recommend you give it a try Crunchers and do so while it is in the theaters. Like all James Cameron films, it is best experienced on the big screen.
4 out of 5 Couch Cushions!!!