“ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL” is a science-fiction adventure directed by Robert Rodriguez. James Cameron is in the co-writer chair and producing. Rosa Salazar is in the lead as Alita and she has a great supporting cast with Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali and Ed Skein. The story for this one is dense for a quick synopsis. In short, it’s hundreds of years in the future. Cyborg technology and humans co-exist. It’s an age of despair for those on the ground in Iron City, and an age of luxury for those in the floating city of Tiphares. While out scouting for salvage parts a doctor finds a disembodied female cyborg. He brings her back to life and she will have to discover who she is, and where she came from. She will also learn that she is a warrior. A very deadly one that could change the balance of Iron City, to end the despair for good.
This movie is the combination of the first four entries in Yukito Kishiro’s manga series and it does cover a lot of ground story-wise. It plugs in a ton of world-building through exposition filled dialogue throughout the film, but it didn’t bother me at all. Some science-fiction purists may not like the fact is doesn’t deep-dive into the layers of the world this story is set in. But while watching I consistently felt caught up with things. Plus, with a nice delivery of the who, what, when, why, and where of the plot-points I was able to grasp the relevance of many scenes as well as the emotional weight and intrigue of the various relationship dynamics.
This is very much a wide-sweeping science-fiction saga. But it’s also a coming of age story. It’s a romance story as well with shades of a young-adult novel to it. I think all of these elements were woven together nicely with an even amount of attention given to make each of them to make the substance resonate with me. They all had their own arc that ties back into the main character and the growth in her was compelling to witness. The love she felt for the guy who caught her eye felt sincere with a heartwarming innocence. These story dynamics were all draped over the spectacle of the science-fiction themes perfectly to result in a cinematic-experience. One that absolutely must be seen on the big-screen.
The technical crafting overall was phenomenal. There wasn’t a single frame that wasn’t beautifully constructed. It was as immersive a film as I can remember seeing, and for two-hours this thing was dazzling my eyes with a literal non-stop feast of spectacular visuals. Character designs were detailed and imaginative. Each set-piece was immaculate with intricate modeling. Landscapes and backdrops were extremely rich with depth. Textures captured the grime of the city streets, the elegance of the technology, and the grittiness of it as well. The lighting and the color pallet captured many different moods, emotional tones, as well as a thought-provoking future world. All of which made this movie a complete blast from start-to-finish.
The 3-D element to this one was also amazing. I’m honestly hit-and-miss with 3-D movies, but when done right I really enjoy the feeling of being pulled into the story. Something this movie pulls off because it was the best use of IMAX 3-D that I can remember in years. It truly brought the film to life and even without this added feature, this is still a wildly adventurous story that can take you on a thrilling and endearing ride. But putting the glasses on is what makes this movie an experience in my opinion. There will be no forgetting you are watching a 3-D movie as things are constantly pouring out of the screen and into the audience. Each set-piece is layered with impressive depth and if you don’t mind the glasses, I highly recommend it to see what this movie can deliver visually.
The motion-capture work was top-of the-line. It effortlessly allowed the emotion and charisma of the lead performance to shine. Rosa Salazar commanded the screen with her sincerity. She captured the needed range of emotion with a natural delivery and felt like a very humanized but still robotic like you would expect from an advanced cyborg. Christoph Waltz was excellent. He was calm, cool, and collected at all times and perfect for this role. He also had a warm, natural chemistry with Salazar that made their scenes together much more intriguing. Jennifer Connelly and Mahershala Ali were both more than serviceable. However, I do think their characters were hindered from some express development. I still think they worked for the story needs and they without question brought a noticeable capability to some otherwise routine characters, but I would have liked to know more about them.
I think express is a good word to use when describing the story as well. It did feel like a bullet-point narrative for the most part. Admittedly I loved what it did tell me. But it also felt like there was more to be told. Things are happening very quickly throughout this film. Relationships are developing, events and unfolding, and situations are constantly advancing. The exposition does a great job of keeping the viewer up to speed. But at the same time, there were sections where it felt like some significant amounts of story could have been told in between things we see onscreen. It didn’t hinder the film for me though, primarily because it was a well-crafted adventure with endless amounts of intense sequences. So, with so many other positives in its corned that had me engaged and up in my seat, I completely invested regardless.
This film was certainly not a case of style-over-substance, although a little more substance sprinkled in could have been nice. I thoroughly enjoyed what this movie did give me though and despite being cutting-edge it still captured an old-school sci-fi appeal that I loved. It could have been darker, and more exploratory within the story itself. But I think this movie found a nicely positioned middle-ground that can make it mass consumable and appealing a much wider audience because this is a stunning film, and those do not come cheap.