Alita: Battle Angel asks quite a few questions, delivers less answers but keeps you attached to the screen because Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron understand that even carnage in the form of cyberpunk CGI can be delivered to stun visually.
Based on Yukito Kishiro’s popular manga series originally titled ‘Gunnm’ that was later retitled Battle Angel Alita in English adaptations, the film follows the cyborg heroine (Rosa Salazar) whose damaged body is discovered by renowned scientist Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) who puts her into the body shell he created for his deceased daughter and bestows her name – Alita. No memory of her previous life, Alita begins a journey of rediscovering the world around her, the post-apocalyptic 26th century where the wealthy live in a sky city called Zalem while the rest live down in Iron City.
She befriends and subsequently falls in love with Hugo (Keean Johnson) who introduces her to the sport of Motorball – a rugby/basketball combo sport on steroids - where cyborgs battle to the death and the winner gets to fly up to Zalem. Unbeknownst to Alita, Hugo is in league with Vector and doing his dirty work becomes the means of his escape to Zalem. Together with Ido and Hugo, Alita must face multiple trials before discovering her former identity and accepting who she really is.
The film has quite a few plotlines strung up together that make for a somewhat uneasy experience – it’s roughly 120 minutes long but feels longer. Splitting the story up into two parts would have been a better option and allowed for a cleaner and more simplistic narrative. The CGI is leagues better than what Warner Bros did with Aquaman but I am sure that Alita won’t have as high a box office revenue specifically for the aforementioned reason. While I absolutely enjoyed the world building and the setup for the sequel (keep an eye out for that cameo at the end) – I did not connect as well with the story as much as I badly wanted to.
Rosa Salazar does an amazing job infusing life into the digitally created Alita but the two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz I felt was criminally underused. Maybe that’s just because we’ve seen him in so many interesting villainous roles and his portrayal of Ido as a good guy somewhat pales in comparison to Hans Landa from Inglorious Basterds. Mahershala Ali and Jennifer Connelly do justice to their villainous characters but I would have loved to have seen their characters expanded further over a few sequels.
In development since the early 2000s, I believe that Alita: Battle Angel is a worthy adaptation of a manga to live action. It falls short in a few places but allows for an entertaining CGI fest – especially the fight scenes and the Motorball sequences. It is especially fascinating to see how far motion-capture tech has evolved to the point where you somewhat forget that more than half the characters in the film are computer generated. A definite must-watch for manga fans, Alita will take up a portion of your evening and probably leave you confused as to character motivations but makes up for it by delivering the only thing what the trailers promised – good action.
Courtesy of Akash SK