Directed by Robert Rodriguez, not a selling point for me. I’ve never been a fan with the exception of two of his films, Desperado and From Dusk Till Dawn, his work has never really connected with me. And I’ll be honest, a majority of the heavy lifting in those two movies was done by Salma Hayek, I don’t think I need to explain why. So when I saw this was being helmed by the same man it left me less than interested. With this in mind I went into the screening with zero expectations hoping for at least a mild surprise and escaping having seen something other than a complete failure.
Alita: Battle Angel is computer generated cyber chaos. If you can embrace the madness the rewards are plenty in this surprisingly fun, kinetic actioner that reaches for more and for the most part grasps firmly upon everything it was searching for. With James Cameron mapping things out, the story of Alita becomes one of ambition in every regard.
The visuals implement state-of-the-art techniques for facial recognition and digital re-creation, making everything on screen feel in-camera photorealistic. From the background of the chaotic Motorball scenes to the more intimate moments of two lovers kissing for the first time in the rain, it all feels apart of the same world, just waiting to be experienced in the most visceral sense.
As for the story it takes on a simple concept of what it’s like for a young girl finding her way through early womanhood and taking the most insane spin on that idea by implementing cyborgs and otherworldly concepts. But no matter how crazy things get Alita always finds itself going back to the girl herself, watching as she finds her way through moments any girl of any era can relate to. At what point is it okay to go out on one’s own? What is true love? What happens when we allow our braver sensibilities to take over? All of these questions approached in Alita are found in everyday life, here and now. This is what makes the character of Alita a timeless heroine for the insecure to become something greater.
Rosa Salazar stars as the titular character and embodies everything that makes Alita not only a warrior of legendary abilities but she also fully embraces the more tender moments of a girl discovering her new world. She showcases the familiar growing pains of being a teenager; the balance of trying to obey your parents and the need to find oneself out in the world, to find out what that looks like is everything as a teenager and Rosa delivers a performance everyone can be proud of and relate to for so many reasons. This is an asset provided by the wide-eyed look to Alita, it’s physical symbolism of an ability to see the world for what it is, all the beauty and all the ugliness. She sees the world and loves not only what it does for her, but what she can do to help it, to ultimately save it.
Christoph Waltz delivers an expectedly reliable performance but beyond his and Rosa’s, the performances weren’t awful but just rather forgettable. They feel more representative of something, an emotion, or rather an emotional moment where anyone can insert themselves and find their relatability in that particular scene featuring a stock character. The love interest for Alita is exactly that and not much else. His character arc is predictable but I think necessary making his time on screen not a total waste of time but as I said, anything but memorable. Any attractive guy in his early twenties could have taken on the role and it would have played out exactly the same.
Beyond the lackluster performances I think the greatest weakness is in the story moments and character developments that occur without Alita as the focus. She is the heart and soul of this story, she is ultimately what makes all of this nonsense work. When she is front and center it’s always engaging but when she’s pushed aside however briefly, the characters beyond her just aren’t as interesting therefore those scenes are less engrossing as a result. But I must stress these moments are minimal and nowhere close enough to ruin an otherwise fantastical interpretation of the future of our world.
Alita: Battle Angel is anything but perfect but even as a non-fan of the director who had little to no interest in this film, I can say quite confidently how surprising and entertaining Alita truly is. The character and her story, from beginning innocence to harrowing bad ass, Alita is anything but helpless and anything but hopeless.
Rated PG-13 For: sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language
Runtime: 122 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Romance
Starring: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Mahershala Ali, Jennifer Connelly
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 3.5/ Acting: 4/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 5
OVERALL: 4 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the trailer below:
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