‘Alita: Battle Angel’ is a Shiny, Beautiful Mess
We are there, guys…the future! The day James Cameron has constantly told us about between projects is finally here. From Titanic to Avatar to Alita: Battle Angel, Cameron has been great at saying “The technology wasn’t there then but it is now, so we knew it was the right time.” Rightfully he has some decent points, all three pictures had topnotch special effects, but in the case of Avatar and Alita: Battle Angel is it possible that paying too much attention to the tools might be at the behest of the film’s soul?
Admittedly, Alita is a nice cross-pollination of Cameron’s techy edge, director Robert Rodriguez’s sensibilities and a full on live action anime. But here Rodriguez’s choice to stay faithful to the source material has big gaps of painfully bad dialogue and direction. Similar to his choice to keep close to his Sin City adaptation, where the hard as nails noir voice worked for the screen, he keeps a little too close in Alita with less success and a hodgepodge of disjointed direction.
While Cameron and Weta Digital’s involvement is absolutely clear, and the visuals they bring to the table are stellar, it is also clear at a lot of points that nobody bothered to pay attention to how the script was going. That includes Rodriguez who is notoriously known for meticulous shot planning and coverage.
However, Alita: Battle Angel shines its brightest in moments spent in close proximity with Alita herself (Rosa Salazar). This includes moments of her eviscerating the bad guys in big action set pieces to more human moments, like her trying a chocolate bar for the first time. There is also a strange emotional connection with the FX constructed Alita that is strangely the most human and impactful out of the casts lot. This especially extends to the usually amazing Christoph Waltz who seems confused about what he has gotten himself into for the entirety of the film.
For the first thirty minutes or so of Alita: Battle Angel, I was one hundred percent onboard with the direction I was totally swept up in. It has an excellent setup that sadly begins to fall apart when Alita heads out and meets her soon to be love interest, Hugo. From there it quickly becomes a B movie through the lens of a 90’s Sunny D commercial.
There are moments of levity but they are few and far between clouded mostly by big, bad, cringe worthy strings of dialogue. I can see that these big dialogue moments were an intentional approach in order to stay in the true to form style of anime, but it does not transfer well at all. All of the should be emotional bits of the movie are drug down and become almost laughable when implemented.
The editing in this film is some of the worst I have seen in awhile. Get ready to mouth, “How the fuck did they get there already?” cause you are going to be doing it a lot. Unfortunately, it becomes the most painful in the films climactic third act as characters seemingly zap from one location to another with gusto that will leave your head spinning.
The folks over at Weta FX are flat out geniuses once again. I was able to check this one out in IMAX 3D and it is a genuine spectacle when it comes to it’s visuals and bone crushing fight scenes. The action is really badass and what keeps the otherwise erratic pacing manageable… if just barely.
Rosa Salazar, who brings life to Alita, is great as usual. She bridges the spectrum of cuteness to the art of badassery in single bounds, those that know her from her excellent work in Night Owls are in for another helping of Salazar doing a her fair share of more awesome things.
If you are a huge fan of the Manga source material, then prepare to be both satisfied by its reverence and simultaneously let down in a magnitude of other ways. This film was a long time in the making, maybe somewhere along that long timeline the pieces fit to create a new sci-fi classic, but this sadly gestated a little too long and became a really fantastic looking and expensive B-movie. The idea that the film sets the pieces up for a sequel is brave to say the least.
Alita: Battle Angel deserves a viewing in IMAX 3D for the pure spectacle of the whole beautiful mess, but sadly it won’t be taking up the same reverence as the classic and path blazing Manga.
Rated PG-13 For: Sci-Fi violence, action, some language
Runtime: 2h 2min
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Sci-Fi, Action, Adventure, Romance
Starring: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 3.5/ Acting: 2.5/ Directing 3/ Visuals 5
OVERALL: 3 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: No
Check out the trailer below: