For our original review of Alita: Battle Angel, click here.
Synopsis: When Alita awakens with no memory of who she is in a future world she does not recognize, she is taken in by Ido, a compassionate doctor who realizes that somewhere in this abandoned cyborg shell is the heart and soul of a young woman with an extraordinary past. As Alita learns to navigate her new life and the treacherous streets of Iron City, Ido tries to shield her from her mysterious history while her street-smart new friend Hugo offers instead to help trigger her memories. But it is only when the deadly and corrupt forces that run the city come after Alita that she discovers a clue to her past – she has unique fighting abilities that those in power will stop at nothing to control. If she can stay out of their grasp, she could be the key to saving her friends, her family and the world she’s grown to love. (20th Century Fox)
Starring: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, and Mahershala Ali
Writers: James Cameron, Laeta Kalogridis, and Robert Rodriguez
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Rating: 14A (Canada)/PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 122mins
While watching Alita: Battle Angel, it is hard to deny that there is plenty of vision at play on screen. Whether or not the film succeeds will depend on the viewer’s willingness to buy into that vision. Suffice it to say that there is quite a lot going on here both on the visual side and the story side. Most will remember it for its visuals but its story will leave much to be desired. What will surely be considered a cult favorite for some will also fall into the category of so-bad-it’s-good category for others. Upon further analysis, it has all the qualities of either category depending on viewer perception. On one side, it’s based on a popular Japanese manga called Battle Angel Alita though on the other, it is ridiculously cheesy, over-the-top, and most importantly, a convoluted mess.
The film wants you to care about it’s big, sprawling world and it’s characters but it certainly didn’t make it easy by always keeping viewers at arms length while bombarding us with dull exposition. The story was obviously about an abandoned Cyborg girl with a mysterious past named Alita (Salazar). Recovered by Dr. Dyson Ido (Waltz), the two would form a sort of father-daughter bond. However, there would be much more lying below the surface. She would also befriend a street kid named Hugo (Keenan Johnson) for whom their relationship would become something more. These would be some of the many subplots that only flooded the narrative.
The many subplots at play here would work against the tone and failed to create a cohesive story. This made it difficult to ever become engaged in the story enough to care. This would only make it harder and harder to watch as it would just become more and more ridiculous as the film went on. The laughable, god-awful dialog would be painful to watch thus furthering the already large disconnect with its story and characters. This doesn’t exactly help when its intention is to create a new franchise. Whether or not it will continue from here remains to be seen but the film’s cliffhanger ending leaves that possibility wide open, ending abruptly at the most inopportune moment. However, the one thing it did offer would be some somewhat exciting action sequences (which may or may not look good in IMAX) though there wasn’t nearly enough of them.
Unfortunately for the acting, the mediocre script and god-awful dialog did not do it any favors. Perhaps not entirely her fault, Salazar would look nearly lifeless as the mostly CGI Alita but she was not the only one. Most of the actors seemed like they didn’t want to be there, looking disinterested and effectively phoning in their respective performances as a result. Waltz was okay as Ido though would be underutilized as a whole. Ali as the film’s underutilized villain Vector did his best Morpheus impression. Jennifer Connelly as Chiren was mostly in the background. It was a shame to watch these three Oscar-winning actors sink this low.
Overall, Alita: Battle Angel is a painful though visually impressive sci-fi film that was undoubtedly full of vision but it just never could put it all together while never giving us enough of a reason to care. As a whole, it was an incoherent mess full of lazy world-building, plenty of dull exposition and characters, a convoluted, derivative, and ridiculous story, a mediocre script full of laughable, god-awful dialog, and disinterested performances. Definitely the ingredients you need to create a long-lasting franchise.