Time: 122 Minutes
Age Rating: Violence, offensive language & content that may disturb
Rosa Salazar as Alita
Christoph Waltz as Dr. Dyson Ido
Mahershala Ali as Vector
Keean Johnson as Hugo
Jennifer Connelly as Chiren
Ed Skrein as Zapan
Jackie Earle Haley as Grewishka
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Set several centuries in the future, the abandoned Alita (Rosa Salazar) is found in the scrapyard of Iron City by Ido (Christoph Walt), a compassionate cyber-doctor who takes the unconscious cyborg Alita to his clinic. When Alita awakens, she has no memory of who she is, nor does she have any recognition of the world she finds herself in. As Alita learns to navigate her new life and the treacherous streets of Iron City, Ido tries to shield her from her mysterious past.
Alita: Battle Angel is a movie I had been hearing about for a while, mainly about how it was based on an manga and the lead actress had motion capture to make her eyes bigger to make her look like the lead character from the source material. Aside from that I really didn’t look too much into the movie. As it started to get close to its release date however, I started to pay attention to it, and I was starting to look forward to it. It has a cast involving Christoph Waltz and Mahershala Ali, James Cameron is producing it, Robert Rodriguez is directing it and at the very least, it looked very visually entertaining. Alita: Battle Angel was better than I thought it would be. It suffers from some problems (mainly the sequel baiting) but on the whole I liked it.
Alita is based on a manga series that I haven’t read but I’ve heard it has a following. I was really wrapped up with this story and the world that it existed in. There is a lot of worldbuilding and for the most part I really liked it. One of the biggest things to note is that this is clearly setting up for future movies and you can feel that throughout the entirety of the movie. For the first two acts it feels like it’s the first half of a movie, I was still on board with what was going on, it’s just that it feels like we should’ve progressed much further in the overall story than we did. With that said, compared to some other movies that try to do a ton of worldbuilding in their first movie, Alita actually does it alright. There is some exposition that just flew completely past me and I didn’t process everything that was set up, however I was able to follow the main story. It also does some sequel baiting and is really relying on the assumption that it will receive some sequels to continue the rest of the story. With that it feels like it’s restraining itself to have this movie cover up to a certain point in the story because other movies would cover later portions of the plot. With that it does make me think that it should’ve been longer, it’s surprisingly only 2 hours long.
Rosa Salazar was perfect in the titular role of the cyborg Alita. You immediately like her when she first appears and she just has such an on screen presence, convincing in both her innocence and in how capable and dangerous she is. She goes through some development over the course of the movie and she was one of the strongest parts of the movie. The rest of the cast is also good. Christoph Waltz is well suited in his role as the scientist who puts Alita back together (best performance I’ve seen from him in a while) and Jennifer Connelly is also good in her role. Mahershala Ali is one of the best actors working right now and here he gets to chew the scenery as one of the villains, it’s not one of his best performances by any means but he plays his role well despite not getting much to do here. The cybernetic villains really get to show off more, with both Ed Skrein and Jackie Earle Haley working well as formidable adversaries for Alita in motion captured roles. The weakest link in the cast was Keean Johnson, but I don’t think it’s necessarily him that’s the problem, it’s more his character and the whole romantic subplot with Alita. Sequel baiting aside, that romantic subplot was the weakest part of the movie, it follows very familiar beats and isn’t entirely convincing, it just feel really forced. I’ve seen it done worse in other movies, it’s just that it really sticks out in this movie when everything else is really good. Thankfully certain reveals at least give his character more to work with than just being the love interest. There are also surprisingly brief appearances from some known actors in the movie. I looked up the cast list after watching and there were some names that I recognised, which was even more surprising since I didn’t notice them in their roles in the movie. Some of them appear in a couple scenes at most. A couple are full on cameos and don’t appear for more than 10 seconds, one of them was quite jarring and was in the middle of the movie. The other was at the end of the movie, in a key role who is clearly going to be heavily involved with the future movies (if they are going to happen). The cameo is also from an underrated but recognisable actor and if the sequels do get made, I’m looking forward to seeing him again.
Robert Rodriguez directed Alita really well, it is really worth seeing in the cinema because it’s a stunning looking movie, Bill Pope really shot this really well. Any time there’s an action scene, it’s fantastic, it’s fast, it’s brutal, and these scenes are among the best moments of the film. Battle Angel can also be surprisingly violent despite it’s PG-13/M rating, there are decapitations and limbs being sliced off and it’s very effective and I loved watching that. Alita does seem to have the upper hand in each situation she’s in (at least in this movie) however it’s directed in such a way that you still feel quite a bit of tension as the people she’s up against seem incredibly dangerous. The visual effects are really good as to be expected but the practical sets and effects are also worth praising, they really have designed this world very well and put a lot of thought into it. Much of the designs are creative and exaggerated which fit this world that they created. As for the motion capture on Rosa Salazar for Alita, it actually works pretty well, you get used to the design very quickly. The score by Tom Holkenborg/Junkie XL is among one of his best, fitting the movie very well and particularly shines during the action scenes.
Alita: Battle Angel is a visually stunning, entertaining and all around solid cyberpunk movie, led by a fantastic performance by Rosa Salazar. I really do think it’s worth seeing, especially in the cinema. Even if you don’t like the story, it’s worth seeing for the visuals alone. I really hope we get to see the sequels, there’s a lot that they set up here and there’s a lot of potential for this series to be truly great.