Alita: Battle Angel Has The Heart Of A Sci-Fi Champion

February 24, 2019

 

A petite, cyborg super-soldier whose mechanics are bested only by her spirit, Alita makes the transition from manga to the big screen smoothly while providing loads of hard sci-fi/cyberpunk entertainment.

 

:::spoilers ahead:::

 

Take one look at the characters of Alita: Battle Angel, and you'll think you're looking at promotional posters for Cyberpunk 2077. Metal everywhere, swords for arms, it's a far-future dystopian dream! (oxymoron?)

 

Alita's YA roots had me worried, as did its comic book origins. Typically, these elements are a recipe for disaster in adapted speculative fiction film making. But aside from a few immature lines of dialogue, Alita: Battle Angel does a pretty solid job of checking off the necessary cinematic boxes.

 

It's a visually rich film loaded with visions of a robotic future half a millennium away.

 

I happened to see Alita: Battle Angel in Real D 3D with THX sound in one of Cinemark's premium XD theatres and it satisfied the senses. I've never been a huge fan of Real 3D, and would definitely recommend this film be seen in IMAX 3D if possible.

 

Aside from the sometimes over-simplified dialogue, I'd say my second biggest gripe with the film was its herky jerky pacing. Sometimes, Alita will find herself marveling at her own fingers, toes, and pliability for a good 120 seconds, only to be involved in epic hand-to-hand combat just moments later.

In other scenes, Alita seems to speak on topics, such as life as a Hunter-Warrior as if she's quite experienced, when in actually she's a teen-aged girl who's been in her line of work for just a few minutes.

 

     All Images: 20th Century Fox

 

There were definitely several instances when I felt the dialogue didn't have to be as straight forward, and that the gas-break-gas-break nature of a few scenes could have been more streamlined.

 

(I'd be curious to hear what the average viewer 15-24 years of age would have to say about these same cinematic critiques, as I'm sure most of them wouldn't have found these gripes nearly as offensive.)

 

The dynamic between Alita and her boyfriend Hugo is silly in some regards, but believable enough to make his inevitable doom just emotionally impactful enough to give you some feels.

 

Christoph Waltz executes a respectable performance as Alita's "father", and Chiren's (Alita's mother's) character, played by Jennifer Connelly, is a pleasant addition, but my favorite character of the film has to be Zapan, played by Ed Ekrein.

He's the only character whose attributes truly stand out, from his appearance, to his demeanor, and even down to his (Austalian?) accent. You feel his badassary, and respect him as a character, and that's definitely a mark of good story telling.

 

(And while we're on the topic of characters, was it really necessary to make Vector look like Blade's long lost brother?)

 

 

If nothing else, Alita: Battle Angel is a couple hours of pure science fiction eye candy, and that carries a lot of weight, especially for a sci-fi fiend such as myself.

 

Alita: Battle Angel certainly had its glimmering moments. Whether I was admiring the aesthetic design of multiple killer robots, or just enjoying other people's vision of what life could be like several centuries from now, Alita's pros far outweighed its cons.

 

With James Cameron's involvement, it's hard to imagine the film would be painfully sub-par in any regards, and that's one of the reasons I was able to walk into the theatre confidently, knowing there was a pretty good chance I was in for a treat.

Even with its missteps, many of which are subjective in nature, Alita's overall production is sound, its world building is enjoyable, and its roster is stacked with unique, intriguing, and memorable characters you'll think about long after you've left the theatre.

 

-A.C.H.

 

 

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