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Alita: Battle Angel

Platform(s): Movie
Genre: Action
Publisher: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: Feb. 14, 2019


Movie Review - 'Alita: Battle Angel'

by Adam Pavlacka on Feb. 15, 2019 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

Alita: Battle Angel is an action-packed story of one young woman's journey to discover the truth of who she is and her fight to change the world.

An adaptation of the Japanese manga of a similar name (Battle Angel Alita is the manga), "Alita: Battle Angel" tells the story of an amnesiac cyborg who needs to find her way in a postapocalyptic world. It's a critique on the human condition that starts out strong but ultimately fails to stick the landing. The result is a visually stunning film with superficial characters, but the movie isn't as deep as it thinks it is.

All of "Alita: Battle Angel" is beautifully shot, from the early images of her discovery to the all-out action sequences and the noir-style scenes of Alita discovering the truth about her world. As a popcorn flick and special effects showcase, "Alita" delivers. The majority of its issues can be traced back to the script.

When director Robert Rodriguez got the original story draft from producer James Cameron, it was too long for a single film. Instead of shortening the story beats, scenes were cut, and the script was optimized. While this allowed for a shorter film, it also makes for a number of accelerated sequences that introduce us to characters but fail to fully develop them.

A perfect example of this is Christoph Waltz as Dyson Ito, the scientific genius who restores Alita to life. The early beats of the film show him as Alita's moral compass. He tries to instill in her a sense of right and wrong, as well as lessons about free will. Ito knows what Alita is, though, and hides the truth from her, along with the truth about his work as a Hunter-Warrior. All of this provides ample depth for conflict and learning, but it's all quickly glossed over as the film speeds on to the next story beat. It's a shame, as Waltz's performance shines during the time he is on-screen.

Other conflicts arise in the story, such as Hugo (Keean Johnson), Alita's love interest, who also has a bit of a dark side. The movie touches on it, sets up things for an emotional conflict with Alita, and then skims right over it. Given that Alita's answer to every problem is basically to stab it, shoot it, or blow it up, this was a missed opportunity. Because of the abbreviated story, some characters have allegiance turns, which should be pivotal moments but end up feeling like they happened because the script needed them to happen. There's no rhyme or reason to it, which leaves the bulk of the last act feeling unearned.

One shining point throughout the entire film is Alita herself, thanks in no small part to Rosa Salazar's performance. Despite the script issues, Salazar rises above the limitations and puts in a performance worthy of the original story. There are issues with the film, but none of them have to do with the lead actress.

Another strong point is the combat choreography. Rodriguez has a solid eye for combat, and he puts that to excellent use here. The fights in "Alita: Battle Angel" are impressive to watch, as the various players face off against one another. Some can get a bit violent (Alita may look like a teenage girl, but she was built as a killing machine), but the violence is easier to take due to the lack of blood. Still, it might not be the best film for younger kids.

In the end, "Alita: Battle Angel" is hampered most by trying to fit too much into a limited amount of time. If the movie had another hour to properly flesh out its themes, or if the last act had been saved for the sequel and this film focused more on character development, it would have been a much better experience. On the upside, it does show us what Salazar can do. If she can carry this script as well as she does, I look forward to seeing what she can accomplish with a better story in hand.

Score: 6.5/10

"Alita: Battle Angel" is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 2 hours and 2 minutes. It is showing in 2-D, 3-D and IMAX 3D.

You can also check out our earlier interview with Alita: Battle Angel's cast & crew.

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