Written by: Peggy Marie, Staff Writer for CC2K
From the dark depths of the cold Los Angeles winter evening, the dare of going to see this film was accepted. Seeing “ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL” the last film under the 20th Century Fox banner before the Disney takeover seemed essential.
Needless to say, picking ‘truth’ vs ‘dare’ might have been the better choice, as while it took 10 yrs to get made, it only takes 10 minutes to wish you had stayed at home as it’s a film completely taken from a barrage of other films.
Not having read the source material but knowing that Alita was originally a Manga comic series which is a Japanese graphic art novel. It seems James Cameron, along with Robert Rodriguez, are bringing the first of four of these books to the cinema with this film. From the little research I did into this, eastern stories have a lot of tradition – one being that any hero is the last practitioner of a secret and are martial arts experts. In Alita’s case this is something that I read to be Panzer Kunst which means Tank Art according to the online translator. She also, predictably, has no memory of her past which means we can go on this voyage of growth and discovery together.
The story is set in the South American, Iron City in the shadow of a gigantic floating station from another lifetime, three hundred years after a great war. So: post apocalyptic dystopia. There is a blend of architectures, super cyberpunk characters, ruins and fragments of forgotten technologies. It looks great and the CGI is fantastic. It all starts with ex-engineer Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoff Waltz) finding the head and shoulders of a female cyborg in a junk pile. Somehow, magically the brain is still alive. So like in the story of Humpty Dumpty, he puts her back together again and proceeds to treat her as his daughter who was, you guessed it, named Alita (played here by Rosa Salazar). Alita has no memory of who she once was but she immediately finds love with the handsome motorcycle riding human Hugo (Keenan Johnson), and also finds out within hours that she possess the ability fight like a highly trained martial artist. When Hugo introduces Alita to the brutal spectator sport of Motorball, where the carnage is more important than the score and the winner gets a ticket to the space station, all bets are on you know who is going to want to be a Motorball star and where the film will be taking us.
‘If’ this film, which had it maybe been made 10 years ago before we had say Pacific Rim, or ‘if’ it had maybe one original idea of its own, one might have really enjoyed it. As is, ‘Motorball’ the game it portrays, is taken wholly of the original 70’s Rollerball with James Caan (catorgically a much better film by the way). ‘If’ maybe the baddies like Zapan (Ed Skrein) weren’t simply already done so many times before, or ‘if’ Jennifer Connelly & Mahershala Ali had just not phoned in their performances and ‘if’ they had given them some grit. All those ‘ifs’ just make this too hard of a film to roll with all the way through.
While the character development is quite decent, it’s the characters themselves that give question. Some might not be bothered by the huge Manga eyes on Alita, for others, they are just plain creepy. Add into that, the whole doll-like 12 yr-old look that reminds one of the ‘Big Eyes’ paintings – another ‘not working’ item in this film. Even the beginning has it’s own moments of sorts with Christoph Waltzs’ Dr. Ido as he when he first finds her broken machine body and leans over it to say ‘You will be my little angel’. Granted, he turns out to be a good guy, the oddness of the moment sets the tone of events to follow.
This was by far not the worst Sci-Fi film ever made, but it is one of the most lackluster considering the wait and hype involved. The only outcome is if one knows and enjoys the comic story it’s based on to understand the film better and increasing the likability factor. As a time killer it was decent enough and while Alita: Battle Angel doesn’t leave you wanting more with the next chapters going to take many more years to make, the enticement is just not there. The cold hard fact is this film would probably have been best had it been done ten years ago as we might not have seen so many cyborg films in between and Alita would have seemed fresh and new.
Lastly, do you need to watch it in IMAX/3D? The flying jumps and weapon projectiles do look good – but it’s a lot of extra money for something that isn’t essential.
Media Review Screening Tuesday, February 7, 2019 ~ courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Author: Peggy Marie, Staff Writer for CC2K
Writer/reviewer of current films Contributor: at various sites Member: #FilmIndependent & @theOAFFC #SpiritAwards voter