Friday, February 15

Alita: Battle Angel Review

Alita: Battle Angel

Dir: Robert Rodriguez

Starring: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Keean Johnson, and Jeff Fahey

Technology continues to influence the filmmaking process in rather awe-inspiring ways; fantastic worlds from other galaxies can be produced with computers and talented artists against the back drop of a simple green screen, gigantic monsters can destroy New York City over and over again, however, one of the most impressive feats is the melding of human actors and computer-generated effects that blur the line of where the human ends and the technology begins. 

“Alita: Battle Angel” brings together two trailblazers of the filmmaking process; producer James Cameron who pushed the limitations of technology and ultimately revolutionized the way special effects were created in the 1980’s and director Robert Rodriguez who lead the independent filmmaking charge into the digital realm in the early 1990’s. “Alita: Battle Angel” takes a little bit of the best from both of these iconic filmmakers, crafting a film that is visually stunning with characters that are so detailed and interesting to look at. It’s a shame that the same amount of meticulous detail levied on the technology wasn’t applied to the pen-to-paper process.

In a dystopian future where an elitist society floats high above a junkyard world, Dr. Ito (Christoph Waltz) searches for cybergenic technology amongst discarded garbage. It is here where the Dr. finds the discarded robotic carcass of a young girl named Alita (Rosa Salazar), who is a lethal creation of the past from a long-forgotten war. Alita is rebuilt but doesn’t remember where she came from, instead she is raised by Dr. Ito and learns about a future sport called Motorball. But Dr. Ito has some secrets and the powerful puppeteers of future begin to realize that Alita is something very powerful. It is up to Alita to change the future.

The design elements that compose “Alita: Battle Angel” are completely stunning, a marvel of computer-generated effects mixed with motion capture performances from actors. The combination of both of these processes takes a few minutes to get comfortable with, the “uncanny valley” effect is evident at first, however it dissipates and it’s easy to just enjoy the spectacle of everything happening before you. Mr. Rodriguez spends a good amount of time building the atmosphere of the world, displaying impoverished streets that are technological advanced with robots, vehicles, and half human / half cyborg people roaming throughout. It’s a marvel to see these visions come to life, it’s the strongest quality connected with this film, especially when Alita is unleashed and her martial arts skillset bounces, tumbles, and explodes across every border of the frame. 

All this advanced technology is in play and it really brings the characters to life, however the story is abundant with information and world building ideas, it becomes cumbersome trying to keep up with everything that is going on. You have a father/daughter connection in play with Dr. Ito and Alita, working alongside a broken marriage featuring a performance from Jennifer Connelly, also a killer stealing cybergenic parts from humans, a group of ingeniously designed bounty-hunters, a villain played in dark sunglasses by Mahershala Ali, and we haven’t even touched on the floating city and the mythology associated with Alita’s legend. It’s simply too much to fit into a story that will be satisfactory. 

“Alita: Battle Angel” should be lauded for its cinematic composition, it really is quite impressive to witness how far technology has come in the development of cinema. However, story and character development are critical components in connecting humanity and emotion across the screen and, unfortunately, “Alita: Battle Angel” struggles to find the balance between its technology and storytelling.

Monte’s Rating

2.50 out of 5.00

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