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Alita: Battle Angel - Movie Review

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Alita: Battle Angel - Movie Review

This film has been a revelation for this reviewer. I am always banging on about product coming out of Hollywood being just remakes and sequels these days. I pine and whine about the fact that they just don’t take risks anymore. This film has proved to me I am part of the problem. Alita: Battle Angel is a title I’ve heard in varying arrangements for over two decades. But all the times I heard James Cameron claiming it was his next movie just made me put it out of my mind. It was one of those development Hell type projects, I assumed, and so it didn’t raise any flags when it finally went into production with Robert Rodriguez at the helm in late 2016. When the trailers hit, I was equally middle of the road. Sure, the effects looked impressive, but it just looked like another high budget spectacle movie with no connection to the characters doing spectacular things. I also rarely enjoy anything based on Japanese Manga, as Hollywood rarely if ever translates it well. My preconceptions kept me out of a session. Luckily, being invited out with a friend and his family, led me to sit through this.

Well, once again, the marketing hacks in LaLaLand have not shown us what heart lies behind the explosions, and this twit (yes, me) has not given a massive risk a shot on release. This was a mistake that I will try to rectify now, while it’s still playing.

"It is heartfelt, it is beautiful, and it is relatable"

Set in a distant millennium, Alita: Battle Angel opens with a doctor (Christoph Waltz) scouring a dump site and coming upon the remnants of a cyborg (Rosa Salazar) in the junk. When he manages to salvage this cyborg, what wakes up is a delightful, curious and kind young woman who he names Alita. As Alita slowly starts to learn about her savior and the ‘have not’ Iron City they inhabit, the paradise city above them called Zalem taunts promises to all the downtrodden. Then, as Alita explores, she comes into varying conflicts and discovers she has extraordinary agility and combat skills. Alita adapts quickly, falls for a boy, makes friends, and learns secrets about herself, those in her life, and her own past that bring her full circle to become the greatest threat to Zalem they’ve seen in centuries.

The characterization of Alita, in fact all the good guys, is first rate. Each has a preconception to develop from; each of them morphs throughout the unfolding narrative, to keep you wondering what will happen next. You can ask no better of characters you are first meeting. Every single one of them makes the time spent worth it. Alita herself is an extraordinary technical achievement. She is otherworldly, but immediately relatable. She is endearing, both in appearance and in character. I quickly was moved by her and invested in her plight.

Plot is where the film made a misstep. Taking their time to set things up works, especially in the aforementioned character department, but the story should have been self-contained. Instead, the end the film very abruptly, with some huge arcs left dangling. Not tendrils—interesting side bits that promise more—full unresolved arcs. Also the bad guys are nowhere near as fleshed out as the good. Without giving anything away, there is main bad guy, alluded to, talked about throughout the entire move, and played by a high profile actor right at the end that is left for next time. The plotting smacks of commercialism over substance. And this film HAS SUBSTANCE, so is doubly frustrating.

There are some top shelf talents. I don’t think Christoph Waltz ever does a bad performance. But he eschews his usual quirky and bad guy personas to inhabit and tragic man with an enormous empathy and gentleness. Rosa Salazar emphatically joins the likes of Andy Serkis as a premiere performance capture actor with her affecting turn as the lead. She is extraordinary, and shows amazing range after slumming it in bit parts for the YA crowd. Jennifer Connelly also puts in a very layered supporting turn that takes some surprising turns.

Effects, are, as you would expect with James Cameron’s input, amazing. The depth of textures and immersion with everything, from Alita herself to the world she inhabits, is the best there is. This film has obviously benefitted greatly from Cameron’s lengthy periods of invention while creating his Avatar movies. Because the trailers were so soulless and I, like the many who see lots of movies, just assumed this was a better technical version of Final Fantasy from two decades ago, I didn’t pay enough attention to what they have achieved. It’s extraordinary work.Alita: Battle Angel - Movie Review

Robert Rodriguez’s output as a director is as varied in quality as he can be in style. I think this is one of his finest directorial turns. There is real emotion infused in this fantastical movie. His panorama shots are wistful, his fight scenes are visceral, and his romantic scenes are a nod to the classics.

The score, by Tom Holkenborg (or Junkie XL), who’s work on Batman V Superman impressed, perfectly complimented the tragic sweetness and rise of this new heroine.

This film is not getting its due, because of preconceptions and a marketing push that doesn’t highlight anything but effects and action. This is such a disservice to this movie. It is heartfelt, it is beautiful, and it is relatable. I highly recommend you go see this, should this still be playing in your area. They have made a major, cynical plotting mistake, and should have given this film the self-contained round off it deserved. But if they get the attention they deserve, a remarkable character might just be in one of those sequels I don’t bitch about in my next review.

Go now. Do yourself a favor.

4 stars

Alita: Battle Angel - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language.
122 mins
: Robert Rodriguez
James Cameron, Laeta Kalogridis
Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly
: Action | Adventure
It's Time for Battle.
Memorable Movie Quote: "I'd do whatever I had to for you. I'd give you whatever I have. I'd give you my heart."
Theatrical Distributor:
Twentieth Century Fox
Official Site:
Release Date:
February 14, 2019
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:

Synopsis: A deactivated female cyborg is revived, but cannot remember anything of her past life and goes on a quest to find out who she is.

Alita: Battle Angel - Movie Review


Blu-ray Details:

No details available.

Alita: Battle Angel - Movie Review

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