Alita: Battle Angel is a visual marvel. Famously 20 years in the making and the product of writer/producer James Cameron and director Robert Rodriguez, Alita is based on the graphic novel series Gunnm by Yokito Kishiro.
When something has been “in the making” for a long period of time it usually goes one of two ways. Either it is an exceptional film, perfected and refined with years of hard work and love (see Boyhood) or it is a complete disaster with a script that has changed too many times and production ideas that have changed hands too many times and the result is messy and unrefined. Alita: Battle Angel fits somewhere in the middle.
Ten years after James Cameron’s visual masterpiece Avatar, producer Cameron returns once more with a film that visually excels beyond anything else to date. However, like Avatar, the story doesn’t live up to the expectations set by the technical elements of the film. Alita: Battle Angel is a landmark in visual production. Seeing this at IMAX in 3D was absolutely breathtaking. As someone who usually finds 3D films fairly gimmicky, I was blown away by this stunning piece of art.
The depth of field was insane and the colours, set design, battle scenes and character designs were absolutely mind blowing thanks to well utilized 3D animation and CGI. As visual fodder, Alita: Battle Angel is in a league of its own. For this reason it MUST be seen at the very least in 3D although I would suggest you see it at IMAX to truly appreciate the scope of it all. Sadly the visual aspects of the film are so much better than the other parts that the overall experience of Alita: Battle Angel is only a speck on what it could have been.
Alita is set in a dystopian future, post-apocalypse (known as The Fall). Not much is detailed about ‘The Fall’ which is a shame because the backstory that is hinted at sounds extremely intriguing. Instead the script chooses to brush over the backstory of the world we are presented with and as such we don’t get the opportunity to appreciate the world of the film as anything more than an afterthought. It is beautiful to look at but I imagine the source material provides the opportunity to tell a story on a much deeper level.
I wish Alita had done the opposite of The Hobbit and instead of dragging out one book into three films, instead used the first film to set up the universe and take it’s time. By trying to cram too much into its two hour run time we are given the surface of a story, with characters who have such a minute level of depth that it becomes hard to care too much about them. They throw too many storylines at us and they all end up as mediocre, vague ideas rather than fully realised arcs.
The performances are extremely varied. The always incredible Christoph Waltz is once more fantastic. Rosa Salazar is brilliantly complex and interesting as our CGI covered heroine. Unfortunately due to the shortcuts in the storytelling Jennifer Connelly is absolutely wasted as a character with very little depth. A potentially extremely interesting character is let down by poor character development and a sidelined story.
Keean Johnson tries very hard as the love interest but sadly ends up coming across more Nickelodeon than blockbuster sci-fi – this isn’t helped by some truly 90’s family adventure movie lines of dialogue that even a better actor would struggle to justify.
Despite all of that – Alita: Battle Angel is a hell of a lot of fun. It’s action packed, funny, violent and stunningly beautiful. It could have been the next big thing but is let down by trying to do too much but is still a bloody enjoyable bit of popcorn fodder.
At times it doesn’t know if it’s family friendly Back to the Future or ultra-violent Machete but is stylistic and entertaining enough to be an enjoyable, if underdeveloped, way to spend a couple of hours.
– Ashton Brown