"It seems like they ran out of time and tried to cram too much into the overstuffed ending."

Muddled Script Delivers Relatable Characters

(030319) With a name like Alita: Battle Angel you know the film makers are not consciously trying to create an enduring, significant work of high art. But although this film has a somewhat muddled script, it delivers more than its share of thrilling stunts, and relatable characters. Also some of the the 3-D sequences are stunning and the futuristic roller derby scene is a veritable feast for the eyes.

Half the time this humanistic cyberpunk flick evokes Pinocchio (mostly in its first half) and the rest of the time it is like a more like a kinder, gentler female centered Blade Runner. The film adapted Yoko Kishiro’s critically acclaimed manga, Battle Angel Alita, but it flipped the title around for American consumption.

Rosa Salazar (from American Horror Story and Bird Box) is quite impressive in the title role and her mix of wide eyed innocence, sensitivity and confidence makes her an ideal choice to play Alita. The make-up people give her an interesting look which combines humanity and artificiality. Christoph Waltz is similarly convincing as a compassionate scientist (I have always loved his work for Tarantino) who is mourning the death of his daughter and the loss of his wife.

Alita was produced and co-written by James Cameron (who originally wanted to direct the film) and it was directed by Roberto Rodriquez. The third collaborator, Laeta Elizabeth Kalogridis, who also worked on the female centric Birds of Prey and Bionic Woman revival shows who co-wrote the script. The film is a bit schizophrenic and it more closely resembles a Cameron film because it lacks the quirky humor, the extreme gore, lowbrow elements and obscure cameos of some of Rodriquez’s other films such as
Grindhouse, Machete Kills and Sin City (all of which I liked better than this film.)

Alita begins when the cyber surgeon, Dr. Dyson Ido (played by Waltz) finds the battered remains of a cyborg. As it happens he has a cyborg body left over that he wanted to use to house his deceased daughter’s essence or brain patterns. He merges the two bodies and names the new composite being after his dead daughter, Alita. Of course he immediately acts paternally towards Alita and thinks of her as his daughter. When Alita awakens after her repair she is in many ways your typical quasi rebellious adolescent female, but she is missing most of her memories which come back slowly. She meets a young teenage male named Hugo (Keean Johnson) who teaches her all about the world and the city she lives in . She lives in Iron City, a brutal place where violence can erupt at any moment. There is also a place in the sky called Zalem, and the politicians promise that if the Iron City workers follow orders they can eventually move there. Of course this is a bit like modern day preachers promising heaven to the worshippers as long as they stay with the program.

It turns out that most of human kind was destroyed in a great calamity, and the survivors from every race and culture gathered in Iron City. Apparently the ultimate multicultural society was created and a measure of ethnic egalitarianism was achieved at a great expense.

We gradually learn that in her previous life, Alita was an arena warrior. Her past comes back to haunt her and imperils her new life. Also unbeknownst to her, her boyfriend, Hugo secretly hunts cyborgs so he can strip them of their parts which he gives to the corrupt tournament leaders.

Also Dr. Ido’s ex, Dr. Chiren (portrayed in an icily sexy manner by Jennifer Connelly) is disillusioned that she lost her daughter and she switched to the dark side. She commands and oversees the people who supply cyborg parts to the main villain of the film, a mysterious technocrat who only appears as a hologram image.

Initially, the film strongly held my interest but it gets a bit weaker in the last third. It seems like they ran out of time or space and tried to cram too much into the overstuffed ending. Also the previously fine character development becomes rushed and neglected. Although entertaining, exciting, and worth seeing, it is not one Rodriquez’s most idiosyncratic or personal films. His first feature, El Mariachi, which was made for only seven thousand dollars (which I would still probably give four stars today ) was actually a much more magical, original and special feature than this 150 million plus dollars event movie. It is kind of a shame that this is what Hollywood sees as progress. Still with some reservations this film gets my recommendation, and I am looking forward to seeing what the future holds for its promising star, Rosa Salazar.

Directed by:  Roberto Rodriquez
Written by:  James Cameron, and Laeta Elizabeth Kalogridis. Based on the graphic novel series "Gunnm" by Yukito Kishiro
Starring:   Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly
Released:  021419
Length:  122 minutes
Rating:   Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language

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BATTLE ANGEL ALITA  ©  2019 Zentropa Entertainments
Review © 2019 Alternate Reality, Inc.

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