I truly believe there’s a great movie just waiting to jump out of “Alita: Battle Angel,” the cyberpunk action film based on Yukito Kishiro’s popular cult manga series. But it’s just not there yet. While the film feels as though it’s made with fans in mind, those unfamiliar with the source material may find enough to enjoy about this ambitious, futuristic tale of a strong, half-human heroine — until they become overloaded with pointless action sequences and a sprawling story.
Set in the world of Iron City, Alita (Rosa Salazar) wakes up in the repair shop of Doctor Ido (Christoph Waltz) with no memory of who she is in a society that’s unrecognizable to her. Ido found Alita’s cyborg shell among the junk piles and rebuilt her before taking her in as his own daughter. As her memories begin to resurface and her fighting instincts kick in, it’s clear that Alita has an extraordinary past on the battlefield.
Calling the film visionary would seem appropriate, with its flawless animation and unique, wide-eyed look for its main character. The imaginary world of robots and humans is fully realized in a comic that’s brought to life. I loved the showy CGI, but seeing this in 3D is a total waste as not enough is made of the medium. It’s a shame.
The muddled story is ultimately the film’s downfall, something that director Robert Rodriguez tries to cover up by stuffing in far too many special effects and action scenes of the competitive game called Motorball. One would’ve been plenty, but instead we get so many they become tiring. There are also three movies in one, and each storyline has its strengths and weaknesses. The one that resonated with me the most is the love story between Alita and the scavenger Hugo (Keean Johnson).
Despite the film’s many problems, it’s still really cool to see a futuristic sci-fi film with a strong female character. But it’s doubtful that this will be a game-changer for the genre as was once hoped, and I wouldn’t hold my breath for any sequels.