Having owned the adaptation rights to Alita: Battle Angel for decades, producer James Cameron and director Robert Rodriguez have finally brought the famed manga to the silver screen. While it boasts amazing spectacle akin to Cameron’s Avatar, the picture is far from his stellar classics like Titanic and The Terminator.
Rose Salazar plays a cyborg who is reincarnated at the hands of the Geppetto-like Dr Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz). With no memory of who she is, Alita goes on a journey of self-discovery, facing adversaries along the way.
First and foremost, the visual effects require immediate applause. As soon as the movie begins, you are instantly drawn into the visual landscape: a dystopian depiction of Earth that is bold, beautiful and believable. Every shot has been crafted to perfection by Rodriguez and the Weta Digital crew, allowing you to pluck every speck of detail off the screen. Because of this, Alita: Battle Angel is an absolute must-watch in IMAX and 3D. The 3D is used to maximum effect without ever being distracting, while the IMAX cameras carefully capture action sequences, adding extra roughness and gravitas to every shot. A combination of the two results in a beautiful, stunning and action-packed experience unlike any other in recent times. It took me into another world, reminding me of why I fell in love with film in the first place. In short, it is equivalent to cinematic eye-candy.
Speaking of eyes, Rose Salazar is a revelation as Alita. Despite the cyborg being produced entirely from motion capture, she is the most human character in the movie. Salazar portrays her with multidimensional affection without ever taking you out the movie. As for her gigantic eyes, this was an interesting and risky artistic choice which succeeded. They are fully utilised by allowing you to see clearly every emotion Alita expresses.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the supporting cast. Waltz, while having the most depth of all the side characters, is not given enough time to develop as the film progresses. Mahershala Ali performs amazingly in everything but his character is used as a puppet for the most part, resulting in a largely one-dimensional character. The character closest to having a multidimensional arc is Jennifer Connolly’s, but within the 122-minute runtime she is heavily underutilised. This reflects wider issues with the script as some dialogue feels out of place, which is weird to say about a script co-written by Cameron himself.
Like many franchises, the film sets up another one. By leaving so many plot points loose and character choices unfinished, Alita feels incomplete as its own film. But box-office predictions for the blockbuster make a sequel unlikely. This is a shame because after leaving the theatre, you certainly want to find out what happens next.
Overall, Alita: Battle Angel showcases some of the best visuals and action set-pieces on screen in a very long time. Anchored by a powerful central performance, Salazar shines among the weaker supporting cast and works past kinks in the script. Even though the story is incomplete, the film is just so damn entertaining, and shows the potential for Alita to reach the equivalent heights of strong, modern-day female characters such as Wonder Woman and Princess Leia.
Alita: Battle Angel is in cinemas from Wednesday February 6th.