By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
In 1990, Yukito Kushiro introduced his cyberpunk universe through the pages of manga and to this day, the 51 year-old artist continues to tell these stories. Well, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood filmmakers would decide to adapt this rich and inventive universe for American cinema. It would take twenty-nine years before Alita and her post apocalyptic dystopian world would hit US screens, but the time has finally arrived. Inspired by this fascinating world and its exciting assortment of characters, producer James Cameron and director Robert Rodriguez have teamed up to make an Alita movie and even though the results could have been better, they have managed to create a visually striking and thrilling film with a lot of heart.
The year is 2563 and Earth is still recovering from the destruction and fallout from a global catastrophe known as, “The Fall.” In the junk-ridden Iron City, a cyborg scientist named Dyson (Christoph Waltz) often combs through the junk to salvage parts for his cyborg repair business. On one fateful day he discovers the remains of a particular cyborg and decides to completely rebuild her with parts of his own. Upon awakening, the disoriented and amnesiac female (Rosa Salazar) is nearly reborn, though she has flashes of strange memories of her past. Dubbed Alita by Dyson, the sweet and seemingly innocent “girl” discovers that there’s a dangerous world outside the walls of her new home. She also soon discovers that the powers that be know her true identity, see her as a threat and plan to execute her.
To be quite honest, my little synopsis of this movie just barely scratches the surface of what this movie has to offer. And that really is the main problem of this film. The filmmakers attempt to cram in a little too much of what Yukito Kushiro has imagined in his stories. Screenwriters James Cameron, Laeta Kilogridis, and director Robert Rodriguez try to incorporate a vast wealth of material into one film and this makes the story muddled and messy.
It truly is a valiant and ambitious effort on their part, and because the movie still works in spite of this, shows that this adaptation is obviously a labor of love. Visually, the movie is absolutely gorgeous. The mix of CGI and practical work helps create a world that feels both otherworldly and credible. Rodriguez and crew do exceptional work in the action sequences. Though some of the thematic material is serious and dark at times, Rodriguez’s child-like sensibilities manage to make the entire experience exciting and fun.
In developing the Alita character, the writers make her the true heart of the story and actress Rosa Salazar puts much love and emotional depth into her portrayal of her. She helps make Alita a truly lovable and empathic character to be admired for her strength, courage, and benevolence. Christoph Waltz also brings much charisma and humanity to his role as Dyson, a surrogate father figure to Alita. Jennifer Connelly gives a solid turn as Chirren, Dyson’s ex-wife. Mahershala Ali gives a great villainous turn as Vector, a power-hungry sports entrepreneur who is basically a lackey to someone who would like to see Alita eliminated. The film also features fun performances by Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Keean Johnson, and Jeff Fahey.
And even though this movie has its problems, it is still a highly enjoyable one and one that should be viewed theatrically. Alita: Battle Angel might not be a major success for Cameron and Rodriguez, but it is a pretty good way to start, should they decide to build off of this launching poimt. My suggestion would be to use this film to kick off a television series where the creative minds can take their time to better develop this incredible world and its awesome characters.