A deactivated female cyborg is revived, but cannot remember anything of her past life and goes on a quest to find out who she is.
Alita: Battle Angel, the long gestating project has finally arrived in cinemas with Robert Rodriguez at the helm, on his first major feature film since 2014’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Alita has had a lot of talent driving it forward however, with James Cameron also credited for both the screenplay and as a producer.
This film is obviously based on the popular anime Battle Angel: Alita, a story about a cyborg discovered in a junk pile, resurrected and given new life only to discover she has no memory of her former life, and undertakes a journey to discover who she is. Looking at Hollywood’s lacklustre history with anime adaptations, it’d be easy to go into Alita with low expectations, however this is a film which defies that trend.
Set in a well realised but familiar dystopian future, Alita: Battle Angel boasts a dense script packed with an impressive number of sub-plots which manage to coherently weave together in a very solid two hour running time. The film centres on Alita’s journey of rediscovering of her past, but also her journey of self-discovery in terms of who she wants to become. The multiple sub-plots, all with carefully plotted and defined arcs, are crammed into this content heavy film, and that’s before it delivers its abundance of exhilarating action sequences.
As mentioned above, this story is set in a well realised setting, with a huge amount of attention to detail. There are sequences a little over stuffed with exposition to ensure the audience knows and understands what society has become, and who the major players are, at times this approach risks being too much telling and not enough showing the audience this world, however it tends to be handled effectively between the relationships of the characters.
Beyond its world building and storytelling, Alita: Battle Angel is a visually stunning film and a technical accomplishment, it embraces its anime roots resulting in some intricately detailed action sequences and set pieces which look slick and polished. There’s a huge amount of visual effects at use here, but without over saturating the audience with confusing visuals sequences. Everything has been carefully thought out, and is logically shot.
The Alita character is well-defined with substance, emotions, motivations, backstory, and is brought to life by a blend of visual effects and motion capture techniques. Her story is compelling, and this is enhanced by Rosa Salazar’s performance. Christoph Waltz is a pleasure to watch as always with a character worthy of a film in his own right given the amount of backstory referenced here. The relationship between Alita and Hugo, is also convincing given the investment in developing the relationship, and with Keean Johnson playing off well with Rosa Salazar.
For fans of anime who are comfortable with the idea of a live action adaptation, then this film is easy to recommend, there’s a lot here to enjoy with enough content for multiple viewings. Ultimately it’s a cyberpunk story and the dystopian setting is a familiar one, with themes and ideas which have been explored in a number of other films, but that doesn’t leave this film any less effective at what it’s trying to do.
I’m giving Alita: Battle Angel 7.5 out of 10, it’s in cinemas across Australia from Thursday 14th February 2019.