Based off a Japanese manga, Alita is a futuristic tale of non-stop action.
|Usually the summer is a time when big-budget popcorn flicks dominate the big screen, but this wasn’t the case for Alita: Battle Angel. Opening on Valentine’s Day, it was the perfect date for those who crave elaborate action sequences and eye-popping visuals.
Set far into the distant future, the movie takes place centuries after a great interplanetary war scarred the earth. As a result, a great amount of technology was lost to the ravages of time.
We are introduced to the ‘Iron City’: a dystopian slum that’s home to a great number of dangerous inhabitants. A mysterious killer targets women walking the streets at night; stealing body parts for reasons unknown. Gangs of criminals with cybernetic enhancements rule parts of the city, taking what they want by means of brute force and inventive weaponry.
In this chaos, there are those who hunt the lawless. Hunter-Warriors are paid to track down and eliminate criminal scum, often upgrading their own bodies to gain an edge on the murderous prey.
The movie opens on Dyson Ido as he searches for machine parts in the massive scrapyard of Iron City. Christoph Waltz brings his quiet charisma to the role, a humble doctor who runs a clinic for desperate people in need of new sprockets for prosthetic legs or a tune up for their robotic arms.
He is a prodigy of all things mechanical, able to fix up even the worst of cases. So when he stumbles on the bionic remnants of a mysterious girl, Ido marvels at the craftsmanship and sees his ultimate project before him.
She is entirely mechanical, possessing a complete reactor core or a ‘heart’. Miraculously, her cerebral is still functional as well. Ido works tirelessly to restore the robotic girl, creating new skin and attaching lovingly crafted arms.
When she is awake, he gives the curious android a name. “Alita.”
Alita has no memories of her previous life, or why she ended up in the scrapyard to begin with. But these questions are quickly forgotten as she revels in the wonders of existence. Everything is new to her, smells and sounds, food and sights. We share in her infectious delight as Alita discovers chocolate for the first time. Rosa Salazar helps Alita come to life with her endearing performance.
But it’s not all candy and sight-seeing, she learns there is a dark side to the Iron City. Ido warns Alita not to wander far or to go out at night, but often leaves in the darkness. When he returns, new scars and bruises accompany him as he limps back to the clinic.
Where is he going, Alita wonders? She follows him, watching as he brings a heavy suitcase into a dim alleyway. Ido stalks a hooded woman, opening his case to reveal a massive hammer with a flaming attachment.
Thinking he is the infamous killer, Alita rushes to stop him before he slays an innocent bystander. She couldn’t have been more wrong. The stranger drops her hood and reveals a cyborg body equipped with wicked blades.
Two other hulking menaces creep out from the shadows, revealing they had been waiting Ido all along. Ido is a Hunter-Warrior and these are the criminals that he was searching for.
Out-numbered, the trio attack the doctor as he tries his best to protect Alita. But she needs no guarding. Memories of a previous life spill into her, limbs moving with muscle memory.
A thrilling action sequence ensues, the three murderers finding that this little girl is more than a match for them. After two of them fall to her skill, their leader swears he will remember her face and vanishes into the night.
The movie picks up speed after this, introducing new faces and shadowy nemeses pulling the strings of the Iron City. There is plenty to see and a great number of fantastic ideas are presented but a few things bring this film down.
An awkward love interest is introduced and feels forced. This could be because of a poor casting decision but the cringe-worthy dialogue he was given felt unintentionally comical. Every time he was on screen, the momentum came to a screeching halt.
I suppose the writers felt this was a necessary addition to humanize Alita and ground her, something I can agree with. Still, the execution was lackluster and most of his scenes should have been cut out entirely.
Also, Alita felt far too powerful for most of her fights. Barring a few opponents, she easily won most of the conflicts with hardly a scratch. I felt this took a lot of tension away and would have staged some more taxing brawls.
The ending was a little disappointing as well, sacrificing a satisfying conclusion in exchange for setting up a sequel.
Issues aside, I found this movie to be thoroughly entertaining. The flaws are there but this is such an interesting and original world that I can easily excuse a few stumbles.
If you love a good action movie and don’t mind a side of cheese, Alita will easily give you two hours of effortless spectacle and visual wonders.