Movie Review: “Alita: Battle Angel”
Alita: Battle Angel
In the twenty sixth century, civilization has taken a major step back. Civilization had reached a peak, with incredible technological advancements (such as cybernetic enhancements that replace human limbs, organs, and even entire bodies). After the end of a great war, known as The Fall, the city has been split into two sections. The upperclass live in a floating city just above the rest of the society. There, they have comfortable lives, vast resources, and tremendous wealth. The lower class lives in poverty just below the floating city. The only way to ascend from the lower class and into the floating city is to become final champion in a sport known as motor ball.
Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz) uses scraps from the junkyard to help give necessary cybernetic enhancements to people in the lower class. One day, he is searching the junkyard when he finds the remains of a young girl. Her mechanical body has been almost completely destroyed, but her brain is completely intact. He gives the girl a new body, but (when she wakes) she has no memory of who she is or where she came from. The doctor takes her in, names her Alita (Rosa Salazar), and tries to teach her about the world while keeping her safe. However, they will both soon realize that Alita is fully capable of defending herself. She was created to be an incredible weapon, and her instincts take over as she tries to save the ones she loves from evil forces.
The Pros & Cons
Vector & Chiren (-4pts)
The Action & The Visuals (+10pts)
Dr. Ido (+5pts)
Pro: Alita (+10pts)
I liked this character’s story quite a bit. Is it an original idea to have a main character who does not remember their past? No, but this character is all about moving forward. She still wants to learn more about who she is and where she came from, but her focus is definitely on other things. Her lack of memory is part of her story, but it is not her entire story. Her primary focus is stopping evil. We get to see the character experience things for the first time which was a fun little aspect of the character’s story (and definitely gave me a craving for oranges). Alita’s memory loss made for some fun moments, but it made the character interesting (because of the mystery), and relatable (because we learn about the world at the same time that she is).
I enjoyed seeing the character trying things, and I liked that her search for answers did not consume her (or this movie), but my favorite part of the character was that she was an absolute beast when it came to any sort of combat. The character is strong and will do everything in her power to fight for what is right. Alita never runs from a fight and after seeing her in action, you will know that she has little reason to. She is a master of combat, but she is fearless and her motivations are honorable (which made it easy to root for her). Alita was interesting, relatable, honorable, a badass, and just an overall great main character to follow.
Con: Vector & Chiren (-4pts)
My main issue with these two characters, was that there was not nearly enough time to develop them both, while also setting up Nova. Vector (Mahershala Ali) has close ties with Nova, manages the bounty hunter organization, and is a powerful (behind the scenes) player in motor ball. Chiren (Jennifer Connelly) works with Vector, and is a very skilled cybernetic doctor and engineer. The problem was that there was not enough screen time for both of them. Chiren‘s character even goes through growth that was never justified, it just felt like a random switch that was flipped in her head. The filmmakers should have cut one of these two characters from this story, to properly develop the other. Instead we (the audience) were shown two poorly developed antagonists that played very similar roles in the story, when having just one character would have served the movie better.
Pro: The Action & The Visuals (+10pts)
If you have seen the trailers, it will have been obvious that the digital effects and visuals would be a huge part of this movie's success. I saw the movie in 3D (which I do not normally do, it was just the best showtime for me that day) and was in awe of how well the digital effects were done. This is not a movie that will go down in history as one of the greatest visual accomplishments, but I am confident in saying that it will be one of the year's most stunning visual spectacles. The main character, Alita, was entirely CGI and yet the character felt very real, as I felt all of the emotion that I would expect from a live action performance. The digital effects were incredibly realistic, to the point where I occasionally forgot I was looking at CGI.
On top of the spectacular digital effects and visuals, the action in this movie was a lot of fun. The main character is a very powerful cybernetic warrior. In addition to making the character come across as really cool, the action was just really entertaining. The realistic nature of the digital effects, mixed with the great action sequences, made for a combination that was very fun to watch.
Con: Nova (-3pts)
Nova (Edward Norton) was setup as the highest-level antagonist, or the biggest baddie. The guy lives in the floating city, and is Alita’s main objective. He is Vector’s boss, has eyes all over the city, and that is pretty much all we learn about him. The problem was that the story established him as the big bad, but never showed us what his intentions were, nor did we get to see him actually do anything. The character was always in the floating city, while every other character in this story were in the lower city. It made Nova feel very detached from everything that was going on. This would have all been tolerable if Vector or Chiren were properly developed but, as I have already mentioned, that was not the case.
Pro: Dr. Ido (+5pts)
I do not want to say much about him to avoid spoilers, but I enjoyed this character a lot. Christoph Waltz is always an entertaining actor to me, and he made this character a lot more interesting than he could have been. Dr. Ido saved Alita right at the beginning of the story, and became somewhat of a father figure to her, but the guy had his secrets. The character was interesting, but Christoph Waltz did a good job of making the audience trust Dr. Ido despite his secretive nature. I found the character to be interesting and I liked Christoph Waltz in the role.
Con: Hugo (-3pts)
This is another character that I do not want to say too much about to avoid spoilers. I thought the actor (Keean Johnson) did a decent enough job in the role, but there was not much to this character. Unfortunately, I found it pretty easy to predict his story arc. There were a couple shocking moments regarding Hugo but, as far as the character’s growth was concerned, it was pretty easy to predict his behavior. Additionally, I felt that the romance between Hugo and Alita felt very forced. I did not feel like it developed naturally, so I did not really care about it. I bought Hugo as a friend of Alita, but I did not think the filmmakers earned anything more than that.
Grade: A- (90pts)
Alita: Battle Angel was visually stunning with a solid main character, and great action. The digital effects were both visually pleasing and impressive. The main character was all CGI, but it looked so realistic that I found myself forgetting she was computer generated. Alita was relatable, honorable, and she knew how to fight. The action sequences were incredibly entertaining and left me completely unaware of how quickly I was eating my popcorn (always a good indicator of how entertaining a movie is).
The movie was not perfect, however. There were two antagonists which essentially served the same role, but there was not enough room in this movie to develop both of them, so both suffered. The big bad of the movie was frequently eluded to, but was always a whole city away and never did anything noteworthy, which made him feel detached from everything else that was happening. Again, the movie was not perfect, but it was a lot of fun. This was largely due to having such a strong main character. Yes, the action was great and the visual effects were outstanding, but Alita was the kind of main character that kept me interested in the movie and left me wanting more.