Review: Alita, Battle Angel

Plot: Set several centuries in the future, the abandoned Alita is found in the scrapyard of Iron City by Ido, a compassionate cyber-doctor who takes the unconscious cyborg Alita to his clinic. When Alita awakens, she has no memory of who she is, nor does she have any recognition of the world she finds herself in. As Alita learns to navigate her new life and the treacherous streets of Iron City, Ido tries to shield her from her mysterious past.

Director:  Robert Rodriguez

Runtime: 122 min

Rating: Rotten Tomatoes 59% & IMDB 7.6/10 — Subject to change as the movie is in theaters.

Trailer (see below)

Review:

I only tend to write reviews on movies I see in the theater that either amaze me or simply when I want to chime in because people are loving it or hating it. Alita: Battle Angel falls into both categories because I really liked this film even though the audience seems to be split on it in the early viewings. How much did I like it? So much so I’m going to see it a second time this weekend. This is spoiler free!

The first thing to note is that the world they’ve created is absolutely gorgeous. Every single shot is eye candy and so much is happening on screen that you get sucked into this world immediately. At the top of this eye candy is the sporting event called Motorball that takes place in the film. It’s absolutely insane what goes down during the game — it’s heavily action packed, violent and technologically masterful from not on the visuals, but the feats taking place on screen in order win to the game. Some really creative and crazy stunts. Honestly, two hours inside of this game could be something that stands on it’s own. Beyond that, there never seems to be a dull scene which is pretty impressive for a two hour film. Something is always happening and moving forward; whether it be another heavy-action sequence, backstory or adding to the plot. I’m trying my best to stay away from spoilers (and this being a really long post) so we can close with the fact that there is just so much detail, so much story and so many more questions that need be answered — all of which I am invested and looking forward to.

That note leads into the place for some of the potential negatives. The only one I have from my side of things is that the love story seemed forced, while (if you’re in the mind of Alita) you could argue it makes sense, it was way to fast for these characters to be ready to risk their lives for each other. There wasn’t enough time to make that seem all the way legit. Can you have that feeling when you’ve known someone for a few days?

Now, some things people will call negative that I don’t agree with; the use of some of the supporting characters. While Jennifer Connelly and Mahershala Ali had small pretty and even arguably insignificant roles, their presence and strong acting talents were apparent on screen. If that’s all the characters needed to be in the film, it was achieved. Imagine if these “small roles” had bad acting — that’d be way worse. The slots were filled and if you have to argue that their roles were too small, is that really a bad thing? There’s a big different between good acting being underutilized and bad acting just being bad acting. Overflow the cup with talent. Overflow, overflow.

The next negative is one I both agree and disagree with; the fact that they are forcing a new franchise on you, ending with a cliffhanger of sorts. As I was leaving the theater I could easily see two more movies, even a prequel! That’s how much is left on the table. This is a story that FULL of detail, so much so that it creates plot problems. So much is happening, so much is developing and so much is moving in the present, future and past that it can get muddy. Don’t get me wrong, nothing is confusing, but it seemed from time to time that you were getting cliff-notes on a 500 page book. This movie alone needed a prequel and a sequel! There is still so much more to learn and uncover!

Take a second and think about it, plenty of movies have tried to create a franchise and you left the theater thinking “no need to make a second movie…. we get it.” For example, Mortal Engines. It had a HUGE world, but not much story and while you understood what was happening, it felt empty somehow. Alita: Battle Angel has a HUGE world with a HUGE story.

Back to the book analogy, Mortal Engines was a 20 page short story trying to be an epic 500 page novel while Alita: Battle Angel is the 500 page novel that’s trying to fit itself into a short story, in this case a 2 hour runtime.

I didn’t get the feeling that they were shoving a new franchise down my throat because that’s what Hollywood is trying to accomplish. James Cameron is a genius and if he wants to write a franchise, I have zero doubts it will fail. In my opinion, there wasn’t a lack of information, they weren’t limiting the plot to forcefully create more movies — there’s just so much story they had to fit into this film, it had to lead this way.

Final thoughts: I thought this was pretty damn awesome! I’d give it an 9/10 with a great future ahead. We definitely need a trilogy sized story inside this world and I’d happily give my money for that to happen right now if need be. Don’t get me wrong, I do take into account the certain negative things I’ve mentioned along with the BIG fact that they’re trying to push out a franchise, but…. is that really a bad thing that they want to make more movies when it’s already this good?

I might be bias, but I really want more movies to happen inside this world, I just hope they get the opportunity to make those films happen.

What did you think? Let me know in the comments.

Cheers,

Matt.