Alita Battle Angel
Starring Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Keean Johnson, Mahershala Ali, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, Michelle Rodriguez,
This one might wow you with its special effects, but James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez are two filmmakers who always focus on the senses more than the intellectual or the emotional. "Alita" joins the list of other futuristic flicks released in recent months: "Mortal Engines," "Ready Player One," "Valerian," and others seeking to be the next big franchise. While original stories will always trump superhero reboots, "Alita" feels more like a wanna-be franchise that has been inspired by other mediocre movies. We have reached the point that visual technology can make even low budget films appear stunning, so much so that special effects, regardless of how good, are simply not enough to carry a film.
300 years after “the fall,” Earth as we know it has turned into a bit of a recycling bin, with the rich and powerful living far above-ground, looking down on the less significant. Half the population is now made of robotic parts, artificial intelligence is now an integral part of society. Dr. Dyson Ido (Waltz) is the go-to guy for robotic repair. Ido discovers the core (head & chest cavity) of the most advanced cyborg ever created. He reboots the machine into a new body and gives her the same name of his deceased daughter, Alita. Ido has the chance to be a father again, but Alita (Salazar) isn’t what he expected. The seemingly young girl has battle instincts unmatched on the planet. She gets involved in the motor-ball sport which captures the attention of creator Vector (Ali) and his assistant Chiren (Connelly). As Alita slowly and painfully starts to remember who she was, a new purpose of life presents itself.
It’s easy to forget that "Alita" isn’t live action, but that accomplishment isn’t enough to “wow” the viewer for two hours.
At just over two hours, "Alita: Battle Angel" does a fair job at establishing characters that a young audience might embrace. A handful of Oscar-winners and nominees fill out the cast in roles that aim to impress parents more so than the intended audience. Cameron, who produced and wrote the script, offers up the same technology to create "Alita" (who is completely visual effects) that’s been used on "Avatar" and many of his visual effects heavy projects. The filmmakers seem very proud of Alita’s teeth, as the character is often shown in extreme closeup so the audience can marvel at her digital pores and what appears to be capped teeth. She has that flytrap expression for much of her screen time. It’s easy to forget that "Alita" isn’t live action, but that accomplishment isn’t enough to “wow” the viewer for two hours.
The world seen here is a culmination of "X-Men," "Terminator," "Star Wars" and a variety of other fantasy or science fiction stories you’ve seen. Director Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron might go bigger with "Alita" but it’s by no means better or more astounding. The vast majority of audiences won’t even appreciate the level of advanced technology here compared to some of the other recent visual effects films because we have all become over-sensitized to this more-is-more filmmaking where ideas are so big and so grand it’s all one big exhausting coloring book. Like most of Cameron’s screenplays, there is a real lack of engagement with the audience. Some of the characters are creative in their origin but ultimately the script doesn’t mind if we care about them or not.
All effects, no heart.