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Alita: Battle Angel

Reviewed by Galen Strickland

There are several factors that limit the effectiveness of this film. It had been in some stage of development for over fifteen years, continually set aside by James Cameron for other projects, eventually handed off to Robert Rodriguez to direct. I won't bore you with a list of other films that have been released in the meantime that I thought of while watching, visually speaking, not necessarily plot-wise. It's based on a Japanese manga and anime that probably very few Americans have read or seen, including myself, so I have no idea if it was faithful to the original. The special effects are dazzling of course, but the story is as clichéd as every other SF extravaganza you've ever seen. Its attempts at comedic moments fall flat, while certain scenes I am sure were meant to be serious were comical instead. Another negative is it was calculated to set up sequels.

It's hard to judge the acting of Rosa Salazar, since her work was mostly motion capture with CGI overlay, but Alita is effectively intelligent, inquisitive, compassionate, and empathetic. The rest of the cast is merely adequate, which is disappointing considering what I'd expect from Jennifer Connelly, Christoph Waltz, and Mahershala Ali. Keean Johnson as Hugo, Alita's friend and potential love interest, is interchangeable with any number of other good looking young actors, and I knew exactly what his character arc was going to be after just a few minutes. Ed Skrein is convincing, even a bit charming, as a vain, egotistical bounty hunter, but everyone else gets lost in the CGI and prosthetics.

If all you want is to be awed by FX, action, violence, chases, explosions, then you might like this. But there's a reason I haven't gone to the theater much lately, nor reviewed many films at all. I'm tired of story taking a backseat to FX. I'm tired of the future of a prospective franchise being more important than a succinct, compelling, more original story. The overall rating at IMDb is currently 7.6, but I gave it only a 6, and that's being generous. Not recommended, and I don't care to spend any more time on this review.


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Robert Rodriguez

James Cameron
Laeta Kalogridis

February 14, 2019

Rosa Salazar
Christoph Waltz
Jennifer Connelly
Mahershala Ali
Ed Skrein
Jackie Earle Haley
Keean Johnson
Lana Condor
Eiza González

Full Credits at IMDb

In Theaters Now