In “Alita: Battle Angel,” the future is cybernetic, sports are lethal, and a teenage heroine battles evil.
By Mickie Shaw, Multimedia Editor
“Alita: Battle Angel” blasts onto the screen like a sexy supernova. It is an intense thrill ride, a marvel of special effects and the protagonists are relatable, sympathetic and easy to like. “Alita” is reminiscent of the dystopian “Blade Runner” and the colorful Marvel superhero movies, but with a cyberpunk twist.
Producer and co-writer James Cameron’s (“Avatar,” “Terminator”) latest mega-movie, directed by Robert Rodriguez (“Sin City,” “Spy Kids”), is adapted from the popular 1990s Japanese cyberpunk manga graphic novel, “Gunnm”—created by Yukito Kishiro.
Set in a post-apocalyptic Earth 300 years in the future, a great war with Mars called “The Fall” left Earth in ruins. Now the elite live in the sky city of Zalem, ruled by the mysterious Nova; the rest of humanity lives on the surface in the impoverished Iron City.
This big, colorfully done film is first and foremost an action movie, and it delivers. The young butt-kicking cyborg, Alita, voiced by Rosa Salazar, unbeknownst to her, is an elite Mars soldier who survived the Mars-Earth war. Each fight is more exciting and epic than the last, but her greatest battle is with Grewishka (Jackie Earle Haley), a massive cyborg looking to shred Alita into little cyborg pieces.
The thrilling fight is brutal; Alita’s “Matrix” like slow-motion acrobatics are mesmerizing and jaw dropping as she nimbly avoids his blows and spiked chains with a shattering fighting style. More than a few drinks are spilled during a bar fight with cybernetic bounty hunters as she wipes out the unsuspecting ruthless killers.
The film starts with Alita’s cyborg head and preserved brain rummaged from a gargantuan landfill by the fatherly Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz). After he replaces her wrecked robotic body with a new one, the innocent and naive Alita sets out to discover her new world.
Alita meets Hugo (Keean Johnson), who teaches her motorball. The sport is a cross between roller derby and basketball. Later Hugo, Alita’s new boyfriend, will persuade Alita to play professional motorball — a far more deadly and often fatal version of the game.
When Alita discovers a magnificent new combat body in a crashed Mars ship, she becomes super powered — literally. Until now, Alita was a modest-looking teenager in a T-shirt and jeans. Wearing a revealing new body, she has a curvy figure and enhanced battle boobs — obvious fan service. The innocent doe-eyed teen is ready to get her game on.
Professional motorball is a super-charged version of the 70s “Roller Ball” film. The sports arena is massive with hundreds of thousands of screaming fans, and the game is intense, vicious and thrilling as we watch Alita decimate her murderous opponents.
The visual effects are ground breaking and succeed in capturing the energy and color of its manga origins. Iron City is a living and breathing city at night and the ending Motorball game is a grand spectacle. However, the CGI-created Alita interacting with live actors never blends well. She looks like an anime character; not real.
The multifaceted plot — almost to a fault — has several twists and turns, as well as subplots, that make the film a little scattered storywise.
“Alita: Battle Angel” is a fun and entertaining movie. If it is extreme action with a sci-fi theme you are seeking, this popcorn movie will not disappoint.