A review of the new sci-fi movie “Alita: Battle Angel”

A movie co-written and co-produced by the legendary James Cameron (“Avatar”) and co-written and directed by the innovative Robert Rodriguez (“Sin City”) was always going to mean that something special was on offer and attract the attention of this sc-fi fan and I made sure to see it on an IMAX screen in 3D. 

Set in Iron City on Earth in 2563, the story encompasses four of the novels in the cyberpunk manga series by Japanese writer Yukito Kishiro. The titular large-eyed Alita (newcomer Rosa Salazar) is a very badly damaged teenage cyborg with a human brain who is discovered, restored and named (after his deceased daughter) by Dr. Dyson Ido (the now ubiquitous Christopher Waltz).

In the course of the film, her cyber body is massively upgraded and she discovers latent fighting skills in a form of martial arts called “panzer kunst”. We are here in the familiar territory of the different language versions of “Ghost In The Shell” (1995 & 2017).

Visually the movie is simply stunning with terrific use of motion capture and special effects. There are some exciting fight sequences with a variety of technology-enhanced villains and spectacular races in a game called “Motorball” which is very reminiscent of the films “Rollerball” (1975 & 2002).

The two weaknesses of the work are related: the narrative is thin and rather confused and the ending is sudden and unsatisfactory. These inadequacies might well be addressed by what seems like an inevitable sequel or two when presumably we will see more of Zalem, that city in the sky which has echoes of the earlier (2013) “Elysium”.


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