Geek Review: Alita: Battle Angel

Alita: Battle Angel, a project long in the making from producer/co-writer James Cameron, is finally out in theaters.  Featuring a big-eyed protagonist and based on a manga, should we be wary of anything that was pushed back from theatrical release at least twice before finally opening in February?

Yeah, maybe a little.

Doc Ido (Christoph Waltz) is scrounging through the refuse from the floating city of Zalem, looking for replacement parts for the cyborgs he treats in his clinic, when he comes across a head with a still-living human brain inside.  He attaches it to a body he has and calls the girl (Rosa Salazar) by the name “Alita” once she wakes up.  Alita has no memory of her past life, but she has some skills, and she isn’t afraid to use them as she starts exploring the craphole environment of Iron City, finding some romance with a guy named Hugo (Keean Johnson), and wondering where she came from while like so many she wishes she could visit Zalem if not outright move there.  But she has problems in the form of Doc’s ex-wife Chiren (Jennifer Connelly) and Motorball–a sport that looks like a cross between roller derby and basketball–promoter/system rigger Vector (Mahershala Ali), and the person they answer to would like to take Alita out once and for all.

Director Robert Rodriguez has some gifts when it comes to working with special effects, and this movie has a ton of them.  The world of Iron City is lush with detail of humans and cyborgs going about their day-to-day lives, trying to survive as best they can, and Salazar isn’t a bad lead.  The problem is, for one, Cameron’s script isn’t particularly sophisticated so much as really busy, with a few too many potential endings all tossed into the end, and many of the actors don’t seem to be trying too hard.  Johnson is particularly bad as the conflicted love interest.  Waltz can do this stuff in his sleep.  Ali, on the other hand, has a bit more to do, and he does take advantage of it as much as he can.  And as for Connelly, her character seems to possess the uncanny ability to just be places without any real explanation for how she got there.  That sort of thing knocked me out of the movie a couple times.  And there are a number of familiar faces strewn into the movie here and there.

There’s a lot going on in this movie, and I’m somewhat of the opinion there was a bit too much most of the time.  And quite frankly, aside from the effects and setting, there wasn’t much for me to recommend here.  6.5 out of 10 dog lovers.

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