In the year 2563, cybernetics doctor Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) finds the remains of a cyborg with a human brain whilst searching for scrap. Repairing her and giving her a new body he names her Alita (Rosa Salazar). Unable to remember her previous life she seeks to learn about the dilapidated Iron City she finds herself in and the mysterious floating city of Zalem above them. Only when her life is threatened does she get a glimpse into her previous life as she effortlessly turns into a killing machine.
Based on the Japanese Manga Battle Angel Alita created by Yukito Kishiro in 1990 this is the most faithful adaptation of a Manga I can recall watching. As a teenager I absolutely adored the 1993 Anime film (oddly available on YouTube if you have 55 minutes free) and this film features so many scenes that are visually identical it’s impressive. I would strongly recommend the film to any fans of Japanese Anime and Manga on that basis alone. But will everyone else enjoy it?
Where Alita is flawed it is due to the source material and the creators intentions to be faithful. It has two minor drawbacks that the average filmgoer would need to be aware of. Firstly, it is trying to cram a multitude of storylines into a 2 hour running time and as a result some of them feel under developed. Secondly, as is the case for a lot of 1990’s Japanese Anime, it has a major case of style over substance with overly simplistic character behaviours. Our lead characters are earnest and prone to extremes of emotion. Alita behaves like a naive teenager and her romance with Hugo (Keean Johnson) plays like a Young Adult novel.
But this should be minor discouragement for those seeking a visually stunning slice of cyberpunk action.
Originally announced by James Cameron (Terminator, Aliens, Titanic, Avatar) in 2003 to be his next film, Alita has taken an inordinate amount of time to make it to the screen. Handing over the directorial reigns to Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, Sin City) when Avatar took up all of his time has resulted in a mix of both the directors styles. Cameron’s screenplay and 3D expertise are clearly visible, whilst Rodriguez kinetic action style really pays off as well. The special effects are phenomenal, with the part human cyborgs looking incredible and the action sequences being clear and crisply put together.
With the likes of Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Hayley and Edward Norton filling out the cast there is ample talent to deliver the earnest and sometimes “on the nose” dialogue as well.
I loved it and I hope with a little forewarning of its shortcomings you will too.