Alita: Battle Angel [2019] (a film review by Frank Ochieng).

It should not be such a novelty act to witness resilient feminine empowerment at the helm of an adventurous SF-oriented manga film. It also should not be a curiosity as to why such an adventurous SF-oriented manga film be considered merely serviceable especially coming from the notable creative likes of heralded and profiled filmmakers James Cameron (‘Avatar’) and Robert Rodriguez (‘Sin City’, ‘Machete Kills’).

Thus, the slight sci-fi spectacle ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ begs to serve up an energetic, dazed robotic butt-kicking babe in an imaginable futuristic fury promoting girl power at its grittiest. Sadly, Cameron’s/Rodriguez’s slinky cyborg sass grips, grunts, grinds, and groans but all the flashy manufactured mayhem feels as rambunctious as poking a dent in a pile of mashed potatoes.

This is quite an inexcusable collaboration behind the thin production of ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ because this manga film adaptation should be brimming with a bombastic blaze worthy of Rodriguez’s direction/co-writing and Cameron’s co-writing/executive producing. ‘Alita’ is loaded with impressive CGI optical opulence, the involvement of a star-studded cast and an ambitious message about a shifty she-bot stepping it up in her endangered existence. Nevertheless, this jittery popcorn pleaser lacks the animated intrigue and depth of its high-wire, twitchy conventions.

Somewhere contained in ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ is a blend of Science Fiction consciousness with a frenetic tale of womanly whimsy as the ultimate showdown. Curiously, ‘Alita’ travels a rudimentary road map that registers as empty and aimless despite its decorative divisiveness. Incidentally, ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ is based upon the Yukito Kishiro manga series. It is too bad that the film version appears flat and convoluted in all its concocted excess.

The premise takes place in a disastrous world in the year 2563. The overall planet’s dire conditioning, deemed as ‘The Fall’, finds Iron City-based Dr. Dyson Ido (Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz) mulling over his latest creation, a dismembered and disoriented female cyborg known as Alita (Rosa Salazar. This defective diva with the mechanical make-up has a human organ that is failing her something awful…her dysfunctional brain.

Specifically, Alita has a major case of memory loss. Obviously, she is vulnerable and has no clue as to who and what she really is as an individual/machine. In any event, Dr. Ido, also a revered junkyard scrounger of sorts, transforms the damaged scrapheap project into a curvaceous, calculating cast-off armed and ready as only a sleek, tight-outfitted cyborg siren can be. Still, Alita’s only true flaw is not knowing the sense of her self. Thank goodness that she can hold up in combative warfare…this counts for something, right?

“I am a, I mean jeopardized junk heap…whoops…cyborg siren–hear me roar in the slightly sensationalistic ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL

Some kudos need to be given to the theme of the film’s feminist fable bending as Salazar’s Alita comes into her own. The film can be applauded for its eye-popping visuals that no one can deny. Plus, it is quite refreshing to see an action-oriented flick chick in all her insanely independent glory. What undermines ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ is that Salazar’s mistress of mayhem never feels authentic or unique as a distinctive composite of an alluring female cyborg.

She is merely a recycled combo of other retreads we have seen in the past that ape the antics of ‘Terminator 3: The Rise Of The Machines’ T-X model to anything else that remotely registers this estrogen mechanical characterization. It also does not help that co-writers Cameron and Rodriguez, along with Laeta Kalogrides, routinely borrow from other familiar sources influenced by such entries as ‘Rollerball’, ‘Blade Runner’, and ‘The Matrix’ to boot.

There is not much going on in ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ that elaborates on the pondering point about the co-existence of cyborg technologies versus human ingenuity. The throwaway sub-plot concerning Salazar’s Alita affectionately yearning for a street-wise, walking sleeping pill of a human named Hugo (Keenan Johnson) feels like added filler for a strained colourful sideshow wallowing in so-called curious excitement.

Additionally, the angst-ridden anchor that bogs down Alita during her awakening rage never is constructively realized. One may be convinced of Alita’s full-throttle intentions but may need to still examine its half-baked fueling that drives this languished SF actioner.

Alita: Battle Angel

20th Century Fox.
1 hr. 45 mins.
Starring: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Keenan Johnson, Ed Skrein, Michelle Rodriguez and Jackie Earle Haley.
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez.
Written by: James Cameron, Robert Rodriguez and Laeta Kalogrides.
Rated: PG-13.
Genre: Action & Adventure/Fantasy/Science Fiction/Romance.
Critic’s Rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars).

(c) Frank Ochieng 2019.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.