What do you get when you mix James Cameron, and all the millions he can command for movies, and legendary grindhouse director Robert Rodriguez, who is used to working with smaller budgets but no less ambitious in the VFX department, and the Manga of Yukito Kishiro? Answer: Alita: Battle Angel.
Alita is the type of movie I haven’t seen in a long time. It’s one of those movies that, when you leave the theatre, you do so with a spring in your step, a smile on your face. You do so wanting to be part of the world you’ve just seen, to be the main character.
The movie is much more than a humanoid going around the city handing peoples assess to them, I mean, sure there’s quite a bit of that. But the movie also has a lot of heart, there is, of course, a love story running throughout, two in fact, but they don’t detract from the action and add a level of warmth and depth that would have been lost without them.
Ido specialises in marrying humans to android bits so he takes the head home and gives her a body. A body he’d made for his daughter. When the girl wakes, she has no recollection of who she was, or is, or even her name. So Ido names her Alita, after his daughter. Rosa Salazar (“Bird Box”, “CHiPS“) is the woman behind the VFX.
Alita meets Hugo, Keean Johnson (“Nashville (TV)”, “Spooksville (TV)”), a friend of Ido’s, and the two begin to hang-out, Hugo teaching Alita about the world they live in. A world far in the future, after a war has devastated much of the planet and most people live in one place, below one of the only floating cities still left in the world.
It’s not a million miles away from Elysium in this regard. The “have’s” living in this much desired floating oasis above the “have not’s” who live below and feed of their scraps.
Then there’s rollerball, which I’ll be honest I wasn’t expecting. Rollerball is the game these enhanced humanoids play, racing around a track after a ball, bashing seven bells out of each other in order to win the race. The ultimate champion getting the chance to be sent to the floating city above, Zalem, the only way to get there.
There are also no police anymore, instead ordinary, or cyber-enhanced, people off the street sign-up to be bounty hunters like Zapan, Ed Skrein (“Deadpool“, “Ill Manors”). This is what Alita decides she wants to do, it’s also what gets her into all sorts of trouble.
We have a couple of bad guys in Mahershala Ali (“House Of Cards (TV)”, “Luke Cage (TV)”) and Jennifer Connelly (“A Beautiful Mind”, “Requiem For A Dream”), the former wife of Dr. Ido.
Amazingly, since this is Robert Rodriguez and he, like his good friend Quentin Tarantino, likes to put actors you haven’t heard from in a while in his movies, we also get Casper Van Dien (“Starship Troopers”, “Darkness Reigns“), Jeff Fahey (“The Lawnmower Man”, “Lost (TV)”) and, of course, Michelle Rodriguez (“Fast & Furious 8“, “Machete Kills”).
There’s also a very, very super bad guy who lives up in Zalem but seems to control what goes on below from his lofty perch. He sees all, as he has the ability to hack into anyone and take control of them, I could tell you who it is, but I’m not going to, see for yourself.
The look of Alita: Battle Angel is simply stunning, you’d expect so for a reputed $200 million dollar budget, the city, the mix of human and robot parts, everything is superbly done. Rodriguez handles the fight scenes with aplomb, as he does the race scenes too, but he also shows he can do the slower, more heartfelt moments, with a deft touch.
Salazar is instantly someone you warm too, or the CGI version of her, it can get a little confusing if you try to think about it too much. But she plays Alita with a lovely child-like innocence, in someone who can “rip your arm off and beat you with the wet end”.
Alita: Battle Angel is a great film and there are bound to be more, we hope there are more. Sure, it isn’t going to be for everyone; there will be those that think the 12A has softened it, those who think it’s not like the source material, those who won’t like the violence, those that will. But the fact there is so much, and that very little of it takes away from any other part, is a great testament to all involved in my eyes.