James Cameron is back, this time as a producer and writer, with another visually stunning movie that attempts to push the boundaries of CGI. “Alita: Battle Angel” tells the story of a discarded amnesiac cyborg who is found, saved and re-built by a cyber-surgeon — played by the wonderful Christoph Waltz (“Django Unchained,” “Inglourious Basterds”) — who must then try and figure out who Alita is while staying alive in the unforgiving Iron City. The film is directed by Robert Rodriguez.
The visual effects in this movie are phenomenal. While that can’t come as a surprise when Cameron is in the mix, Alita — played by Rosa Salazar — does a fantastic job translating all of her emotions through the special effects layered on top of her face. Any audience member could get lost in Alita’s emotionful eyes, lively hair and soft skin. The settings were also well constructed and put an emphasis on the overall scale of the Iron City, which seemed eerily similar to the Star Wars city of Jedha. Zalem, the sky city that floats above Iron City, is not explored but its looming presence was enough to make any audience member curious as to what the sky city is like, putting them in the shoes of the poor Iron City civilians living below. The design of the evil cyborgs in the film are stunningly intricate and stand out from each other.
The story itself seemed to only be partially told, and by that, I mean a sequel seems inevitable. While I was curious to see what happens in the current story, the flashbacks or potential sequels being teased throughout the movie appealed to me more than the plot at hand, and that distraction was a hindrance to the film. Flashbacks seem to come when the audience least expects them, but they only made me want to see the prequel to the movie more than the movie itself. It was pretty evident that sequels or prequels to the story would only suffice if there was an increase in budget, and if audience turnout is low that is unlikely, which is a shame.
The other characters in this movie were average or below average because they did nothing to enhance the world or story. The teenage love interest storyline has been done before numerous times and did little to add to the movie. I would say that it did more harm just because of the tacky, dated dialogue. The non-cyborg villains in the movie would be described as extremely average villains in a future dystopian society. They were soft spoken, ambiguous, unrelatable and stupid. The main villain in the story named Vector (Mahershala Ali) only works to move the plot along and provide unnecessary insight for the audience.
One aspect I can really appreciate about this movie is its willingness to throw punches, and by that I mean the risks it takes, for the most part, succeed. The action sequences in the movie are well choreographed and explorative instead of confining themselves to only a small area. This is aided by the excellent world building envisioned by Cameron. The violence in this movie is more graphic than the average PG-13 movie perhaps because the dismemberment of blue blooded cyborgs is considered less explicit than that of humans. But even with that rating, this movie pushed the envelope without indulging in the gore factor. The bravery in Cameron’s screenplay worked to keep me engaged in the fighting sequences due to its lack of predictability.
While I can’t call this movie a masterpiece, it kept me engaged in both the story and the main characters. Its world is beautiful, mystic, inquisitive and unforgiving while seeming somewhat realistic for its setting in the 26th century. Alita — as a computer generated character — is a feat to acknowledge on its own, but a lot of the credit must also go to Salazar for translating her life and realistic human mannerisms into the character. This film delivers great action sequences while still making time to dissect Alita and allow the audience to build a relationship with her. Its violence may be too much for small children, but families with teenage kids will have a great time with this beautiful addition to Cameron’s filmography.