Alita: Battle Angel – Film Review

I wasn’t super excited about Alita: Battle Angel but I decided to check it out and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I have a feeling it’s going to be a box office flop which is a shame because it’s actually quite good.

The year is 2563 and we’re in the post-apocalyptic Iron City. Cyborg scientist Dr Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) comes across the parts of a cyborg and creates Alita (Rosa Salazar, via motion capture). She wakes up with no memory and she goes on a journey to discover her true identity – along the way she falls in love with Hugo (Keean Johnson), realises the extent of her powers and experiences the high octane game Motorball.

The film was conceived by Avatar’s James Cameron inspired by the manga series of the same name and directed by Robert Rodriguez. It is epic, ambitious and clearly has aspirations to become a franchise and I don’t see why not (ignoring the box office figures) because the world they have built is so interesting and impressive and Alita is a likeable character you can’t help but get behind. I’d happily watch more stories about Alita.

It takes a little while to get the rules of the new world and adjust to how weird Alita looks – she looks exactly like Salazar but in CG and with big, manga-style eyes, which do look odd but help give her an innocence and captivating presence. You wouldn’t think you would connect with such a character but Salazar does such a fantastic job giving her emotion and vulnerability as well as being totally kick ass. She is the star of the show and holds it all together.

It was nice to see Waltz playing a warm, nurturing father character when he usually plays the villain, Jennifer Connelly deserves better roles (and her character’s arc ends in a WTF way), Mahershala Ali‘s talents were wasted, and Johnson would totally become like the new Robert Pattinson or Taylor Lautner if this took off. I don’t think it will but he’s cute enough for that. There are also lots of recognisable faces in supporting roles, from Lana Condor and Jorge Lendeborg Jr as humans, and Michelle Rodriguez, Eiza Gonzalez and Ed Skrein as cyborgs – the latter really needs to break out of his villain rut, even though he does it so well. He’s the same in everything!

There is a lot of action and some ace fight sequences, with some beautiful slo-mo moments, and the CGI looks good, which helps you forgive the familiar plot. I really was surprised by how much I liked it. It’s a shame that it’s unlikely to do well because eventually people will stop trying to kick-start new ambitious, epic sci-fi franchises. It’s worth a go, I promise.

In cinemas now

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