Alita: Battle Angel is a movie that, until recently, had languished in development hell for a very, very long time. Like many of James Cameron‘s other pet projects, Alita’s slow development came from a mixture of many things. Mostly, it seemed, the lack of time and the lack of capable technology. Cameron is a man consumed by his work. His vision for Avatar, for example, far preceded its actual development. While his interest in the manga series Battle Angel Alita took roots in the early 2000s, he was unable to dedicate the time and resources necessary to take that story from page to screen. At least until now. After more than a decade in purgatory, Cameron partnered with Sin City director Robert Rodriguez to bring Alita to the big screen.
Alita: Battle Angel Was Well Worth the Wait
I was admittedly unbothered by the first trailer for Alita: Battle Angel. Being someone who isn’t a huge fan of manga, I was worried that I would have to research the film to understand and to enjoy it. I was enticed by the action, more so by the effects. How could I not be? This movie was the child of two cinematic masterminds. And its all-star cast? Christoph Waltz, Mahershala Ali, Jennifer Connelly, and Jackie Earle Haley? Maybe not the most blockbuster-worthy names, but all astounding actors in their own right. Quite literally, the only thing that was holding me back from the movie was my own ignorance of its source material.
Let’s get this out of the way quickly: What a terrible reason to not experience this movie.
If Alita: Battle Angel is any sign of what’s to come with Cameron’s Avatar sequels, consider me sold. While the CGI on Alita, the protagonist played by Rosa Salazar, ventured into uncanny valley territory, I was blown away by how real some of the effects looked. The effects, in general, were of much higher quality than many other CGI-heavy films I’ve seen in the past year, including Avengers: Infinity War. And of course, the action was just as good as the film’s own effects. Considering the names backing this project, I’d expect nothing less. And the action? Let’s just say that Michael Bay could take a page out of Cameron’s and Rodriguez’s book regarding robot fights.
The Not So Good
The love story between Alita and love-interest Hugo (played by Keean Johnson) was little more than glorified puppy love. At times the writing seemed clunky and out of place with the rest of the film’s tone. I understand the need to balance out body horror, science fiction and action with a little bit of romance, but the writing here just felt lazy. There’s a moment in the film where Alita literally offers Hugo her heart and it’s the most cringe-worthy scene in the movie.
The Last Word on Alita: Battle Angel
The lack of backstory regarding things like “The Fall” is enticing. Alita’s flashbacks to her life before being reborn are enticing. The possibilities of future Alita films are enticing. This film does a good job at teasing what could be, occasionally sacrificing what it should be now in exchange. However, Alita: Battle Angel is still a good movie. The effects, thanks to James Cameron’s production, are astounding. Outside of a poorly done teenage romance and copious sequel building, Alita: Battle Angel is a film that absolutely deserves your attention.
Main Image Credit: