A cyborg becomes a hero in a Sci-Fi guilty pleasure
I had my doubts about “Alita: Battle Angel,” a magna film adaptation from director Robert Rodriguez and producers James Cameron and Jon Landau. The reasons include it’s a Sci-Fi movie about a girl learning about her true origin, and how “Jupiter Ascending” was a major disaster in that category. Also because of how “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” had the most annoying characters and convoluted plot in what was considered a guilty pleasure. And in the magna genre, the live-action version of “Ghost in the Shell” became a box-office bomb. Hell, they all did.
However, as I watched “Alita: Battle Angel,” I realized it’s the exact opposite of those movies. Not a complete opposite, because of how the story gets complicated, but it offers no annoying characters or dizzy effects. It actually has something called patience, and I’m surprised to have liked it.
The 20th Century Fox logo starts off normal, and ends up transforming into 26th Century Fox. That’s because the movie takes place in the year 2565, years after a post-apocalyptic event known as “The Fall.”
A scientist named Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) finds parts of an old cyborg, fixes her up, and names her Alita (Rosa Salazar). She has skeleton-like hands, eyes like Margaret Keane’s paintings, a crush on a street-wise kid named Hugo (Keean Johnson), and a thirst for learning about life. But more importantly, she wants to remember who she really was.
He admits to her about his deceased daughter, how his ex-wife (Jennifer Connolly) left him, and the fact that he is a Hunter-Warrior, who battles cyborg assassins. Alita has the fighting abilities to become one, especially since it triggers her memories (Michelle Rodriguez cameos as her trainer).
The number 1 sport on Earth is Motorball, which splices rollerskating with basketball on the streets, and in the big leagues, mechanical suits are the uniform. That’s the coolest part of the movie, and with the right visual effects, it looks like fun. Hugo advises her to compete in the game, although she’s unaware it’s a trap.
The antagonists of the movie include a Motorball entrepreneur named Vector (Mahershala Ali), a cyborg bounty hunter (Ed Skrein), a large cyborg assassin (Jackie Earle Haley), and a mind-transferring scientist named Nova (Edward Norton). They all want Alita dead.
“Alita: Battle Angel” may be a little silly, and it may have a convoluted plot, but for my two cents, I’ve seen worse Sci-Fi flicks of its kind than this. As I told you, they were “Jupiter Ascending,” “Valerian,” and “Ghost in the Shell.” This one, however, is more effective in its acting, ambitions, and visuals. It’s a B-movie made by such fine filmmakers as Rodriguez, Cameron, and Landau.
I’m mixed about Salazar, because of how she sometimes makes annoying dispositions, but somehow you care for her character. Ali isn’t at his “Moonlight” or “Green Book” best, but he does play a cool villain with his sunglasses and dialogue. And I’ve never heard of Johnson, but I was impressed with how fine of a young actor he is.
This is not a masterpiece, but it comes as close as any of the Sci-Fi flops I hated or disliked.