Film Review: Alita: Battle Angel
PUBLISHED: 09:00 14 February 2019
Mark Goodin takes on an adaptation of a Japanese cyberpunk manga for his latest review.
With their talent for building bold, inventive worlds the team of Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron would appear to be the ideal pair to adapt Yukito Kishiro’s bold, action-packed Manga comic series Battle Angel Alita for the cinema; while their interpretation of the source material brims with outstanding visuals the end result is very much a mixed bag.
When he discovers the abandoned, eponymous hero (Rosa Salazar) in a scrap yard, kind-hearted cyber-doctor Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) takes the deactivated cyborg back to his clinic and nurses her back to health. When she awakens, the protagonist navigates the treacherous streets of Iron City to discover her true identity.
Despite the talent behind the camera, the world Rodriguez and Cameron (who produces and co-wrote here) is lacking in the way of visual invention or originality – with Elysium and, particularly in the film’s latter half, Rollerball among the blindingly clear visual touch-stones for their film’s poverty-stricken futuristic setting.
However, the director fills Alita’s ultra-violent stand-offs between the film’s plethora of cybernetic baddies with the same gore-splashing aplomb that made the likes of From Dusk Till Dawn and Sin City such a joy and, despite wrestling with some appalling, heavy-handed dialogue, Salazar and Waltz radiate a warmth and charm that anchor the film’s emotional core.
Marhershala Ali’s sinister entrepreneur Vector and Ed Skrein’s snarling bounty hunter Zapan also impress, adding a much needed gravitas to a film that, much like its main character, is not always comfortable in its own skin.