Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron usher in a new sci-fi epic with Alita: Battle Angel. Expertly crafted. Superbly paced. Visuals so good, the audience is emerged into the environment immediately. Hopefully fans can put their love for Star Wars, Star Trek, etc. aside and make room for a new franchise that truly embodies the genre.
Based on the Japanese cyberpunk series created by Yukito Kishiro, Rodriguez and Cameron spared no detail to bring this manga series to life. Alita: Battle Angel was originally announced back in 2003 but was constantly being delayed so Cameron could work on the Avatar sequels. And I'm kinda glad that it was. I just don't know if audiences would've been ready for it. Not to say that audiences are unintelligent, but I think back then the allegiance to sci-fi epics like Star Wars could not be shook. Even now, to an extent, I feel audiences think there can be only one sci-fi epic to rule them all. If it isn't Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel, or DC, it seems fans are quick to write it off. Sad, really. Given the numbers Alita is generating, it looks like we (the audience) is coming around. And I couldn't be happier.
The year is 2563. A catastrophic war known as "The Fall" has left Earth in shambles. We open on a man rummaging through a junkyard the size of Texas. The doctor, Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz), stumbles upon the upper torso of a female cyborg. Clearly by the look on his face, this is a great lost treasure that is priceless. The doctor brings the cyborg back to his clinic and realizes she has a completely intact human brain. Ido now begins to repair the cyborg. And does so successfully. Then he names her after his now deceased daughter, Alita.
Alita, now awake, can't remember who or what she is. After some character introductions, we are now ready to explore Iron City. Alita befriends a boy named Hugo. Hugo has dreams of leaving the poverty stricken Iron City to the sky city of Zalem. He thinks he can do this by way of Motorball; a battle royale race where cyborgs fight to the death.
Soon after, Alita discovers that Dr. Dyson Ido is a Hunter-Warrior. It is here where Alita begins to discover who she really is. When Ido is wounded, Alita, out of instinct, attacks the cyborgs hunting the doctor. She destroys all except one, Grewishka. Grewishka retreats to the underground. To defeat the cyborgs, Alita realizes she has been programmed with an ancient martial art called, "Panzer Kunst." Now armed with this knowledge, Alita wants to become a Hunter-Warrior like the doctor. Even though Ido adamantly discourages it. Shortly thereafter, Alita discovers, or rather is drawn to a sunken ship on the outskirts of Iron City. She finds, brings home, and asks Ido to install the new suit. A suit that Ido calls a Berserker body. Ido refuses to install the body fearing what Alita may become.
I've given you more than enough to whet your appetite. It's on you to get the rest of the story. And hopefully you get out to the theater to see it too. If you don't, it doesn't bode well for sequels being made in a timely fashion.
So many things to love about this movie. Let's start with the environment created by WETA Digital. As aforementioned, they spared no expense in every detail of the environment. For example, every layer of the city landscape was busy. And in the best way possible. You could look at background as far as the eye could see, and see that every layer was "alive." I couldn't begin to list all the talented souls that helped in that aspect. Bravo.
The cast was top notch. Almost everyone that had screen time made an impact. Which is also a rarity to do successfully when there are so many characters. Rosa Salazar (Alita) flawlessly portrays an ancient weapon (for lack of a better word) with such a vulnerability to it, sometimes you forget just how much of a badass she really is. Christoph Waltz (Dr. Dyson Ido) was fantastic. As he has done in his past films, he is doing these HUGE things on screen with a subtlety to his performance that just can't be taught. Easily one of the best actors working today. Jennifer Connelly (Chiren) is just stunning. And her veteran status can't be ignored. Almost every scene she is in, she steals it. A testament to her being in the game as long as she has been. Mahershala Ali (Vector) switches from ruthless business owner to possessed (by way of "patching") slave (to Nova) effortlessly. I truly am so happy that he's been getting role after role. Been a fan since The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Keean Johnson (Hugo) plays the love interest of Alita. He nails the conflicted but relatable boyfriend with a heart of gold that realizes in Act III what's really important to him. Ed Skrein (Zapan) plays another solid villain, perhaps more realized in Alita than his character in Deadpool 2. I could go on.
Alita: Battle Angel is definitely worth the fee of the ticket and popcorn. So, go. Go now. It has all the makings of our next sci-fi epic franchise...if you, the audience, will allow it.