Alita: Battle Angel, produced by John Landau and James Cameron and directed by Robert Rodriguez is based on the acclaimed Manga ‘Gunnm’ created by Yukito Kishiro in 1990.
Set in the year 2563, Alita: Battle Angel chronicles the tale of a teenage Cyborg rescued from a scrapheap and revived by a talented Cyber-physician by the name of Dr Dyson Ido. Suffering from Amnesia the young Cyborg becomes the audiences ‘way in’ to the city she now inhabits. Both the audience and Alita learn simultaneously of the state the city finds itself in, including its standing with the floating city of Zalem, the intriguing inhabitants of ‘Iron City’ including the Hunter Warriors and most importantly the high-octane spectator sport known as ‘Motorball’.
As the city begins to open up for the audience and Alita alike, we learn more about the history of this universe including the war between the URM (United Republic of Mars) and Earth. Specifically Alita’s ties to this historic conflict and her ability to perform the ancient combat style known as ‘Panzer Kunst’. As the story progresses a myriad of colourful characters enter the story and integrate into the overall narrative of a young girl simply looking to redefine herself and to carve out her own destiny.
The original Manga that ran from 1990 to 1995 was spread across 9 volumes and chronicled the events of a totally original, unique and immersive universe. Early on into this movie you could really tell that this was going to be the opening installment of a multi – movie franchise, and that the story of Alita would be given room to breathe for plot lines and characterisation to progress unhindered. Alita Battle Angel certainly needs that as it is packed with intriguing characters that really draw the audience in be it hero or villain. This is due to the incredible cast gathered for this movie including Rosa Salazar as Alita, Christoph Waltz, Ed Skrein, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Jackie Earle Haley and Keean Johnson.
Rosa Salazar last seen in the Netflix Original ‘Bird Box’ was both enchanting and engaging as the titular character. Alita is a multifaceted character full of heart and passion that really translates across the numerous eclectic senarios the character is placed in, be it intense peril, combat or intimate moments with loved ones. Alita had some really sweet and tender moments that made the audience care and route for her all the more.
Speaking of loved ones, Dr Ido played by Christoph Waltz automatically assumes the role of a protective, surrogate father figure to Alita. The actor performs this role authentically and naturally. Even though non biologically related, you can instantly feel the intangible emotion that is love. Specifically paternal love which radiates off this character in a way that feels completely natural. I felt both Christoph and Rosa shared great chemistry together. Christoph Waltz adds a real sense of gravitas to the roll, his character is a very deep and complex individual. These specific facets to his character really get flushed out as the movie progresses.
One of my favourite actors of the moment – Ed Skrein plays Hunter Warrior Zapan, and I Just loved every scene this charismatic yet vicious bounty hunter featured in. His character design is absolutely superb. He just looks formidable, somewhat reminiscent of a ninja especially when sporting the Damascus Blade. One of the most talented and highly regarded actors around right now, Mahershala Ali plays a character called Vector and I must say I was slightly disappointed. I feel the character was a little one dimensional with little to no back story or character development. This feeling of disappointment is compounded by the fact that Mahershala Ali is an exceptional actor who has significant pedigree when playing a villain. His time on Luke Cage playing the role of cottonmouth was a real high point and I just felt the actor wasn’t given enough to work with unfortunately.
This incredibly immersive world originally created by Yukito Kishiro just looks phenomenal on the big screen and the best representation of a 3D movie I’ve ever seen. It is just visually stunning. As an avid cinema-goer I prefer to see movies in 2D but this movie, and with the technology behind it has really changed my mind. I would highly recommend this in 3D and definitely in an IMAX screen if you can. This movie is epic and very panoramic. The impressive high-octane Motorball arena looks spectacular. The action captured in those scenes is jaw dropping and as I reiterate, the 3D is as crisp as anything I’ve ever seen. Regarding the special effects for this movie I’ve not seen anything better. The detail of the city itself, down to the intricate technology that makes up the artificial limbs and chassis of the characters that inhabit this world truly looks incredible and cutting edge. This most certainly includes the motion capture in which a majority of the actors participate in. Every visual aspect of this movie marries up seamlessly. I was totally engaged and invested the whole time.
My favourite aspect of this movie which I wasn’t expecting, was the fact that there is real jeopardy and peril involved. The characters in Alita: Battle Angel are not safe. There are scenes in this movie that are quite dark and the combat is rather brutal, more brutal than what I was expecting. The stakes in film are high, and the possibilities are endless for where the action and combat can go moving forward. One of my favourite designs in this movie when talking about brutality comes in the form of the Centurion guards. I really got ED-209 vibes from these things and we know how violent that can be from Robocop. The Centurion Guards looked fantastic. I loved the way they moved and more importantly the threat they pose.
Alita Battle Angel feels like an epic, movie event and it really delivers in all areas. From emotions such as love, and a sense of wonder to incredible action and combat scenes that leave you on the edge of your seat. The world crafted in this movie is dense and full of intricacy and detail, not just architecture but its inhabitants too. I had such a great time with this movie. It was really well paced with no time wasted. There are a lot of threads in this movie that are yet to be explored, I was engaged and invested the whole way through and was left wanting more.