Alita: Battle Angel is in the same company as Speed Racer, Jupiter Ascending, Valerian, Ready Player One and A Wrinkle in Time. Where it boldly seeks to dazzle you with its effects, ideas and camera movements, though while it cannot be said that the filmmakers are not passionate about the material and the people on the production side were slouches, the story and ideas never come together.
Alright, let’s plow through the plot because there are a lot of details. It is the far distant future and a man is looking through a trash heap to salvage parts. While doing so he finds the head and some of the guts of a robot (the head itself looks like that of a young girl). He takes her home and attaches a body, she comes to life and knows so very little. So Dr. Dyson Ido (Christopher Waltz) explains the ins-and-outs of the city to her, there are people and robots and people can have robotic appendages attached to them to enhance themselves. This is exposition and it feels like it, which is the worst exposition.
Alita (Rosa Salazar) herself is one of the great selling points of the movie, her skin is so near perfectly rendered, it is one of the great feats of C.G.I. animation, but her eyes size are increased to make them look like typical Anime eyes (animation produced in Japan). So there is an obvious disconnect from the reality. They clearly had a lot riding on this effect and are obviously proud of the end result having her framed in the traditional way, and letting the camera gets really close to her so you can see all the teeny tiny hairs on her skin and the individual pores as well as seeing her in slow motion so you can really soak her up from every angle and see every strand of hair gracefully move.
A problem with her as a character is that she has rather
little personality and is a perfect warrior, so we have nothing to
connect with on an emotional level and nothing to root for during the
action scenes because she can win. I suppose some of the things she does
is cool but it’s ultimately a shallow experience.
Connelly and Mahershala Ali play Dr. Chiren and Vector, two people in
service to Nova the ruler of the upside and who is able to transfer his
consciousness into other people. Chiren
was married to dr— and now builds other robots for the games and
Vector funds it and has dark ambitions and pulls the strings, though he
is only a bit player compared to Nova. We barely learn anything real
about them, they aren’t even the biggest threat, who we also barely get
to know or care about and they two seem bored whenever they are onscreen
and I can’t blame them because they are given nothing to work with.
What a waste of two very good actors.
You get the
sense of something deeper and more profound happening or at least the
potential. Robots, technology, extravagant designs, and a big looming
evil threat can, of course, lend itself to wonderful material, the manga
is probably filled with these kinds of things and was probably why the
filmmakers were so passionate about bringing it to life in a movie. But
concept and execution are two vastly different entities. Saying that
your going to create a unique, futuristic world and have an adventure
playout within it is one thing, making that something engaging is
another. Ultimately we have a movie with the goal to create something
profound and unique like Ghost in the Shell but just ends up like the 2017 version of Ghost in the Shell.
When the characters make any decision and go about it you don’t really know them or even have a strong understanding of their motivations so when something is happening that you understand is suppose to be dramatic it is less like people forming their own destiny and rather like seeing someone else crash toys together.
I remember days when we were able to see movies, nay, blockbusters and not feel like we had to commit for three for five more movies a decade later. When you watch Star Wars the threat is beaten, the good guys win and it ends, a satisfying movie as a whole, there are others, but they work by themselves. Those days seem to be dead for the foreseeable future as franchises are the name of the game these days. This one is one of the biggest sinners of all because this story isn’t even done by the time the credits roll, hardly anything has been accomplished, we barely have a grasp on characters and plain just dont care.
Amongst the previously mentioned list of ambitious effects, driven movies Speed Racer is probably the best with the most outlandish, unapologetic images as well as being wise enough to have a tone where it’s tongue is firmly in its cheek. This is the new bottom of the barrel, with not even telling complete story and leaving us shortchanged an experience when we paid full price for the ticket.