Based on the manga and anime of the same name, this passion-project for producer James Cameron and director Robert Rodriguez delivers a film which honours the style of Japanese anime, right down to the over-sized eyes of Alita. Stylish fight scenes, apocalyptic cities, bounty hunting, alien wars and fight-to-the-death sports games are all crammed into this movie, there’s so much to go through it can be fatiguing but conversely there’s so much that will appeal to anyone looking for a cleverer film than usual.
Set in the post-apocalyptic city where most citizens are part-cyborg and the main dream is to reach the floating city above them – the metaphor of an elite ruling above is reminiscent of the anime film Metropolis (2001). Beginning with the engineer Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz) discovering a broken cyborg, he puts her back together and names her Alita. Alita (Rosa Salazar) has no memories of her past other than a forgotten form of martial arts which makes her stronger against even the largest of foes. From there the film spends a lot of time building the world around her, slowly peeling back the layers of the city from its bright vistas to the darkest alleys.
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Robert Rodriguez paces the film with exploration and action sequences so comfortably that by the time you feel the end coming you’ll realise that sadly there isn’t enough time for just one film. It’s only at the end do you realise how far Alita has come from amnesiac cyborg to ‘Battle Angel’. The films ability to juggle light-hearted scenes with tense confrontations is done with great expertise, though a romance between Alita and a human boy Hugo (Keean Johnson) is very forced.
Alita discovers her memories return in life-threatening situations and enrolls herself as a bounty hunter, earning the ire of another hunter Zapan (Ed Skrein) – an embodiment of narcissism if ever there was one. The action scenes are choreographed in a believable way, Alita can only jump and punch so hard while her enemies have their own limitations; by not bending the rules too much it allows the audience to become more invested in these fights than they would otherwise.
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Alita’s journey through her memories and the city leads her to realise that the answers she seeks is from the floating city from where her body fell from. As the film sets out to answer her many questions it becomes evident that it is only in sequels will we get the answer. This is probably the only draw-back of this grand and dense film.
There’s so much world-building it becomes an understandable trade that this will not end as satisfactorily as you may want. Any fans of anime or action-packed adventures will enjoy this film for the world Alita makes her own, regardless of the unfulfilled promises it makes.
Alita: Battle Angel is out today.
Checkout our review on Yugen and our review on A Most Violent Year
Words by Sunny Ramgolam @SunnyRamgolam.
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