Cameron and Rodriguez have announced their plan to make a sequel to the film. (Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox)
“Alita: Battle Angel” is a cyberpunk action movie that follows the story of a cyborg teenage girl named Alita (Rosa Salazar), who is discovered in a junkyard with no body or memory of her past life. She quickly discovers that she has powers that have not been seen in centuries and attempts to recollect memories from her past life to understand who she used to be and what her purpose was.
From the very first shot of the movie, the world and effects are simply on epic proportions. There is clear, major effort put into creating an exciting and interesting sci-fi world that these characters inhabit, and this world-building is far and away the highlight of the movie. Despite the movie being a mere two hours, the film does a really good job explaining everything the audience needs to know about this new world in a way that it does not feel like the script is constantly hitting the audience over the head with exposition. It is a world intentionally designed to leave the audience fascinated and craving more.
However, this effort could have gone much more effectively into creating a more captivating script. The story is an extremely generic origin story, where a person with powers discovers their fullest potential over the course of the movie despite hesitation from a person looking over them and defeats a moderately powerful threat while a more pressing one looms far ahead. While these tropes can be more enjoyable with effective scriptwriting or subversion of expectations, “Alita” goes mostly how anyone watching it would expect it to go. It is a passable enough story to entertain, but massively disappointing compared to the amount of effort put into building a world to tell the story.
The other central issue with the movie is the character development of the main character, Alita. While the way her powers and personality develop back to what they were before she lost her memory may be realistic in a sense, the extremely quick progress she makes it a bit jarring from an audience perspective. She goes from stumbling across her bedroom barely being able to walk to drop-kicking a massive cyborg and slashing it in half in the course of about a half hour. She goes from being a timid and curious teenage girl to yelling at a room of trained mercenaries to join her cause in a little less than an hour. With the only defining events between these scenes being an action sequence or two, this change feels very rapid and underdeveloped. The effort is not put into making Alita rediscover her confidence and powers, she just does rediscover it when the plot needs her to so it can keep going.
The movie’s action starts to ramp up a bit in the second half, and these is where “Alita” begins to find its footing. The cinematography and design put into the action sequences is extraordinarily captivating and the visuals are fantastic without feeling over the top gratuitous. It is a technical marvel in all senses of the phrase, and the more the movie focuses in on this over the under-baked plot, the more effective it is.
However, when it is finally time to resolve the movie, “Alita” fumbles once again. When it feels like there will be at least another half hour to give the story a conclusion, the credits begin rolling. This is a massive shame, as the story finally seemed to take an interesting turn, and a sequel is far from guaranteed. In the end, all “Alita” really ended up being was blatant franchise bait with little story to tell of its own and only offers a cool visual flair and interesting world.
Overall grade: C+