Alita: Battle Angel suffered through a long and challenging period of development. It originally started as a manga series in the early 1990’s. In 2000, the domain name was registered to James Cameron, with Cameron confirming a few years later that he would direct it. The film saw continuous delays and Cameron said that he loved the project too much to hand it over to another director. Now in 2019, we finally have the movie and it is directed by… Robert Rodriguez? You know, the guy that did Spy Kids and Machete.
Anyways, the movie is finally out and it is really good. In terms of its technology, it is incredibly impressive and makes use of several technological advancements that happened as a result of Avatar (such as Fusion Camera System, facial performance capture, and the Simulcam). Although Cameron was not the director, Rodriguez does a decent enough job at imitating Cameron’s work. And the movie is quite fun, in Rodriguez fashion.
Despite being so fun, I have a couple of complaints. Firstly, while Rodriguez edited down Cameron’s enormous screenplay and 600 pages of notes to a workable screenplay, it still feels unfocused at times. There are certain sub-plots that get developed slightly that feel like they could have been cut out. For example, the romance between Alita and Hugo. Hugo is a vastly underdeveloped character and serves as nothing more than a love interest. Actually, most characters feel like a slight variation of this role. Alita feels like the only character that was really fleshed out and given a proper back story (although the use of flashbacks as exposition was sometimes questionable).
My biggest complaint, however, was the blatant setting up of sequels. Alita doesn’t really END this time around. It builds and builds and then it leaves us. Sometimes, cliffhangers can be extremely effective. But here, it felt like a punch in the stomach. I won’t get into specific details but I think if the film was given another 30-45 minutes of run-time and some of the boring sub-plots were cut down throughout, the film could have managed to tie everything up by the end.
Still, the film was a blast and there are several cool moments and ideas found throughout. The entire time I was reminded of two video games: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (obvious similarities) and Bloodborne (I have been playing it lately so the whole hunter-warrior concept plus Christoph Waltz’s costume design plus going out to do it in the dark of night seemed very familiar).
I sincerely hope that there is at least 1 sequel with Cameron and Rodriguez returning in their respective roles.
7/10 – Good