Alita: Battle Angel is an impressive, yet hollow visual spectacle


Brendan Sheardy, Staff Writer

  Alita: Battle Angel is based off the anime series of the same name, and follows a cyborg named Alita, who attempts to save the citizens of Iron City threats from above, while also struggling with her lost identity. This blockbuster is directed by Robert Rodriguez, produced by James Cameron, and stars Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Keean Johnson, and Mahershala Ali.

  James Cameron is known mostly for his groundbreaking visual effects and his imaginative world-building. Cameron served as a producer for this production, and he brought a lot to the table visual effects-wise. Alita is set thousands of years in the future, where people have enhanced their bodies with cyber-enhancements and robotic body parts. There is also two cities, one on the bottom, and one that sets on top and rules over Iron City. Both the location and the human enhancements are very well realized through some very impressive visual effects. Everything looked seamless, every building, vehicle, and cyborg looked real, and I never once noticed any bad CGI. It brought a lot of depth to the world building because the scenery wasn’t just another typical cyberpunk apocalyptic setting.

  The most impressive visual beat was the choice to make Alita as a character have unusually large eyes. This could’ve been a huge distraction and maybe even ruined the whole movie, but the effects were so well-pieced together that it looked normal within the first 5 minutes of the movie.

  I was very entertained by the action sequences in this film. Rodriguez brings a lot of intensity, and mixed with the inventive and creative visual effects, it brings the audience an action spectacle that they haven’t seen before. My favorite sequence was the Motorball scene. Motorball is the top sport in this world, and it consists of players on enhanced roller skates, and they all race down a track to get the ball into the “hoop.” There is a scene where Alita competes in her first official game of Motorball, but the villain hires cyber-enhanced bounty hunters to take her out, so she has to fight off everyone in the area while also trying to win. It was ridiculously entertaining, and by far the best scene in the film.

  Unfortunately, there isn’t much to remember in Alita besides the action and special effects. This film is a lot like Ready Player One (2018), it boasts some great effects and action sequences, but it’s a hollowed out film that leave the audience wishing they got more out of the experience.

  What makes Alita such a paper-thin film is the poor characterization, especially Alita. Her character is completely surrounded by her love interest, Hugo. Not only was the romance poorly fleshed out and I didn’t buy the actor’s chemistry, but everything Alita does as a character and every choice or emotional change is just for this random boy she met on the street. It really detracts from the film because our main character has absolutely nothing interesting about her, and she cares about nothing but Hugo. She has a subplot about her trying to piece together her memories to figure out her past, but it’s only used as plot elements instead of further developing her as a character. It’s disappointing since Rosa Salazar does a great job with her role, but her performance is already being over shadowed since Alita was such a weak character.

  Christoph Waltz plays Dr. Dyson Ido, a cyber repairman/scientist who finds Alita’s broken body in the junkyard of Iron City. He also plays as sort of a father figure for Alita, and you will find out why, but it’s a spoiler so I won’t discuss it.

  His character had almost nothing to do besides be an exposition dumper. He serves entirely just to give Alita her backstory and explain everything to her so the audience can understand the plot better. They introduced an interesting arc for him, but they do absolutely nothing with it, and by the end of the film you forget entirely about it.

  I already expressed how Hugo is the reason Alita is such a weak character, but he, himself, is also a one-dimensional character. He’s just a typical love interest for the lead character, and for most of the film, he serves just to give exposition. What frustrated me most is that in the second half of the film, he becomes a damsel in distress who gets himself into trouble so Alita can save him. It seemed like they were just adding action for the sake of action, and the writers just didn’t care enough to give each character a real purpose.

  The villains are also quite weak. They have no motivation whatsoever, they’re just there so Alita has something to fight. Mahershala Ali has nothing to do, and mostly just walks around and gives orders to his henchman. It was a waste of a great actor. There is a surprise villain at the end, and I won’t give it away, but they did set him up to be the main bad guy for the sequel, if they ever make one.

  Alita: Battle Angel is somewhat of a frustrating experience. There’s plenty of great visually driven moments that are exciting and entertaining, but you get the sense that it’s not as good as it could be. That’s what I see here is wasted potential. If the film presented more interesting characters and a unique plot, this would’ve been a blockbuster worth heading out to the multiplex to enjoy with a bucket of popcorn, but I can’t recommend you see it, because you will leave feeling empty.

  Rating: 5/10