Combustible Celluloid
 
With: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Keean Johnson
Written by: James Cameron, Laeta Kalogridis, based on a manga by Yukito Kishiro
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language
Running Time: 122
Date: 02/14/2019
IMDB

Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Ms. Roboto

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This juggernaut-sized sci-fi movie mechanically rehashes a huge collection of genre cliches while bashing its way through an onslaught of visual effects, awful dialogue, and dull, lifeless characters.

In Alita: Battle Angel, it's the 26th century, and the world has been devastated by "The Fall." Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) rummages through a scrapyard and finds a cyborg girl with an intact brain. He brings her back to his lab and gives her a new body, calling her "Alita" (Rosa Salazar). She's instantly drawn to a boy named Hugo (Keean Johnson), and to a violent sport called Motorball.

Hugo secretly works for shady businessman Vector (Mahershala Ali), helping sabotage the professional Motorball matches; Hugo hopes to earn enough money to get to the utopian sky city of Zalem. As Alita begins to learn more about her past and discovers fighting abilities, she enters a Motorball tryout. But the evil Nova has ordered her killed. Can Alita avoid an army of attacking cyborgs while saving the day?

Co-written by James Cameron and directed by Robert Rodriguez, Alita: Battle Angel feels lost in a bubble, clueless about the real world, about real emotions, or about any other, grindingly similar movies that have come out in the real world (Elysium, Ghost in the Shell, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Ready Player One, Mortal Engines, etc.). It's less like the characters are making decisions than they are being pushed through an automatic computer program. The movie features state of the art visual effects, but these are not enough to rescue the main character from seeming like a visual effect, rather than a character, all the way through.

The other characters aren't human enough themselves to reflect her supposed humanity. Perhaps worse, she is sexualized in a weird way, a little like the famous Maria robot in Fritz Lang's Metropolis, but creepier, in a leering way. Overall, Alita: Battle Angel seems to have practically nothing to say. Not even the post-apocalyptic setting appears to be warning humanity about anything in particular.

Rodriguez's direction is competent, of course, and the action scenes are well-executed (except for one too many scenes of actors running through crowds and shoving extras aside), but the project is really not much more than an empty, noisy, soulless, vaguely unpleasant special effects extravaganza.

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