Alita: Battle Angel (2019)
written by James Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis
based on the manga Gunnm by Yukito Kishiro
directed by Robert Rodriguez
Twenty minutes into Alita: Battle Angel, I found myself wondering if director Robert Rodriguez had finally grown up: A big-budget sci-fi film unlike anything he’d done before, James Cameron on board as writer and producer, and a story featuring a rebuilt cyborg searching for her origins. Should’ve known better. Ten minutes more and I got introduced to Motorball, a gladiatorial sport in which competing human-machines race around a track and combat each other to death. Cue first headache of the night.
Alita: Battle Angel does have some cool visuals scattered about, in particular the early motion capture scenes with its eponymous cyber teenager (Rosa Salazar). But as is often the case, they’re in service of a lackluster narrative that’s more concerned with screeching metal than with the humanity – or lack thereof – of its characters. I wasn’t expecting the next Blade Runner (1982), but considering Cameron was around, we could’ve at least gotten some of the cyberpunk cool of The Terminator (1984). By the end, this failed marriage between filmmakers is neither fun nor cerebral. Alita finds her identity. Alita: Battle Angel, not so much.
Carlos I. Cuevas