ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL – The Cinematic Equivalent of Edging. It keeps exciting and exciting but never gets to Climax.

It’s hard to believe that ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL has been in the works since before James Cameron made TITANIC. Cameron has been wanting to adapt Yukito Kishiro’s “Battle Angel Alita” manga since 1995. But TITANIC, AVATAR and technology of the times held him back. And now Cameron is AVATAR obsessed to the point of eccentric recluse he handed the reigns of director to Robert Rodriguez, who hasn’t directed a feature film since SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR in 2014.

But here it is, ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL is a technological CGI marvel that releases tomorrow, Valentine’s Day in Australia, from 20th Century Fox. It runs for 122mins and is rated M.

WARNING – THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!!

Alita: Battle Angel Christoph Waltz image
Christoph Waltz

BY JASON KING

ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL SYNOPSIS:

When Alita (Rosa Salazar) awakens with no memory of who she is in a future world she does not recognize, she is taken in by Ido (Christoph Waltz), a compassionate doctor who realizes that somewhere in this abandoned cyborg shell is the heart and soul of a young woman with an extraordinary past.

As Alita learns to navigate her new life and the treacherous streets of Iron City, Ido tries to shield her from her mysterious history while her street-smart new friend Hugo (Keean Johnson) offers instead to help trigger her memories. But it is only when the deadly and corrupt forces that run the city come after Alita that she discovers a clue to her past – she has unique fighting abilities that those in power will stop at nothing to control. If she can stay out of their grasp, she could be the key to saving her friends, her family and the world she’s grown to love.

Alita: Battle Angel Keean Johnson and Rosa Salazar image
Keean Johnson and Rosa Salazar

IT’S LIKE PLAYING THE BEST COMPUTER GAME OF ALL TIME BUT NEVER REACHING THE FINAL BOSS:

Visually ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL is cinematic porn. It is just mouth agape amazing to watch. And for the first time in years a movie will be releasing in Australia in 3D and ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL deserves the biggest and loudest 3D cinema you can find. You know those amazing gaming sections between levels where they play you the best visuals in the entire game, the entire movie is like this. I think I said “wow” about a dozen times while watching the screening.

BUT – the arrogance of Cameron, as the producer, lies in the fact he assumed anything he touched would turn to gold, and he leaves the ending completely unresolved and dissatisfying with what he imagined would be two sequels to the franchise. Something I had no idea when entering the cinema. And something that will produce a collective disappointed sigh from moviegoers.

If you are a fan of the manga books you may be even more disappointed as the story blends the first four books in random order to achieve the movie story of ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL. I just don’t think the Motorball angle of the story held relevance and felt the film was overwashed with subplots. Was Alita a motorball champion, a hunter killer, a lovely girl and a hero to save all necessary. I would have been much happier if the motorball was the main focus or removed altogether. And so many bad guys – the film truly followed a game’s trajectory with multiple bosses to defeat to, wait for it, never get to the main boss. Grrrr

WARNING – THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!!

THAT ENDING!

And that ending – seriously. Killing a main character moments after saving them was just stupid and frustrating. And also the exact moment Alita could have continued on the journey for the final battle we all deserved. Her reasoning for becoming a Motor Ball champion was so she could get to Zalem? Why not just continue the climb? Or was this Alita learning she was no match for Nova? If it is because Nova can see all then what difference does it make when and how she gets there? Why not enter via the chutes that head up to Zalem, Hugo even mentions them early in the movie?!

Alita: Battle Angel Rosa Salazar image
Rosa Salazar

THE CASTING IS IMPRESSIVE:

James Cameron was adamant that Alita had to have the realistic manga eyes from the book series. I love them but for some reason the world lost its mind over them because the world is perfect and there is nothing better to complain about. Rosa Salazar was a perfect Alita, although most of her was CGI she pulled off a wonderful character that you really do support and bond with. And holy crap she can kick ass – young girls, more like, young people, and 46yr old men will want to be her.

Christoph is Christoph but thank god he was a good guy for once. Love him in anything he does. He very much plays a mix of Geppetto meets Blade Runner – great character who I would have loved to have seen explored more. Jennifer Connelly and Mahershala Ali play quite generic bad guys with fairly predictable trajectories but one character I absolutely worshipped was Ed Skrein as Zapan – such an asshole – I loved him!! We needed more of this character!!

And finally, new hot-boy crush to Keean Johnson as Hugo. He is just gorgeous and a wonderful streetwise character that becomes Alita’s first love.

WILL WE GET A SEQUEL:

I’ve whinged about that ending enough but the saddest part is prediction wise ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL is expected to lose hundreds of millions of dollars. It is estimated Rodriguez had a $200MIL budget with even more spent on the film for marketing from 20th Century Fox. Initial predictions see the films U.S earnings maxing around $50MIL with the film losing something like $200MIL in total. With losses this big, if they eventuate, there is buckley’s chance in hell of us seeing a sequel. Which means the film will forever remain an unsatisfying science fiction starter. If only Cameron had given this his all and stepped away from AVATAR for maybe one of the last 12yrs we might have all been watching a science fiction masterpiece.

Alita: Battle Angel Rosa Salazar image
Rosa Salazar

IN CONCLUSION:

ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL had more potential than most films releasing this year. Visually it is a masterpiece worthy of awards but arrogance at expecting it to be one of the biggest blockbusters of the year sees the film with an ending so unsatisfying it borders on criminal.

YOUR CRITIC:

Jason King owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the Australian movie industry for 26yrs. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. 

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.