By: Jonathan Pabico, Peak Associate
Prepare for battle, sci-fi fans! Robert Rodriguez delivers a thrilling and epic film with Alita: Battle Angel.
Rodriguez layers the story with immersive visuals; the film’s ruined cityscapes are fitting metaphors for not only the characters’ strife, their dangerous environment . He also provides a western genre undertone for the movie’s world that, plus the film’s action, captures the story’s grim realities about the brutal costs of a lawless society that thrives on violence and injustice.
Despite a slow start, the film compensates with its stylized action sequences. Smoothly edited and run in slow motion, the story’s battles are exciting to watch. The most fun and exhilarating being the motor ball scenes (which is a deadlier version of roller derby). Pairing a fast-paced soundtrack with captivating wide shots, the motor ball sequences perfectly demonstrate Alita as a fierce warrior worthy of being the film’s namesake.
Among the narrative’s cast, newcomer Rosa Salazar provides a powerful performance as the young cyborg Alita. Salazar portrays her character as a lost and innocent teenager, but also as a strong heroine determined to understand her true self. Her portrayal further instils Alita with a child-like curiosity that shapes her into a more heartwarming character, helped by James Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis’ moving screenplay. She evokes an innocence that beautifully humanizes her role through close-ups backed by remarkable CGI. Moreover, her character also addresses philosophical themes about memory and artificial intelligence. Although they are deeply similar to subjects explored in Ghost in the Shell (2017), these themes are encapsulated by the film’s central message about what it means for youth to learn and grow in the world.
In addition to the film’s successes, Christoph Waltz as Dr. Dyson Ido has a touching father-daughter relationship with Salazar’s character. Still, their bond is abrupt and rushed in some scenes due to the movie spending more time developing a cliché love story between Alita and her boyfriend Hugo (Keean Johnson). The narrative’s love story subsequently deviates too much from the main story arc.
Aside from Waltz, Mahershala Ali is entertaining as the main villain. His stoic persona provides commentary about the corruption of power and its damaging effects on society. However, Ali could have had more screen time to establish a substantial presence. He is sadly reduced to brief walk-ons that are as abrupt as Ido and Alita’s relationship development.
Whether you are a fan of the manga series or just looking for a thrilling sci-fi film to watch over the weekend, Alita: Battle Angel has a relatable, easily-followed story that is widely accessible to all moviegoers. Despite its shortcomings, the movie honours its source material with a powerful lead, memorable action sequences, and sophisticated themes, rivalled only by a riveting narrative.