Hey there, this is Zach really quick here, I posted on my Facebook page that I would not be reviewing ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL because I really don’t have much of an interest in seeing it. So instead, my good friend Don Hernandez decided to write up his opinion on the film. After reading his review…kind of glad I’m skipped out on it and am waiting for rental. Anyway, here is Don’s review:
After being pushed back multiple times, The Robert Rodriguez/James Cameron manga adaptation has finally been released in time for Valentine’s Day. It’s clear why Fox pushed it back over and over again as they hoped the CGI filled Sci-fi action movie would do better against more diverse movies. With the original summer date and then the Christmas date, Alita would have been battling some major action juggernauts. While she may be able to handle her own in the movie, no amount of cybernetics would have kept her from being lost in the crowd.
Don’t get me wrong, the visuals are stunning and Alita, despite being all CGI, comes off quite realistic the longer you are in this world. However, two of the main baddies end up not feeling realistic at all (Nova & Grewishka, I don’t know why but it really felt like they ran out of money when these two were put together as they look so out of place at times). The action sequences are awesome. Alita’s bar fight and the arena sequence are spectacular (highly recommend Dolby Cinema or IMAX to get full effect of this).
Where the movie suffers is the story. One part I have to mention first, because I still can’t shake how dumb it is, happens just around the halfway point: there are these individuals called “Hunter Warriors” and some huge leaps in logic are taken to how they are viewed in this society that made me say to myself more than once, “wait, when was this established about them?” It literally makes no sense unless they were just trying to find a way for Alita to monologue before giving us a fight scene. Let me put it this way, a tiny little dog shows more bravery in the movie than 99% of these so called “bad ass hunter warriors”.
It gets even more odd later because one of them starts spouting off about “the hunter code”….to quote another movie “the code is more or less guidelines than actual rules”. Many important characters aren’t really given their moments to be fleshed out enough to care/understand their motivations either. When we get some character development, it’s quick and pushed aside for the shiny CGI moments. Which is a shame because Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, and Masherala Ali are all great actors.
As for the main character’s story…. Alita is introduced quite well and we are just as invested as she is to find out who she truly is. We do get pieces here and there but it’s never fully explained. Throughout this there is, of course, the “of different worlds” love story that provides the vehicle for finding out more of Alita’s arc but overall it isn’t needed to actually advance it. A little over halfway into the movie though it’s clear why; the whole thing is just being set up for future installments (that maybe will give more backstories of more than just Alita?). Too many studios are doing this now and it’s hurting more than helping. It’s a double edged sword. Do I want a sequel to this? Sure…..but I didn’t need Fox force feeding it to me. Let the film speak for itself. It’s poor writing when you can’t create a self contained story but leave the possibility for continuing it. If you need half your movie to be set up you already failed.
The ending, the cameos, the star power, so much is wasted here since the film has already made it’s bed; we are left with an incomplete story that really doesn’t make any sense. I felt like I was on a cool roller coaster ride in the dark that showed me flashes of the rest of the track only for the ride to end.
As stated previously, it’s a shame because a self contained story would have made this a concrete much watch. That’s saying a lot because I’ve always believed action movies aren’t supposed to be for “story”. Sure, a solid story can make certain action movies stand out from the rest. Overall though it’s all about the action, explosions, and visuals. Only in this case, it’s an action sci-fi film that introduces us to a different world and time so we need that story to make the connection & investment. A character’s development can manage that as well but it needs to be within the first film. Sadly Alita: Battle Angel asks too much of the audience without giving us the proper motivation with no guarantee of the future.