Alita: Battle Angel was originally announced in the heady days of 2003 and had remained in development ever since then. James Cameron has been attached since the beginning and wrote the script for the film that is based on a manga series (and a 2 episode anime) before directing duties came to Robert Rodriguez due to Cameron’s commitment to the Avatar series.
I’ve been aware of the potential film since it as announced though I’ve never read the manga or seen the anime, the trailer was intriguing and I thought it’d either be great or absolutely terrible with no in-between. I’m really happy to say that after watching the finished film that for the most part I thought it was excellent, though there are definitely some flaws.
Let’s start with them then to get them out of the way, the pacing of the final third of the film is a little off, it feels like as lot was crammed in leading up to the cliffhanger it ends on, which is another issue, though it’s clearly there to lead into a potential sequel. The story seems to be a bit of an amalgamation of things like Ghost in the Shell (albeit an enjoyable one) and Hugo, the male counterpart to Alita, suffers from a case of the prequel trilogy Anakin Skywalkers in that he’s very whiny and not very interesting.
Now onto the positives, the cast is excellent and Christoph Waltz does a great job, and the other members are largely solid (special shout out to the appearance by Casper Van Dien) and there are a couple of well-known faces you’d assume are introduced purely for a potential sequel. The film very much belongs to Rosa Salazar who is amazing as Alita, she manages to bring to life a character that could very easily have been portrayed as robotic and lifeless.
In terms of the special effects, Lightstorm Entertainment have nailed it, not exactly a surprise when you consider they’ve worked on films with impressive effects such as Terminator 2 and Avatar. At no point does Alita ever look out of place, the way she interacts with everything around her is astounding at times. There are times when some of the side characters aren’t completely convincing but I’d say that more or less everything is pretty impressive, it makes me intrigued to see just how impressive the new Avatar films are going to be.
More than anything else it’s fun, yes it tries to be a little bit too clever at times with some of the plot threads but there wasn’t a point during the near 2 and a half hour runtime where I wasn’t entertained or just astounded by what was on screen. It took me back to a time when a big blockbuster was exactly that rather than just another sequel, obviously sequels can be great but it’s nice to get something a little different from a big effects film.
Overall I’m pleasantly surprised that a film that’s been in development as long as it has turned out as well as it did, something games could learn a little from (Colonial Marines I’m looking at you). It’s not going to be for everyone for sure but I genuinely hope that it does well enough at the box office that it gets a sequel. If nothing else hopefully Hollywood learns lessons if they’re going to insist on adapting things like Akira.