Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

When Dr Ido Dyson (Christoph Waltz) finds a cyborg head/heart in the junkyard under the world’s last sky city, he applies his technical expertise to connect it to a new cyborg body. When then girl opens her eyes, she has no memory of who or what she is – time to go explore the world!

Iron City, where our tale is set, lies beneath the only remaining Sky City, a place where many dream of escaping from their working class poverty, servicing the elite above. Shady things go on under the banner of ‘earning’ a trip up; one supposedly sure-fire way is by winning the brutal MotorBall game.

Into this oft dark but always fantastic world, we get to view everything through Alita’s naive eyes. As she slowly begins to have flashbacks, often triggered by violent moments, she starts to realise that she is not what she seems. But, is she an enemy or an unlikely ally? Who are the real villains in this unequal world?

If that’s not the best description I’ve ever managed to write, I’m going to say that it’s not the easiest film to describe. I will heap praise on the visuals, and on the world building (although that comes from the manga, I presume). The CGI to bring an anime-esque, massive-eyed Alita to life is excellently done, if occasionally a bit disturbing.

The world building here is absolutely the best thing about the movie. Cyborg-ism has become commonplace, with really only the brain needing to remain human. Some go for limb replacement to help their jobs, other more shady types are walking around in brutal robot bodies. It’s perhaps more odd that there are as many ‘meat sacks’ as there are still left.

However, a problem lies in the fact that the story is a bit all over the place. Alita’s discovery and introduction to the world are handled well, but obviously not enough action – so we’ll throw in the brutal ball sports. And some vigilantism. And some cyber-kidnapping. And mysterious power structures. And. And. And.

Overall it felt a bit like the film makers loved this world, but didn’t quite know what story to focus on. As a result, nothing comes through strongly, making a bit of a surprisingly bland overall effect. Which is utterly a shame, as a smaller tale showing us just part of this world could have been far more impactful than the odd bursts of drama, action, and tension, that don’t wholly fit together or produce a coherent narrative.

Of course, actually having an ending might have helped the story immensely. As it is, we finally get a bit of momentum going far too near the end – and then it stops. I mean, the film just stops. Clearly they’re expecting a sequel, but I’m not entirely sure it’ll ever arrive.

Released: 6th February 2019
Viewed: 16th February 2019
Running time: 122 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 7/10 – 6 at most for the story, but bonus marks for the visuals.

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