Alita: Battle Angel is based on a Japanese manga, which means it’s another comic book movie. This movie has robots, and cyborgs, which are robots with human brains and random vestigial body parts (so they can wear tight-fitting outfits and look cool), and fighter cyborgs, and sexy cyborgs, and cyborg or robot canines (I couldn’t tell), and a cyborg with, according to the movie, the brain of a teen-aged girl, who is a trained killer but took a nasty spill and can’t remember anything until a guy who does cyborg repair comes along and refuses to tell her anything about what she is even though he knows perfectly well she is a teen-aged killer cyborg and she starts jacking people up almost immediately.
I objected in advance to this movie because I saw ads for it and got annoyed with the giant goofy Anime-eyes on the titular character. I only paid for one ticket to see this movie, but I totally snuck my agenda in with me, and it’s safe and sound. This movie is dopey, and there will probably be a sequel.
There are perfectly good famous actors in this movie, such as Jennifer Connolly, who gets a lot of wardrobe changes but one too many dresses that zip all the way down the back (seriously, one per movie, you made the statement), and Christoph Waltz, who just goes in and applies his method, says the dialogue with a straight face and won’t get damaged by this thing, and Mahershala Ali, who is the only actor in this mess who gets something really interesting to do (SPOILER ALERT: His consciousness is interrupted by a malevolent ruler from the exclusive elite city that floats above the crappy dystopian Earth, and Mr. Ali has a good turn with his character being inhabited and worked like a puppet END SPOILER ALERT), and Rosa Salazar, the actress who does the voice and matchmove work as Alita will also be OK since the character only kinda looks like her.
There’s lots of uncanny valley going on with Alita colon Battle Angel’s face, which runs a wide gamut of mildly creepy travesties of human expression, but they are getting there, in terms of someday replacing human actors, and there are a couple of scenes where they really blow the computer budget on rendering, and you can see pores and skin color variations and it’s very Artificially Intelligent.
This movie almost becomes interesting when Alita starts having body issues, in terms of which robot frame on to which she would like to have her teen-aged brain-encasing head attached, and Christoph Waltz completely mansplains which body-shell she should want, even though she is a deadly amnesiac 300-year old fighting cyborg (teen-aged brain tho) who knows the kind of kung fu where you can break limbs off of other cyborgs, and exactly which robot gear her brain should be running to be living her best life, battle-wise.
There’s all kinds of stabby PG-13 ultraviolence in this film, lots of dismemberment and crushing of robotic and human body parts, a brutal tip of the paw to John Wick, plus, there’s a total ripoff of Rollerball as a sport. Why can’t this dystopian movie just have a normal sport or hunting instead of the same futuristic sport as Rollerball where you jam a ball in a high hole while people are trying to murder you?
Anyway, Alita is good at Battleball and there’s sort of a surprise reveal of the malevolent ruler at the end that looks like it might have been contractually negotiated, because it’s not very apparent who he is and he’s not super-famous, no offense, and the entertainment subgenre of fetishized fighting girls continues.