Alita: Battle Angel has been a 20 year passion project for renowned producer, James Cameron – A film he hoped would inspire his daughter, with a strong female lead character. Due to Cameron’s commitments to the Avatar franchise though, Alita looked like it was destined remain that way; left to gather dust on a shelf. That was until the project was passed onto Robert Rodriguez, and Cameron took a backseat.
On the surface, Alita has all the makings of a sci-fi epic. Stunning visuals, exciting action scenes and a cybernetic main character who is trying to find out who she is and how she fits into this new world. Sadly, the film seems to stumble before it even gets going. With such a promising setup, the story is so dense that the film gets lost in it’s own narrative. Alita: Battle Angel simply tries to accomplish too much at once, and it ends up leaving the audience shell-shocked.
Alita is a girl (robot?) out of time, a premise that the film tries to deal with through a series of flashbacks which ultimately leave viewers with more questions than answers. This causes massive problems with the plot, as it tries to navigate both the past and present but forgets in the process that it actually needs to go somewhere. By the time Alita seems to figure this out, over two hours have gone past and we’re left with a slightly underwhelming conclusion.
Overall, the plot feels pretty familiar, with the social divide between Iron City and the floating Zalem highly reminiscent of that seen in Matt Damon’s Elysium. And Alita’s struggle to connect with her own disjointed humanity is very similar to Major Motoko’s own moral struggle in Ghost in the Shell. So, although intriguing, it’s a shame that Alita: Battle Angel isn’t breaking down any barriers or pushing the boundaries with it’s narrative.
One aspect that I can’t fault is the action. Boasting incredibly choreographed combat scenes, you were completely immersed in the action – to the point that I ended up reminding myself to even blink. With such a weak story though, I couldn’t help feeling the film was led by its combat scenes.
Verdict: A film and character with a great amount of potential, but failed to deliver on its narrative.