Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron realise a dream come true of pure science fiction visual spectacle with Alita: Battle Angel and the result is a completely mesmerizing piece of cinema that transports you to a fantastical far away future that enchants in every way possible.
From visionary filmmakers James Cameron (Avatar) and Robert Rodriguez (Sin City), comes Alita: Battle Angel, an epic adventure of hope and empowerment. When Alita (Rosa Salazar) awakens with no memory of who she is in a future world she does not recognise, she is taken in by Ido (Christoph Waltz), a compassionate doctor who realises that somewhere in this abandoned cyborg shell is the heart and soul of a young woman with an extraordinary past. As Alita learns to navigate her new life and the treacherous streets of Iron City, Ido tries to shield her from her mysterious history while her street-smart new friend Hugo (Keean Johnson) offers instead to help trigger her memories. But it is only when the deadly and corrupt forces that run the city come after Alita that she discovers a clue to her past – she has unique fighting abilities that those in power will stop at nothing to control. If she can stay out of their grasp, she could be the key to saving her friends, her family and the world she’s grown to love.
Good things often take time, and that could not be truer for Alita: Battle Angel which has long been acclaimed filmmaker James Cameron’s passion project. Together with director Robert Rodriquez, a man who shares Cameron’s passion for rebel filmmaking, these two men accomplish what can only be described as the next step in science-fiction cinema with a terrific level of immersive realism and cutting edge CGI.
Best described as a science-fiction fairytale, Alita: Battle Angel enchants audiences with its magical future world and pulls you deeper into the action and narrative of a young cyborg’s quest to discover who she really is. It’s easy to see why Cameron and Rodriguez were drawn to the subject matter of Alita: Battle Angel with its exploration of themes related to technology, female empowerment and class structure, plus there’s plenty of room for amazing action sequences. Alita: Battle Angel offered Cameron and Rodriguez a truly remarkable canvas to craft the ultimate science fiction experience and they sure did deliver with Alita: Battle Angel.
Alita: Battle Angel is Rodriguez’s biggest production to date and the rebel filmmaker brings his considerable visual skills to play here. As a director, his focus is on keeping the action moving and right off the bat he gets things in motion. When we first discover Alita she is a completely empty shell of a being and like us, she grows into the world around her. It’s a great narrative device to build exposition for an audience, while also allowing for a natural character arc of growth for Alita. While the film may be science-fiction in nature, Rodriguez gives it a certain structure and style reminiscent of classic fairy-tales and this allows him to explore Alita’s journey with more depth as she comes into her considerable powers.
There is no Alita without the presence of young lead Rosa Salazar and she gives an incredible heartfelt performance here. If I were to use a word to best describe Salazar’s performance then the word genuine comes to mind. The young actresses’ performance is incredibly naturalistic and we get to watch as she grows from a young girl to a woman, and comes into control of her considerable power which allows her to find her place in a strange new world. Salazar’s Alita reminds me somewhat of Alice as she wanders through this magical new technological Wonderland and the character gives her plenty of opportunities to show off her considerable theatrical range from innocent doe to full-on cybernetic warrior. What’s even more remarkable about Salazar’s performance is that she portrays the character completely through CGI and the performance capture and computer wizardry of the wizards at Weta Digital brings out her stunning performance up on screen.
Joining Alita in her quest of discovery is Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz who finds a change of pace here as the kindly Dr. Dyson Ido who brings Alita back to life and becomes her de-facto father in this strange new world. While Waltz may be the go-to guy for dangerous villains and eccentric misfits, I really enjoyed seeing him take on a completely different character which allowed him to show off his gentler side. As Dr. Ido you get a real sense that this is a character who cares deeply for those that he helps with his clinic and through the presence of Alita he is able to once again be a father. But while he might be a man who saves, Ido also gets his hands dirty as well and he introduces Alita to the Hunter Warrior lifestyle and he also gets his chance to get his fight on in the film’s dynamic action sequences.
Every hero needs a villain to test them and Alita finds hers in the charismatically dangerous Vector played by Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali and he really puts the young cyborg to the test. As Vector, the man behind the spectacular gladiatorial game of Motorsport he casts a sinister shadow over the citizens of Iron City as a Hades-like figure who is the king of the scraps and overseer of the haves and the have-nots. Ali is all class and style here and it’s a role that really allows him to stretch with his considerable theatrical range. With his devilish flair Vector makes for a threatening presence for Alita and he truly tests our young heroine in every way possible.
Along with our key cast, Rodriguez also packs the film out with great supporting players, and there are also plenty of fun cameos as well. On the live-action front, we see the appearance of the likes of Jennifer Connelly as the technically proficient surgeon and scientist Chiren, who is desperately searching for her way back to Zalem. Connelly gives the character of Chiren a real femme fatale flair that is coated with a dangerous glamour and a calculating mind, and she makes for a great foil for both Salazar and Waltz with her Machiavellian personality. Turning to the CGI front we get a host of dangerous cyborgs and rising British star Ed Skrein brings plenty of punk rock flair to his portrayal of pretty boy Hunter Warrior Zapan, who has a large chip on his shoulder and who takes an instant dislike to Alita which slowly builds up to an adversarial battle between the two of them. Also, keep your eyes peeled for a host of great cameos from Rodriguez regulars such as Michelle Rodriguez, Eiza González, Jeff Fahey and a whole host more, with plenty of surprises thrown in there as well.
Along with its strong narrative, Alita: Battle Angel is packed out with incredible action set pieces and Rodriguez really gets to flex his creativity here. As Alita finds her true power she unleashes an incredible physical force and all evil-doers should fear this warrior because this girl really kicks ass. As she battles an army of robots and cyborgs the action is realized in full 360 motion as she lets loose with a barrage of targeted punches and kicks that tears apart the motors and gears of her combatants, and in the immersive landscape of IMAX 3D you feel the rush of all of it.
But if I have to call out my favourite part of Alita: Battle Angel then it is most definitely the savage and ferocious sport of Motorball. A gladiatorial mashup of NASCAR, ice hockey and mixed martial arts that comes flying at you at over 300km/h, Motorball makes for one hell of a rush! Sliding on her skates and jumping into the thrills, Alita brings a tremendous grace to this brutal sport and when she learns that the game is rigged, well, let’s just say that it’s game on! This robotic smash and bash rollercoaster will have you hanging on for dear life and it’s one hell of a visual thrill.
Alita: Battle Angel is a tremendously beautiful piece of science fiction cinema and offers up a bold new world and amazing heroine for cinemagoers. It’s a rush that will set your senses on fire from beginning to end and make sure you see it in glorious IMAX 3D…because this is one experience you don’t want to miss out on.
Image: 20th Century Fox