Alita: Battle Angel is an emotional, action-packed ride (movie review)

Alita Battle Angel Character poster thumb

James Cameron (Avatar, Terminator 2) has been passionate about bringing Alita: Battle Angel to the big screen ever since he was introduced to the world of Battle Angel Alita by Yukito Kishiro almost two decades ago. As someone who has read the manga and watched the anime OVAs, I was very eager to see if producers Cameron & Jon Landau and director Robert Rodriguez would be able to do a faithful adaptation. I was also craving an epic sci-fi action film. Alita: Battle Angel delivers on both.

The story starts with Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) discovering the remains of a young cyborg girl in a junkyard. He decides to bring her back to life and name her Alita (Rosa Salazar). The cyborg girl discovers the joy of living the simple life, but she soon finds out that she’s actually a deadly warrior. She’ll have to navigate the dangerous world of Iron City as she confronts deadly cyborgs.

Alita is the main character who is also computer generated. She is surrounded by a cast of humans and cyborgs, and it’s very important for the filmmakers to make her look believable. Thanks to special effects studio Weta and Salazar’s performance, the Alita really shines. Some may be put off by her large anime-like eyes, but I think it helps with amplifying us caring about her.

This is an action-adventure film, and there are plenty of exhilarating sequences with Alita battling cyborgs of all types. Thanks to the scope of the film, watching these battles play out is a dream come true for fans. The manga and anime are very bloody, and despite Alita: Battle Angel having a PG-13 rating, we’re still treated with decapitations and dismemberments. One of the most exciting sequences is the intense game of Motorball, a deadly sport that’s a mixture of racing and hockey.

The heart of the film is love, and we see that with Alita’s relationship with Dr. Ido and Hugo. Ido brought Alita to life, and so he treats her like a daughter. Waltz adds an extra layer of warmth whenever he’s on the screen. As Hugo, Keean Johnson plays a youthful but troubled man who helps Alita navigate Iron City. There’s sweet chemistry between the two, and Salazar and Johnson bring tenderness in a world filled with darkness. I definitely wept like a baby, plus it was very hard to wipe away the tears when you’re wearing 3D glasses.

The weakest elements of the film belong to Jennifer Connelly’s Chiren and Mahershali Ali’s Vector. The two are fine actors, but they come off as one-dimensional and uninteresting. The characters are pretty close to the source material, but I was hoping that they would be fleshed out a bit more in the film.

The movie is meant to be seen in on the big screen, whether it’s on IMAX or Dolby Cinema. The 3D is used to great effect as we see robot hands shoot out towards the screen, metal clashing to pieces in Motorball, and Alita jumping, punching, and kicking all over the screen.

Final Reaction

Alita: Battle Angel is an action-packed ride that had me in tears. It’s definitely one of my favorite live-action films based on the manga and anime, and Rosa Salazar as Alita brings a lot of heart to the film.

Score: 4.5/5 Atoms

Alita: Battle Angel hits theaters on February 14, 2019.

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John Nguyen
John Nguyen 10487 posts

Assassin, scoundrel, head honcho.