Alita: Battle Angel

See this movie at an IMAX if possible, as the special effects alone are truly something to behold.

Alita Battle AngelThough it doesn’t rise to the same level as Producer James Cameron’s masterpiece Avatar (2009) nor Director Robert Rodriquez’s Sin City (2005), Alita: Battle Angel is still worth the price of admission. Wrapped around a convoluted plot are some fantastic special effects and a stirring musical score that will have most of you leaving the theatre thinking, “This thing turned out to be a whole lot better than critics led me to believe.”

The film centers on a place referred to as Iron City in 2563. There has just been a great war that has destroyed most of this and other cities while a large space station hovers over the metropolitan area with devious intentions.

The film begins with a cyber-doctor roaming a scrapyard hunting for the remains of robotic-type creatures that could be surgically repaired. In the process, he finds a human head and upper torso of a young girl, and he restores her with a cyborg body that quickly leads to unexpected events.

Christoph Waltz plays the good doctor Dyson Ido and he long ago established his acting credentials with Oscar-winning roles in both Inglorious Basterds (2009) and Django Unchained (2012). Here he names the girl/cyborg Alita after his late daughter. Though she gradually displays some captivating skills what dominates her appearance are the most beautiful, large eyes that have ever appeared in any character on the big screen.

Rosa Salazar is surprisingly mesmerizing in her role as Alita and she is haunted by the fact that she has no memory of her past. As Dr. Ido watches out for her safety, she explores new things in life which includes the value of food. Along the way she discovers fighting skills more developed than most of her opponents, and this includes her participation in a game called Motorball, a survivalist competition that leaves the winner surrounded by a bunch of dead competitors.

While many critics, including Manohla Dargis of the New York Times, have dismissed Alita’s developing romance with a human by the name of Hugo (Keean Johnson) as sophomoric, I encourage all of you to be less judgmental. Though Alita is a powerful physical force, she has the social development of a high school student, and it is interesting to watch her wrestling with her increasing emotional attachment to a male friend.

Though they appear in small roles, the movie is helped by the performances of Mahrshala Ali and Jennifer Connelly. Mr. Ali plays Vector, a sophisticated man who is obviously connected in some way to the hovering space craft. Ms. Connelly is Dr. Ido’s ex-wife Chiren, and it becomes clear that the two parted company after the death of their daughter. While she has a nasty edge, look for her wardrobe in a display at Victoria’s Secret.

As noted, the problem with the film is that the plot leaves you unfortunately guessing over the relationship of Iron City with the spacecraft. While many residents of the City want to find a way to live on that floating facility, some are simultaneously hunted by rogue agents who gleefully destroy anyone suspected of being a threat to the damaged metropolis.

It is giving nothing away that the ending of the movie is seen in the trailer where Alita is standing on a platform with a sword pointing skyward. There is obviously a sequel contemplated and I remain one of the members of the audience that looks forward to it with a modest bit of anticipation.