Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Movie with Abe: Alita: Battle Angel

Alita: Battle Angel
Directed by Robert Rodriguez
Released February 14, 2019

In “Alita: Battle Angel,” humans walk the streets of an impoverished city sporting all kinds of replacement limbs. One of the main characters, Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz), is known for patching up those who have lost an arm or a leg with whatever piece of scrap metal he has available at the time. The result often makes for an odd or disjointed appearance, and, predictably, not all his patches last that well. That description is an accurate way of assessing this film, which attempts to cobble together elements of many different genres and storytelling styles to create a product that feels distinctly unbalanced and regrettably haphazard.

In 2563, Alita (Rosa Salazar) is brought back to life by Dr. Ido after he finds her brain and core in a scrapyard, left there centuries earlier following an interplanetary war that destroyed most of Earth’s cities in the sky. Alita learns about the world in which she has woken up, where the sport of Motorball serves both as entertainment and the best chance anyone has to ascend to the one remaining and much idealized city in the sky, Zalem. As she befriends Hugo (Keean Johnson), Alita finds memories trickling back to her about her past life, ultimately pointing her in the direction of a greater purpose she must fulfill.

If this premise sounds intriguing, it is, but the execution is truly a mess. This film doesn’t know whether it wants to be a teen romance, a sci-fi epic, a racing movie, or a true dystopian thriller. The convoluted combination of all of those is not smooth, and it’s as if each piece was constructed separately and then randomly stuck together. One scene finds Alita delivering a line that surely earned the film its PG-13 rating, while the rest of it features only mild language, making her words all the more jarring and unbelievable.

This film also squanders its talent involved, with no fewer than three Oscar winners with prominent roles in the cast: Waltz, Jennifer Connelly as a brilliant doctor, and Mahershala Ali as a powerful tycoon. The only positive is that Salazar likely developed an affinity for motion capture that led her to take on a far better role in Amazon’s TV series “Undone.” The visual effects, for which this film earned a spot on the Oscar finalist list, are decent, but not enough to stomach the plot. The expected action payoff doesn’t even come thanks to a shameless sequel setup. This reviewer will certainly not be anticipating that film.


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