Not really looking forward to this Hollywood extravaganza, ALITA:BATTLE ANGEL turns out not too bad, aided by its awesome looking futuristic setting of a junkyard metropolis after a devastated War. The city looks like an overcrowded India with Zalem another city hanging over it.
The film is based on a manga graphic series which usually spells trouble in the narrative department. But the script is written by no less than AVATAR helmer James Cameron with Laeta Kalogridis blending in some action and romance to bring in females into the target audience in what is essentially a male movie despite its female protagonist. The film’s setting is the year 2562 after a huge war referred to as ‘the fall’ has destroyed Earth. All the inhabitants of the planet has settled into Iron City. At the film’s start, Cyborg scientist Dr. Dyson Ido (Oscar Winner Christoph Waltz) discovers a disembodied female cyborg with a fully intact human brain. Ido rebuilds the cyborg and names her Alita (Rosa Salazar) complete with doll face looking a bit like Cameron’s AVATAR creatures). As the film progresses, Alita and the audience learn more of what’s happened to Earth. Warrior hunters are brought in. Ido is revealed to be one of them. Alita falls in love with a human named Hugo. Hugo has the dream of entering the sky city of Zalem, that stands like a kind of Utopian heaven. There is also a violent game of motorball (reminiscent of ROLLERBALL) that Alita has some talent for. Alita also discovers her past and her exceptional fighting capabilities..The story’s villains are Vector and Nova played by Mahershala Ali and Edward Norton respectively, each taking their role tongue-in-cheek as if not to laugh uncontrollably. Christoph Watlz gets a break from playing a baddie, which one would think must’ve pleased him. At theToronto International Film Festival press conference for DOWNSIZING, Waltz was questioned by a journalist if he faced a problem with all those baddie roles. Waltz was visibly upset and replied maybe that was the journalist’s problem. Waltz plays the role of an eccentric father this time around. Jennifer Connolly plays his sympathetic ex, Shiren. The story is nothing special, understandable since it is based on a manga graphic novel. What makes up for it is the well orchestrated fight scenes and the motor ball sports matches even though it looks as if they were taken right out of ROLLERBALL. The climax includes a segment where Alita and Hugo are on a gigantic tube that connects Iron City to the high city Zalem. Hugo climbs the tune up to Zalem. It is a spectacular sight (looking more spectacular if viewed in 3-D IMAX, high I was fortunate enough to see the film in). One really ridiculous looking scene has Alita holding Hugo’s hand as he hangs for dear life after falling. Trouble is that only his torso is left, as he was repaired as a cyborg. Seeing Alita trying to save a torso looks really funny though that cliff having suspenseful scene was taken quite seriously by the audience at the screening I attended. ALITA ends up not the best of Rodriguez and Cameron’s efforts but still an entertaining one for all the corny manga story is worth.