‘Alita: Battle Angel’ review: A cyberpunk visual spectacle

James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez create a groundbreaking
live-action manga adaptation of a well known heroine.

At a scrapyard in a post-apocalyptic Iron City, a compassionate cyber-doctor Ido (Christoph Waltz), finds Alita (Rosa Salazar) in a disembodied “core” status and gives her a new body. Terror dawns on the poor cyborg once she realizes that she has no recollection of her past identity. But Ido knew that somewhere in this abandoned cyborg shell is the heart and soul of a young woman with an extraordinary past, so he decides to be her caretaker. Of course, he couldn’t be more wrong with this gut feeling.

And so, as Alita learns to navigate her new life in the treacherous streets of Iron City, Ido tries to shield her from her mysterious past. Yet curiosity overtakes her being and she accepts an offer from a street-smart friend Hugo (Keean Johnson) to trigger her forgotten memories. However, it is only when the deadly and corrupt forces that run the city come after Alita that she starts to discover a clue to her past – she possesses an enviable and unique fighting skills that those in power will stop at nothing to control her. Determined to uncover the truth behind her origin, Alita sets out on a journey that will lead her to combat the injustices of this dark, corrupt world, and discover that her gift can change her world in more ways than one.

Rosa Salazar plays Alita by way of motion capture

The film’s source material, Battle Angel Alita, is a Japanese series by Yukito Kishiro (originally titled as GUNNM) set in a post-apocalyptic future. It is originally published in Shueisha’s Weekly Business Jump in 1990 and since its inception, the manga has produced nine volumes of it and it even got licensed for an English language release by Viz Media. This much-awaited film adaptation, on the other hand, was made possible by the visionary filmmakers James Cameron (Avatar) and Robert Rodriguez (Sin City) so you can expect nothing short of a masterpiece here. Alita: Battle Angel tells an epic adventure of hope, love, and empowerment.

Director Rodriguez choose to present this film more as a path to self-discovery by braving on a different theme from the series, yet still managing to retain the narrative spine. There’s a very much ripe world in Alita that needs to be harvested more. This first installment primarily focuses on the growth of its main character and it’s definitely understandable considering the film has a large amount of material to cover. It all ends in a cliffhanger, hence, a sequel will definitely come up soon.

Behind the scene: Visionary directors James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez

The film is so creative and innovative especially when employing its visual effects. With James Cameron being on board as producer, it quickly becomes clear that this film will mostly benefit from the same technical advancements that made his Avatar such an marvelous triumph in terms of 3D filmmaking. Sure enough, the whole film is a visual and sensory feast for the audience – nothing short of a mesmerizing spectacle and no doubt best experienced on an IMAX format.

The phenomenal action sequences are best highlighted during the motorball scene where every detail of the match takes into flight along with a variety of vicious weapons thrown at the viewers. You’ll also get the feeling of being immersed into this extravagant world-building concept, as it features the Iron City, the Badlands and Zalem in full of depth and texture. Each set piece is showcased vividly right down to the floating dust motes in the light. It’s a unified vision of a director who knows what he’s doing – the pure CGI battles never come across as boring, and the casting of well-known actors also complements in bringing its anime aesthetics into life. This makes Alita: Battle Angel as one of the greatest live-action manga adaptation ever made.

Alita (Rosa Salazar) and Zapan (Ed Skrein)

Alita: Battle Angel is a must-see cyberpunk action film – the absolutely stunning visuals alone are worthy of the admission price. If moviegoers have to choose only one film to watch this month in IMAX 3D, well, this is a no-brainer.

5 out of 5 stars
Directed by Robert Rodriguez and written by James Cameron, ‘Alita: Battle Angel‘ stars Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Michelle Rodriguez, Keean Johnson, Jackie Earle Haley, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Skrein, Eiza Gonzalez, Mahershala Ali, Lana Condor and Jorge Lendeborg Jr.
Run time: 125 minutes.

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