"Alita: Battle Angel" Review - (Non-Spoiler)
"Alita: Battle Angel" is a big-hearted, bombastic action spectacular that mixes both sentimentality and spectacle and overcomes script deficiencies to still deliver bombastic cinematic entertainment.
Hands down, Rosa Salazar is the true star of Alita: Battle Angel. As our titular protagonist, she imbues life into this optimistic, endearing cyborg, and it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll fall for this lovable character and her journey. Salazar conveys both Alita's childlike innocence and her mature ferocity with ease, balancing these two opposing components of her core personality quite well. She is aided by impeccable VFX work that blends Alita seamlessly with the world around her and adds humanity to her interactions with the rest of the cast.
Speaking of the additional characters, most do a fine job, even if quite a few come up underutilized. Christoph Waltz shines the most as Dr. Dyson Ido, Alita’s caretaker, and surrogate father. He is saddled with quite a bit of exposition, but he exudes an authentic warmth in his conversations with Alita and he has a genuinely affecting backstory that adds thematic depth to his connection with the heroine. Keean Johnson may have to endure a few cringy one-liners throughout his romance with Alita, but I bought into their adolescent puppy love, and I enjoyed the chemistry between the two. As our lead villains, Mahershala Ali and Jennifer Connelly felt underdeveloped in my eyes. Connelly has a unique connection to Ido and a semblance of a compelling character arc, but I would’ve liked this explored more. Ali is not much more than a surrogate for a greater mastermind behind the scenes, so he isn’t quite effective on his own. Of any antagonists, Ed Skrein leaves the best impact as Zapan, a cocky cyborg bounty hunter with severe self-image issues.
The screenplay suffers from a few bumps with characterization and corny dialogue, but it truly comes into its own with expansive world building. The core plot is adapted from the first four mangas in the Battle Angel: Alita collection, and while the events that comprise these stories can feel disjointed at times, the underlying thematic resonance of the greater environment of Alita’s world manages to tie them together. Alita’s quest to protect those she loves and fight for Iron City in the face of the elusive Zalem (controlled by the villainous Nova) is quite engaging. Beautiful set design and visual imagery help draw you into the world even further. The fight sequences and action scenes are endlessly enrapturing and inventive, and they take full advantage of the curiosities in this universe. The Motorball scene alone left me breathless.
The film does admittedly end with an egregious tease for sequels, but while some would-be franchise starters have turned me off with this type of conclusion, I found myself really interested in seeing a continuation of Alita’s journey in this world.
"Alita: Battle Angel" isn’t perfect by any means - aside from our protagonist, some characters feel very underwritten, and the screenplay can hop around a tad as it lays out its heroine’s journey - but the film is so entertaining and ballsy in its epic world building and action spectacle that it creates a wholly engaging cinematic experience nonetheless. I could really feel the passion behind the filmmaking here, so even if it doesn’t quite live up to its full potential, I respect the pure intentions nonetheless. I'm going to give "Alita: Battle Angel" a 7 out of 10.