Alita: Battle Angel is a solid sci-fi manga adaptation that respects the source material while delivering on a streamlined action-packed experience.
Directed by Robert Rodriguez and starring Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz and Mahershala Ali, Alita: Battle Angel is tells the story of Alita, a cyborg with not memories of her biological past and greater destiny. Written and produced by visionary James Cameron, the film takes place in a dystopian futuristic society where a harsh class system and lawlessness rules the land. The film, which is based on the Japanese Manga by Yukito Kishiro, had been delayed multiple times before finally releasing to audiences. A rare blockbuster in a time where DC and Marvel own most of the market share, Alita: Battle Angel feels like a breath of fresh air and a visual spectacle for audiences. Outside of just strong visuals and and impressive lead, the score is led by Junkie XL, who once again proves he’s one of the best working composers in the film industry.
Anime and Manga Hollywood adaptations have been very hit and miss of the years. Luckily, Alita: Battle Angel is not one of them. The film takes visual and story inspiration from the manga while keeping the plot very streamlines for audiences to understand. More than anything, Alita: Battle Angel is all about the visual sci-fi action. The true crown of the film is defiantly the visual effects. Likely the principle reason for the delays in its theatrical release, Robert Rodriguez chose to give Alita the classic manga/anime eye style. Getting this aspect right is one of the highlights of the film visually as it truly feels like you’re watching a living manga. Fluid actions sequence, impeccable VFX and solid cinematography lead the way to make both fans and blockbuster fans engaged and thrilled.
The star of the show is easily Rosa Salazar. Embodying the character of Alita perfectly, Salazar brings a sense of emotion, realism and believability to the character and her acting drives the film the entire way. Being a very singular arc story with Alita as the both the focus and the MacGuffin for the film, all the pressure was on Salazar to deliver. Not only did she meet expectations, she surpassed them and she just might have delivered the best Manga-Hollywood film adaption performance we’ve seen. If there is one reason to put stock in this film and the future of the franchise, it is Salazar. Her supporting characters also have solid performances with Christoph Waltz and Mahershala Ali. Other actors were less memorable and suffered from a few writing hiccups to escalate their story arcs.
The film has issues that don’t bog down the film. At times the screenplay feels a little weak with lots of exposition to keep audiences from forgetting the overall story and plot. An amazing first and second act tended to waver in the third, where character development and twists were not as believable as it should have been. A heavy push for franchise appeal is an unfortunate reality of today’s blockbuster crazy and it hurt Alita in the same way it hurt some DC and Marvel properties. The idea of being sold on the future while trying to invest in the present was not too bad of an issue of Alita, especially considering this is her origin story. For what it is worth, the film will definitely have audiences interested in a sequel where the character can truly go all out.
Overall, Alita: Battle Angel is a breath of fresh air for modern blockbusters. Strong visual effects, an impressive score and an incredible lead actress highlight the film as it tackles a niche but dense source material. Despite a couple of pacing issues in the final act, the film does the solid job at making the lead character believable and setting up future stories.