Alita: Battle Angel

What a bad movie.

Alita: Battle Angel follows the story of a doctor who treats cyborgs in a far off distant future. Scraps fall from a city in the sky. The last city left after the Fall. In the scrap pile he finds the parts of a cyborg girl. He takes the parts and gives her a new body and a new name, Alita. She awakens and tries to determine who she is and where she belongs through killing and destroying tons of villainous cyborgs.

The dialogue is almost entirely exposition. The exposition is almost entirely people explaining things to Alita. Whether it’s the doctor explaining the Fall to Alita, or explaining cyborg body parts or technobabble about nanoparticles, or her boyfriend explaining the rules of rollerball and how things work “down here”, or the villains explaining how badass and evil they are, the movie never stops explaining stuff to everybody else. It is tedious and tiresome.

It’s especially tedious when they drone on and on about a backstory that sounds way more interesting than the story currently being told. Who cares about Alita? There was apparently a class war between the wealthy elite and the proletariat and the Mars army tried to bring down a tyrant. It’s heady and complicated, but it’s more compelling than watching a bunch of actors faces CGI’d onto some goofy looking robot bodies.

The CGI in this film is alternately photo realistic. The detail they have put into the minutest elements of these cyborgs is a marvel to behold… in most shots. In a lot of the shots the cyborgs look too slippery and shiny to be taken seriously. Comparing the opening shots of Alita to the cyborgs in the rollerball game is like watching the best and worst of what CGI can accomplish.

The real failing of the film however is the characters. Alita could be a compelling character. A woman trying to figure out who and what she is. The problem is the film never explores what she was. She seems to have been a warrior before, and she’s a warrior now. She seems to have been a good guy before. She’s a good guy now. Her boyfriend is like watching cardboard. He’s a flat character. He seems like a nice guy, but he has a dark secret, but it’s not a big deal. He’s bland and generically handsome and generically cool. The doctor is basically whatever the story needs him to be. He is secretive, then just tells her everything. He is guarded then not. He is peaceful, and then he’s a killer. He is the most important relationship in Alita’s life, then he disappears for 45 minutes of the excessive run time.

This is a movie full of action set pieces. Each set piece is trying to be the next biggest most iconic moment in action set pieces, but they just fold in on themselves and become a bland potpourri. It’s big, loud, and long. It is sound and fury signifying nothing.

Not my cup of tea. Grade – C

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