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Alita: Battle Angel (dir. Rodriguez)

Image: Rosa Salazar in Alita: Battle Angel © [Source: IMDB]

★★☆☆☆

Written partly by James Cameron and directed by Rodriguez comes the story about a deactivated female cyborg being revived. Only to find she cannot remember anything of her past life and goes on a quest to find out who she is.

Director: Robert Rodriguez. Starring: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly [12A]

The fact that Rodriguez was chosen to helm this picture gives all credit I could possibly afford this flick. Rodriguez catalogue of outlandish action films and a flair for the wild and eccentric side of filmmaking. Makes him a top pick for directing this picture. To which he does terrifically as all his talents are honed in. Larger than life spectacle in which you can feel every punch and kick.

Which is exactly where Alita triumphs. In its action, Alita delivers a very strong act of entertainment that might even make its sequel worry in following. But this is partly down to the cramming that has taken place narratively. I’m not versed in the original source material at all, and I came out of this film understanding very little about the universe and even less so about the characters and their relationships. Alita is rather vague in her identity crisis that is solved all too quickly to really feel like anything was overcome. And that kind of lack of attention to characters goes for absolutely every other character present in the story.

Heroes, villains and side characters are all treated with an ever so slight touch of the artist’s brush. Resulting in one-dimensional archetypes that also come across as supremely awkward and immediately rob you of any immersion you may have had. This is doubled down with the narrative predominance of Alita’s romance, which not only comes across as false but it’s an aspect of this story you never care for. Never tugging at any heartstrings because it’s uniquely unbelievable. What is strangely believable is Alita, the action and some supporting characters. Salazar does a tremendous job of performing Alita even with the distraction of a CGI face with uniquely large eyes.

It’s a testament to her performance that the CGI for Alita was never a distraction. A lot of the action scenes are wonderfully computer generated also, with seemingly not an odd pixel out of place and thankfully it makes the entertainment from these scenes spectacular. The same can only be half said for some of the outliers of CGI, as some characters look fantastic and otherworldly, while others come across as unused reels from the 2001 Spy Kids movie. Especially awkward since that too was a Rodriguez picture, maybe they were from that film and Rodriguez was saving money.

The lack of care in aesthetic could also just be an echo of the films main issue of vague storytelling with cramming of plot events. There is far too much happening, far too quickly and the brief moments we have to understand at a “deeper” level, are all told through exposition dumps that aren’t all that interesting. Ultimately this is a plot that should have been spread thinner, told with more detail, care and less attention on action spectacle – even if that was one aspect that was terrific.

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