Normally futuristic cyborg science fiction doesn't interest me, at all. And I am decidedly NOT a fan of James Cameron --- didn't like TITANIC and loathed AVATAR. But I admit I was curious about ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL because of Rosa Salazar and the motion capture, along with the look of this film.
In the year 2563, Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) is scavenging the trash from Zalem, the utopia perched above --- and a place many people below aspire to live. Ido finds a "core", which he takes back to his clinic to fix up with a new body. When "she" awakens with no memory, Ido names her Alita after his deceased daughter.
While Ido is showing Alita around the "hood", she meets a young friend of his named Hugo (Keean Johnson), who teaches her how to play Motorball. They develop a friendship and Hugo introduces Alita to many new things, like chocolate.
But what she doesn't know is that he and his friends beat up cyborgs and steal their parts for Vector (Mahershala Ali - who seems to be in everything these days), the creep who rigs Motorball combat matches. Hugo is trying to save to get to Zalem --- his lifelong dream. But what he doesn't know is Vector has orders from the ruler of Zalem to have Alita killed. It turns out she is the last of the breed of a very special line of battle-trained cyborgs --- and she is phenomenal in a fight!
Salazar is terrific --- much has been made of her big eyes, but I think she's precious --- I don't find her character or her eyes creepy at all. The motion capture is amazing --- the technology just keeps getting better. And Salazar projects the necessary toughness to allow this whole story to be believable. And trust me, I cannot believe I'm writing this.
We try not to prejudge movies as critics, but I can honestly say I was not looking forward to ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL. And 10 minutes in, I leaned over to very quietly ask David if he was sleeping --- our screening was 3-D which I highly recommend --- as I couldn't tell because of the 3-D glasses. He emphatically shook his head no, so our new barometer for high-octane films is whether or not David can stay awake!
I am also thrilled to report that Waltz does not overact, which he's been doing a lot of, lately. As Alita's caretaker, his role becomes one of a father figure, which he performs beautifully --- and he has some rather amusing lines.
ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL is directed by one of my faves, Robert Rodriguez, with a screenplay by Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis. Cameron, a co-producer on this film with Jon Landau, began this project back in 2003. Because of his other interests and movies, it had taken until October 2017 to begin filming --- and now it is here.
ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL is beyond entertaining. The actual battle scenes are not protracted, they are tense, exciting and imaginative. Should this type of movie not interest you, I ask you to give it a chance. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Opinion: See It Now!
Don't be deceived by the title of this James Cameron (co-writer)/Robert Rodriguez (director) epic action film. It is hugely entertaining and well worth its estimated budget of $200 million.
ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL works largely because the central heroine (Rosa Salazar provides the model and voice for Alita) created by Weta Digital is preeminently likeable and totally adorable. But don't ask the nasty villains in this movie who try vainly to destroy Alita. "Adorable" would not be the first adjective they would use. They should have been warned not to mess with this fearless tiny titan.
Alita is a discarded cyborg found in a scrap yard in the year 2563 by Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz). Ido is a guy who replaces human limbs with cybernetic ones as witnessed by all the denizens of the future walking around with mechanical arms and legs. But the good doctor has an alter ego as a "Hunter -Warrior". Waltz, by the way, is actually superb in this role as he becomes Alita's surrogate father.
The running joke in our family is that one of us finds a way to fall asleep during super hero movies and their customary elongated battle scenes. (Hint: it's not Jeanne). I can assure you that this two hour plus adventure did not induce the slightest nod off despite the frequent fights between Alita and her rivals. Thank you to director Rodriguez for not falling into the trap of "longer is better".
Not all the action is hand-to-hand combat. Something called Motorball (a virtual futuristic roller ball) is the spectator sport of choice in 2563, and Alita quickly adapts to the nuances of the game. There is also a love story in ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL involving the cyborg Alita and the human Hugo (Keean Johnson) which is simply sweet, not cloying or over the top.
Jennifer Connelly (Chiren) and Mahershala Ali (Vector) play criminal masterminds until one of them has a change of heart. As for Ali, the man is everywhere these days, on both the big and small screens.
The bottom line for ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL --- a shockingly unexpected treat. Word of mouth should propel this very expensive venture to great box office returns.
Opinion: See It Now!