By Dave B.
While a cyberneticist is rummaging through a huge pile of garbage, he makes an amazing find: the largely disembodied head of Alita, a combat cyborg that is equipped with a human mind and an advanced robotic body. Alita’s innate sense of justice puts her at odds with all of the injustice that exists in her 26th century surroundings. As she uncovers more of her past, she discovers that no matter the era, some enemies will always have to be confronted.
Wading through garbage to find something good is a pretty accurate metaphor for the overall quality of Alita: Battle Angel (2019). Don’t get me wrong. No part of it quite falls to the level of discarded waste. But one has to wade through a lot of mediocrity to get the best parts of the movie. For example, Alita indisputably has a powerhouse cast. With Mahershala Ali, Jennifer Connelly, and Christoph Waltz leading the way, one would expect some stellar performances. However, no one starring in the film rises above “just acceptable” because the script couldn’t be more bland and predictable. Having there be no surprises and no characters who are particularly compelling in a film that is over two hours long is completely inexcusable.
Alita’s saving grace is that the CGI is good and the action is borderline great. Sure, there are stretches of pointless dialogue in the film, but after five or ten minutes of that, there will inevitably be some good cyborg vs. cyborg violence. Since that’s likely what the vast majority of the people who are inclined to go see Alita: Battle Angel are there for, they’re unlikely to be too disappointed with the movie as a whole.
And to be honest, I’m not either. Alita is mostly fun (when it isn’t trying and failing to elicit interest in it’s inane central love story). I’m just disappointed that the film doesn’t come close to living up to its obvious potential in any way beyond special effects and action. Those two qualities just aren’t enough for modern superhero/sci-fi storytelling anymore. In other words, Alita: Battle Angel, while moderately entertaining, represents a regression to a bygone era where studios assumed that if they dumped enough money into a movie, it will be a hit. Those days are clearly gone and we’re all better for it. I’m recommending Alita, because there’s value in spectacle and harmless fun, but for sure, don’t pay any money to see this one.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.