I’ve arrived at Leicester Square, I’ve collected my 3D glasses, I’ve selected my seats, and I’m primed for some cyberpunk escapades. The anticipation turns into full on buzz when Jon Landau, James Cameron and director Robert Rodriguez enter the room and introduce the world premiere of Alita: Battle Angel.
Alita: Battle Angel builds up momentum from the get go as we’re introduced to the world of Iron City through the enlarged eyes of Alita. The film is based on Gunnm by Yukito Kishiro, a Japanese cyberpunk manga series set in the 2500s and we’ll get right to the point; this is where the movie shines. This is a world that I could have spent infinity exploring, discovering its people, places and origins.
The aforementioned momentum is sadly broken each and every time exposition or narrative is introduced. Although to some degree it’s of course necessary, you never feel that these characters are speaking to connect; instead they’re doing so to quickly push through the laws of the land rather than simply let us live in it. The problems with dialogue and narrative are Alita: Battle Angel’s biggest obstacles and ones that it never gets over.
That said, as soon as the action hits, you’re engrossed and along with the ride. That is right up until the point it leads to characters explaining the plot to each other, which happen *a lot*. As James Cameron is credited for a writing credit alongside Laeta Kalogridis and Robert Rodriguez, a comparison to Avatar is unavoidable. And both films have that same issue where the dialogue feels so heavy and forced that it swallows the actors whole and kills any natural flow the movie was daring to offer.
Speaking of characters, we should mention Christoph Waltz’s character ‘Dr. Dyson Ido’ and his assistant, ‘Nurse Gerhad’. The latter is shown and then subsequently hidden for the rest of the movie, or shown quickly behind during reaction shots. These characters only crop up when the boulder that is the created narrative needs another hand to push up the hill. The pacing therefore takes one hell of a beating.
You may have noticed that I have said nothing regarding the 3D other than I picked up my glasses, and that’s due to it being completely unnecessary. It does nothing at all to enhance the experience of watching the movie and the less said about the 3D aspect, the better.
And yet… despite all of this, Alita: Battle Angel is a fun watch. The moments that do allow the environment to breathe and the discoveries to be made by the characters allow for some real excitement. On top of this, the fight sequences and the design of the surroundings are fully realised, shining a light on the struggles of living in the wasteland below the mythical and mysterious floating city of Tiphares.
When speaking to people willing to listen to me speak about this movie – not that many, as you can imagine – my recommendation comes with an asterisk. I can certainly see why audiences wouldn’t be able to get past the barriers that are set up by the screenplay and forced narrative. But as someone who loves to watch TV and movies with people in rooms talking to each other, I was able to see past this plight as the rest of the landscape sure is pretty.
RELEASE DATE:Wednesday 6th February 2019