Review – Alita: Battle Angel

Rosa Salazar is good in the lead role in Robert Rodriguez dystopian film. Picture: 20th Century Fox

Rosa Salazar is good in the lead role in Robert Rodriguez dystopian film. Picture: 20th Century Fox. - Credit: Archant

Haven’t we seen this so-so dystopian thriller before?

Fox, 26th Century Fox as the opening credits style them, are hoping that Alita will be a little piece of history repeating itself: that just like nine years ago, an expensive, James Cameron 3D sci-fi epic which everybody expected to flop will turn into a massive hit. The problem though is that the film is all our dystopian futures repeating.

This adaptation of a Japanese manga was supposed to be Cameron’s Avatar follow up, but instead, he’s devoted himself to his plethora of Avatars sequels (four, at last count.) So he’s handed over directing duties to Robert Rodriquez. Cameron is the man who has five times made the most expensive movie ever made, while Rodriquez is famous for making films on the cheap. While Cameron is hey Big Spender, Rodriquez is the theme to Bargain Hunt.

Alita is set 600 years from now in a future where most people are made up of bits and pieces that have been scavenged or recycled. But the world they live in is scavenged or recycled from other movies. That Blade Runner really did a job on us. Just as the sci-fi future was once always the realm of shiny cities, flying cars and robotic convenience, now we seem incapable of imaging anything beyond all these overlapping, interchangaeable dystopias. Alita’s problem is that the films it most reminds you of are less successful ones: A.I. or Ghost In The Shell.

The film is all things you’ve seen before, not necessarily done better but just as well. It looks impressive, if a bit cartoony, and Salazar is good in the lead role. The script though never gets across what got Cameron and Rodriquez hooked on it. The film is too short to really flesh out its characters and world, but too prestigious to just go for wham bam action. It’s far from bad but all the way through you are waiting for the film to get going, to tell us what it’s really about. And then when it does, it finishes.

Click here for a review of Arrow Video’s release of Gasper Noe’s phenomenal Climax on blu-ray.

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