James Cameron will go down in history as one of, if not the boldest man in Hollywood. He has directed the two highest grossing films of all time as well as continually pushing the boundaries of both directing and producing. Now, he has teamed up with Robert Rodriguez on a risky new project in Alita: Battle Angel. Can James Cameron again bring us something new and shock the world? Yes of course he can. This film was a huge surprise for me which delivered excellent action, strong characters, and a world rich with new possibilities at every turn. It may not be for everyone, but many are going to love this.
Alita: Battle Angel is the story about a cyborg woman named Alita in the 26th century, who is brought back to life in a world where humans integrate themselves with machines. When her extraordinary abilities are discovered, she becomes the target of those who want to use her for evil. This may sound like a complicated story and it can get confusing, but once you understand what’s going on, you get locked in. This film has been pushed back multiple times and went from a summer release to a February release which is usually a red flag, but not in this case. Robert Rodriguez who is best known for Sin City brings his unique style to this film and it works with this environment and story. He has a flair for directing which puts you in the world and doesn’t make you feel lost but rather apart of it. Each scene is a new experience and the world-building is one of the things that drew my attention the most. There is so much to absorb, and you are left wanting more even after being given so much. There is room here for a sequel, which they are completely aware of, and also a prequel which we see fascinating glimpses of. Either way, this story has franchise potential written all over it and could be the next Terminator.
The star of this film is the character of Alita, played by an actress that the world will soon know, Rose Salazar. She is electric, and this is her coming out party. As well as putting in the work to learn all the stunts and martial arts, she brought an emotional side to the character. She made the robot feel human and that is a testament to how strong she was. She is supported by Christoph Waltz who plays her stand in father and honestly, he doesn’t give much of an effort. However, he is Christoph Waltz and even a little effort is still serviceable to where I believed him in this world. Speaking of effort, Mahershala Ali is also here and this man is just on one of the hottest streaks. He is an Oscar front-runner in Green Book, voices a character in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse which will win best animated film, is crushing it in True Detective, and now is in Alita: Battle Angel. Even when he is not given much to do he still makes the most of it and brings gravitas to the role of the main villain. Other actors such as Jennifer Connelly, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, and Keean Johnson are also terrific but Rose Salazar is the star of this movie.
One final point to touch upon, is the action. There are multiple sequences of cyborgs fighting each other that could’ve easily looked like a Michael Bay Transformers movie with metal crashing against itself but instead this looks incredible. It is martial arts meets cyborgs and that combination should never work, but it does. It is what Ghost in the Shell should have been. A big plot point is a sport called rollerball in the film which is essentially capture the flag meets roller skating with swords and guns. It might be the best sequence in the film where everything is moving so fast, yet it never seemed quick enough to lose me. Just when you think that’s happening, Robert Rodriguez slows it down and you see the big moments happen. Are there goofy moments and characters? Sure, but it never feels so out of place that the tone is messed up.
Alita: Battle Angel is an immersive experience that was an unexpected surprise. James Cameron again has something special on his hands and if this film makes enough money, could be the next big thing. Rose Salazar is a star that we should see much more of and gives a powerful performance as a character I dare you not to like. See this film in IMAX as it will catapult you into this captivating world and make you never want to leave.
The Verdict: 4/5 Stars