There’s no doubting that James Cameron’s pet project is a technical marvel – it just doesn’t quite have the storyline to go with it.
The man behind Avatar combines forces with highly-acclaimed director Robert Rodriguez – with films such as Sin City, Desperado and From Dusk Till Dawn in his locker – to provide a Cyberpunk adventure that mish-mashes elements of lots of films without ever getting its own true identity.
Ready Player One, Ghost in the Shell, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, and any number of recent dystopian teen dramas could be used as reference points.
But boy, is it pretty to look at. Particularly Rosa Salazar’s Alita herself (Maze Runner 2 & 3) – is simply spectacular to watch in action.
In the year 2563, a catastrophic war known as ‘The Fall’ has left the earth devastated – and the film starts with double Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz’s (Django Unchained) Doctor Dyson Ido discovering the body of a disembodied female cyborg (complete with intact human brain) in a junkyard.
He rebuilds this 300-year-old relic from the past, who befriends local teenage boy Hugo (Keean Johnson) and gets introduced to the competitive ‘cyborg-fight-to-the-death’ battle royale sport of Motorball – please feel free to use the old video game Speedball 2 as an example.
But she really dreams of reaching the wealthy sky city of Zalem – as a reference please use Elysium – until Ido realises she actually came from there in the first place, and is in fact a lethal warrior (proficient in the skills of the ancient martial arts of ‘Panzer Kunst’) who actually fought in the war.
And when she comes on the radar of Motorball mastermind Vector and Ido’s ex-wife Chiren (Jennifer Connelly) – played respectively by Waltz’s fellow Oscar-winners Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) and Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind) – and gets embroiled with a group of vigilante cyborg law enforcers known as the Hunter-Warriors – particularly Ed Skrein’s (Deadpool) Zapan – there’s definitely more significance to Alita than Ido could ever possibly have imagined.
Fortunately the choppy story – that never really gains any consistent traction – is helped along by multiple set-pieces and a host of interesting characters that boasts cameos from everyone from Watchmen’s Jackie Earle Haley and Bumblebee’s Jorge Lendeborg Jr, to blasts from Hollywood’s past such as The Lawnmower Man’s Jeff Fahey and Starship Troopers’ Casper Van Dien.
Which leaves this Japanese Anime-inspired adventure throwing a lot of imaginative and well-intentioned punches – but only connecting positively with some.
It was undoubtedly set up to be part of a trilogy, but with the hefty price tag and potentially restricted audience it may already have lost the battle to make enough box-office cume to green light a sequel – which would be a shame as there’s definitely promise here.
But for anyone even slightly interested in technical wizardry – then Alita is worth the price admission alone on that front.
With some fun action sequences thrown in to boot.
ESP Rating: 3/5
Cast: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Keean Johnson, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, Lana Condor, Jackie Earle Haley, Eiza Gonzalez, Rick Yune, Jeff Fahey & Casper Van Dien
Running Time: 2 Hrs2 Mins
Director: Robert Rodriguez
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