By Don Morton
Alita: Battle Angel
February 22, 2019
Centuries in the future, in a standard dystopian world, a cyber-surgeon (Christoph Waltz) discovers an abandoned cyborg head (with slightly creepy manga eyes) in a trash dump and mates its still-functioning human brain with a body he had developed for his now-deceased, wheelchair-bound daughter. But while Alita (Rosa Salazar, nailing the mo-cap) embraces her new world, she suffers from a Bourne-like amnesia, complete with a subconscious and lethal set of fighting skills. She sets out to discover who she is and where she came from.
Based on the manga Gunnm by Yukito Yushiro, Robert Rodriguez’s best film in a long while is mostly coherent, well paced, and does some impressive world-creating. The problem is with James Cameron’s script (co-written with Rodriguez and Laeta Kalogridis), which, like the heroine, seems to be put together from spare parts and flits through multiple genres (sports, YA, bounty-hunting). It sidesteps the kind of existential questions usually addressed in this type of film and is happy to exist as a YA actioner, leaving the whole seeming less than its parts.
I had fun in this visual thrill-ride, at least until the lame, sequel-prep non-ending kind of ruined the whole. Don’t be expecting Ghost in the Shell, A.I. Artificial Intelligence or Ex Machina. (122 min)