Film review - Alita: Battle Angel

A scene from the film
A scene from the film

Robert Rodriguez' Alita: Battle Angel is best described as that one moon scene in Spy Kids 3D where they fight in robots ... on steroids.

Considering I left this other-worldly experience with a headache, migraine and greater understanding of illicit substances (no sober person could conceive this 'experience') than I got from Beautiful Boy, I do feel as though the original goal of blowing my tiny mind was achieved ten-fold.

And even the brightest minds on Earth would crumble under the pretentious weight of this film's lore - featuring not one, not two but a literally uncountable number of exposition dumps and explanations, that somehow only amplify the confusion felt.

The plot is so physically, mentally, emotionally and philosophically exhausting in its scope that summarising it is like condensing Lord of the Rings to a pamphlet, but I'll do my best.

We follow cyborg Alita (played with an exhausting child-like excitability by Rosa Salazar) as she attempts to rediscover her past life while her adoptive father, Ido (a marvellously sensitive Christoph Walz), tries to stop her.

And that is only the tip of the iceberg, which screenwriter and acclaimed director James Cameron has already crashed one film (Titanic) into, only that was a good film and made money; whereas Alita will likely serve as gasoline on a cash bonfire.

Cameron tries to hammer (force is too gentle of a verb for what he did to this story) ten TV seasons' worth of plot and character development into a two-hour movie, that in turn is so sluggish in its pacing that it feels like a ten season TV show.

But when it is trying to be that-one-scene-in-Spy-Kids-3D-on-steroids as opposed to an actual 'movie': it's ironically perfect, with insanity and implausibility spewing from its soulless shell.

Though like people, even the most soulless of creatures can be stunning; boasting groundbreaking visuals and incredible sound design, compensating in size of effects for the lacking size of its coherency.

The action sequences are also surprisingly fun, with hundreds of dismembered limbs (they push the age-rating to infinity and beyond) and flips (one of which karate-kicks a robot's arm off, which I hereby deem as the greatest thing Hollywood has pumped out since Casablanca in 1942) filling the screen.

I cannot, in good conscience, call Alita: Battle Angel a good, coherent, logical or meaningful experience. But it is strangely fun. And although I audibly - albeit quietly - voiced my confusion at numerous points, it was never out of anger.

Well, maybe once or twice or thrice at the end: but how can you hate a movie in which the sports of basketball, rollerblading and MMA are spliced together to form a supersport?

The more I think about this film the more I think its genius. That is less a testament to its quality and more an 'A For Effort' for making me both shake my head in confusion and nod it in admiration.

Then again, I did feel like I spent an eternity in that blissfully-comfortable chair: so maybe Cameron has also hammered some Stockholm-syndrome into it as well.