James Cameron’s first screen writing gig in ten years and his first since his sci-fi epic ‘Avatar’ comes in the form of an adaptation of Yukito Kishiro’s manga ‘Gunnm’. With the title ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ the film follows a cyborg, Alita, as she’s brought back to life but with much of her memories absent. She’s thrown into a divided society and must attempt to learn about her past to discover who she truly is. ‘Sin City’ director Robert Rodríguez helms the film with Cameron producing as well as writing with Jon Landau.
Narratively ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ has little to offer, simply feeling like a young adult version of Neill Blomkamp’s ‘Elysium’. Here everything is a little too muddled with an abundance of storylines happening simultaneously but none capturing the audiences attention all that effectively. It presents itself like an amalgamation of films and stories that cinema has been saturated with for so long and as a result it offers nothing of interest. What the film does have going for it though is its action. These sequences are executed brilliantly, easily being the highlight of the whole film. There is an effortless fluidity to them thanks to the lack of cuts and editing, providing a strong example of just how action should be filmed. It’s a shame that due to the un-engaging narrative these sequences hold next to no power with them, failing to be exciting or emotional despite their high quality.
In a similar vein to its action sequences the visual effects for the film are very impressive. ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ blends numerous different techniques to achieve its aesthetic and the individual craftsmanship demonstrated here is undeniable. However, it has to be said that the motion capture nature of Alita’s appearance is jarring in comparison to the other live-action characters. These live action characters take away any real necessity to present Alita through motion capture and the end result when blended with the other characters distracts more than it impresses. Furthermore, none of the cast really excel in their roles. They either come across campy, cliched or just unremarkable which is disappointing considering the talent assembled here. The same can be said for the films ending which is a shameful sequel set up which just keeps going giving audiences one of the worst experiences of finale fatigue in some time.
‘Alita: Battle Angel’ is far from Cameron’s best work and a disappointing return to the big screen. Even without the comparisons to his previous filmography this cyberpunk action adventure just lacks heart. It ticks many boxes sure and its humongous budget ensures an A-list cast, striking visuals and polished action but without any real emotion driving it forward all these elements feel empty and fail to serve their real purpose. Neither especially entertaining or memorable ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ is one expensive Cameron canon misfire.
Written by Hamish Calvert
Rating – 5/10
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Thanks to Movie House Cinemas for screening access