Runner Review: ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ brings the action

By Jorge Avila, Opinions Writer

Jorge's rating:

“Alita: Battle Angel,” directed by Robert Rodriguez and produced by James Cameron, is a sci-fi fantasy action film based on a serialized Japanese comic of the same name.  The story follows the adventures of a cyborg girl named Alita (played by Rosa Salazar) living in a futuristic wasteland in which poverty, oppression and social inequality are all prevalent.

The film establishes its setting and characters very early on and continues to sprinkle in bits of information throughout, which I found very effective for developing the world of “Alita: Battle Angel.”  However, the film’s pacing suffers from something I would describe as information overload; characters are constantly throwing out names of people, places, and events and the plot is endlessly twisting and turning. By the time the film reaches its fifth supervillain, it’s hard to remember exactly where the story was heading to begin with.

“Alita’s” breakneck pace keeps things moving along well enough, thanks in part to its mind-boggling action sequences, but all its potentially interesting themes involving humanity and the advancement of technology are left undercooked in exchange for more plot and more action. Luckily, the action really does pay off, which leads into the film’s strongest aspects.

I mentioned the film’s superb action sequences, but the impact of these epic cyborg battles cannot be understated. The action all feels grand and epic yet brutal and visceral while still being easy to follow.  In addition, director Rodriguez is never afraid to shy away from violence, providing some truly shocking moments that push the boundaries of the PG-13 rating.

The movie also boasts an exceptional lead character in Alita, played wonderfully by Rosa Salazar in her first motion capture performance. The effects used to bring Alita to life are jaw-dropping at times, and the character’s exuberant personality makes her an immediately likable heroine.  You’ll find yourself cheering her on in every battle, even if it is the 50th cyborg she’s decimated.

Perhaps the film’s strongest element, and the most convincing reason to see it, is its incredible use of visual effects.  The effects in the film are stunning and worthy of being watched on the biggest screen you can find.  I watched “Alita: Battle Angel” in IMAX 3D and it proved to be an incredible experience.

Currently, “Alita: Battle Angel” sits at a 60 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a popular review aggregator website, with critics having mostly mixed opinions on the film. New Zealand Herald writer Dominic Corry labels it “A dazzling assertion of cinematic ambition,” while Top Critic Peter Howell calls it “More of a scavenger hunt than a movie,” criticizing the film’s overstuffed and convoluted plot.   

The movie has its flaws, but its charming title character, inventive action sequences, and beautiful visual effects make it well worth a watch in theaters.