Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Alita: Battle Angel


In a post-apocalyptic Earth of the future, Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz) discovers a dismembered female cyborg whose brain is still functioning. He brings her home and attaches her head to a new cyborg body naming her Alita (Rosa Salazar). The arrival of Dr. Chiren (Jennifer Connelly), Dr. Ido’s ex-wife, reveals that the cyborg has been modeled after their dead daughter. The cyborg does not remember anything about herself and what led to her disembodied state, but she quickly adapts as the doctor’s new adopted daughter. She is introduced to Motorball by Hugo (Keean Johnson), a scrap dealer who becomes her love interest. Together, they dream of traveling up to Zalem, a wealthy sky city that land-dwellers could only dream of moving to. Soon enough, Alita uncovers remnants of her history, a glorious albeit violent past of being a member of an elite group of hunter-warriors that might just be their ticket to Zalem.

Well, wow. What I admire most about this film is the seamless convergence between the CGI and live action scenes. Alita is obviously CGI, but the rendering of the character makes her every movement jive so well with the background as well as the live-action characters that sometimes the line between reel and real just becomes more and more blurred. It is that visual treat that makes the movie tolerable and amazing despite the rather boring screenplay that serves as a burden for the narrative.

While the twist regarding Zalem is a bit unexpected, the other plot points are just either too convenient or predictable. This is a movie that is carried by its presentation, a fancy wrapper that hides something blander than what you expect it to be. Perhaps it is also Alita’s background story that drags the plot. She just seems too powerful, some sort of a Mary Sue that you do not expect anything bad to happen to her anymore. She just always bounces back, and that somehow lessens the impact when it comes to storytelling.

As far as the all the action is concerned, the actors do what they can with what they are given. Salazar lends Alita the humanity that she requires to evoke empathy from her audience despite being the cyborg that she is. Waltz, on the other hand, shines as the father figure whose grief from losing his daughter and grabbing a second chance at fatherhood gives the storyline some much-needed warmth. He also gets to do some action scenes, but obviously pale in comparison vis-à-vis the mocap-enriched battle scenes of the titular character.

As for the storyline itself, there really is nothing new to add to the genre. The theme is recycled and maybe that explains why the concept feels a bit like a half-baked attempt on something new and fresh. Even then, the advancements in certain aspects of film making are obvious and will be this movie’s contribution to the world of cinema. It makes you wonder what else can be achieved with such techniques in the future. It’s an exciting prospect and there will surely come a time when we will no longer be able to discern reality from fiction in film as a medium.

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