It’s been a while since I walked into a movie theater with low expectations and a good sense of humor. In that regard, Alita: Battle Angel was not a disappointment.
The story is about this cyborg head that’s found in a scrapyard underneath this gleaming, floating city. A kindly cyborg-doctor finds this head, discovers that a human brain is still alive inside it, and gives it a body back in his workshop. However, once this cyborg-head wakes up (complete with hair that I’m not entirely sure how she got), she has no memories of who she was or how she ended up in that scrapyard. She can’t even remember the proper way to eat an orange. However, she does remember a bad-ass set of fighting skills. So it’s up to her, the nice doctor, and a cute boy she randomly meets to piece together the story of her past and the path of her future.
Alita: Battle Angel was based on a manga that I haven’t read. So in this review, don’t expect a comprehensive knowledge of the lore or backstory. I went into this movie as fresh as a daisy. The only thing I knew for sure about it was that it was going to have cyborg battles and stuff.
Which is cool.
So let’s start with the good parts.
The visuals are superb. I watched the movie in 3D, with the glasses and everything, and I didn’t regret it. I don’t suffer from terrible motion sickness, so I was able to sit back, relax, and watch cyborgs beat the crap out of each other.
Alita is a freaking powerhouse. I know people were slightly put off by her appearance, that whole Uncanny Valley thing. But one of the highlights of the movie for me was looking at her. Her expressions were so…weirdly engrossing. Plus, her acrobatic style of fighting was a marvel to watch.
I also thought the premise of the movie was intriguing. A big war was fought, and all we really know about the end result is that when the dust settled, that floating city was left standing (i.e. floating) and a dirty slum city was left to grow beneath it. Alita was part of a group of warriors who were meant to bring down the floating city. They clearly failed, but since Alita lost most of her memories, she doesn’t feel compelled to continue with her original objective. That is, she doesn’t until this one mysterious figure who lives on the floating city named Nova messes with her and her love life. Then she decides she will get to that floating city by playing sports.
I was too.
There’s a huge disparity between the people living in the city on the ground and the people living in the city in the air. Everyone on the ground, including Alita’s boyfriend, wants to move up there. It’s like an Elysium to them or something. One of the only ways you can get up there is to become champion of this sport called Motorball. And then I guess the floating city people just…let you in?
The actual plot is where the movie just flops for me. I could get the individual plot points, and I could tell what direction the story was heading. But how we got there was either ridiculously corny or unexplained.
The love story between Alita and the human boy was just…bad. It was predictably cute, at first, because it’s a fish-out-of-water scenario. But when the boy introduced her to chocolate for the first time, I felt like rolling my eyes. Of course he introduced her to chocolate. I could see that coming a mile away. I had much more enjoyment from seeing Mike Wheeler introduce Eleven to the joys of a reclinable chair in Stranger Things.
Plus, once she became a bad-ass hunter-warrior, her interactions with her boyfriend became gut-bustingly hilarious. She offers him her actual heart at one point for money to pay for passage to the floating city. And he said no. Plus, the boy has two death scares that just did not cut it for me because one, they were predictable as fuck, and two, I just didn’t care about this romance.
Side note: One of these death scares ends with him having his head cut off and placed on a cyborg body. My peals of laughter had to be hushed up. Seriously, go see this movie for that part alone.
I honestly cared much more for Alita reconnecting with her past than for her romantic life, and the movie did not even satisfy me on that count. Let me tell you right now, the movie ended, and we still have no clue why Alita was really made, what she fought for, what her life was like, or anything.
And as for that floating city in the sky, we never get to see what it looks like up top.
That was a case of blue balls for my brain, right there.
Alita’s journey just felt so incomplete. Let’s look at all of the “quests” her character goes on:
- Figure out who she used to be.
- Help her boyfriend get to the floating city so he can be happy.
- Become a Motorball Champion.
- Defeat the sinister and sneaky Nova who has plotted her destruction this entire time.
Now let’s see how these quests were resolved.
- She figures out a skeleton draft of who she used to be, and that is it.
- Boyfriend dies, and when the movie ends, she hasn’t gotten to that floating city either.
- The movie ends right before her final match to become a Motorball Champion. We don’t even get to see the final match, you guys.
- Bruh, the two of them never even meet face-to-face.
Another thing wrong with Alita: Battle Angel are all these plot coincidences and contrivances. People have random changes of heart for no reason, show up in places with no explanation for how they got there, and go about accomplishing tasks in the most circuitous ways possible.
Nova, the movie’s supposed big bad, orders Alita to be killed, but instead of, I don’t know, cornering her with ten bajillion cyborgs, holding the kind doctor hostage in order to force her to comply, or tricking her to give her heart to her boyfriend and having him accept it, they do other things like have a Motorball match or a one-on-one fight in a tunnel.
So I would recommend this movie to you only if you want to watch cool cyborg fight scenes with a barely adequate story in between the combat.
I rate this movie an I-have-seen-it-once-in-3D-and-now-I-will-be-happy-if-I-never-see-it-again-unless-it’s-for-free-and-I-can-put-it-on-in-the-background-while-I’m-doing-other-things-with-my-life.