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  Alita: Battle Angel Eye Ay Ay
Year: 2019
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Stars: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Keean Johnson, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, Lana Condor, Idara Victor, Jeff Fahey, Eiza González, Derek Mears, Leonard Wu, Edward Norton, Michelle Rodriguez
Genre: Action, Science Fiction, Romance, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: It is the twenty-sixth century, some three hundred years after a war almost devastated the Planet Earth, and the descendants of the survivors have congregated in a vast city underneath a floating complex which many of them dream of visiting or staying in, yet only the elite are allowed to live in. One day, the robotics scientist Doctor Ido (Christoph Waltz) is picking his way through the debris that surrounds the city when he happens across an android head that immediately catches his attention. He believes he can do something useful with this and returns it to his laboratory where he sets about rebuilding it, and when this cyborg awakens, he names her Alita (Rosa Salazar).

Hollywood took note of the popularity of Japanese pop culture among a certain subset of the moviegoing public, and every so often would option one of the properties from the Land of the Rising Sun to try and translate into big bucks in a blockbuster. Unfortunately for them, the magic rarely translated, and resulted in box office disappointments like Godzilla (1997) or Speed Racer, and Alita: Battle Angel was another casualty of mediocre returns on their investment, not a disaster by any means, but nothing to get enthusiastic about. This was all too appropriate, for the movie version of Yukito Kishiro's manga was nothing to go overboard with praise on either.

It had been in development hell for decades, and James Cameron had long harboured a desire to adapt the comic but had simply never found the time; he was a busy man, after all, and after a while all he wanted to do until his retirement was make Avatar sequels, leaving Alita on his to-do pile. Director Robert Rodriguez was a fan of the source, and once Cameron learned of this he gave him the job, along with his script and all the guidance in his producer capacity that he could offer. It seems to have been a very amenable set-up and production, and like many of Rodriguez efforts was packed with visual effects, indeed there was no frame of this that did not feature them at all.

However, it remained a difficult film to get excited by unless you were already invested in the manga and were delighted we got anything on screen after such a waiting period, and even then the manner in which the results rushed through the bullet points of its opening volumes would test the patience of most. Nevertheless, Alita did pick up a coterie of fans who turned it into a cult movie, which was not exactly what the studio would have wanted given the hundred million dollars plus that was expended on it, and they clamoured for sequels where the vast majority failed to see what the fuss was about. That heavily CGI appearance had left the adventure simply looking like a series of YouTube clips of computer gaming with characters explaining the plot every so often in between them.

Salazar was swamped in pixels, giving her huge eyes that may have been an attempt to stay faithful to the artwork, but were mightily distracting in practice, leaving her resembling a rejected character from a Pixar movie who happened to have a propensity for random acts of violence. Some mystery as to Alita's origins was scuppered by flashbacks which quickly revealed she was a battle droid, yet Ido was frustratingly reluctant to tell her anything about her past for absolutely no good reason. The main action setpieces were either robot bodies being dismembered (they could be repaired, so no tension there) or a rip-off of pretentious seventies science fiction flick Rollerball, with no variation, and no motive to be invested in anyone aside from them being the nominal heroes and heroines because this thoroughly rote plotline established them as such. After a while, boredom set in, as the busy imagery became a drone of flashy technology, the romance was Titanic levels of fatuous, and any time a hint of personality appeared it was drowned in shallow, superpowered wish-fulfilment fantasies. But if you were happy with that, then fair enough. Music by Junkie XL.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Robert Rodriguez  (1968 - )

Hip, hard-working American film maker, a former cartoonist, who directs, produces, writes and edits most of his movies. El Mariachi worked wonders on a tiny budget, and since then he's made Desperado, the only good segment of Four Rooms, gangster/vampire horror From Dusk Till Dawn, teen sci-fi The Faculty, kiddie adventure quartet Spy Kids, Spy Kids 2, Spy Kids 3-D and Spy Kids 4-D, semi-sequel Once Upon a Time in Mexico and Frank Miller adaptation Sin City (which gained a sequel nine years later). He next teamed up with Quentin Tarantino for double feature Grindhouse, and although it flopped it did spur him to beef up the fake trailer Machete, featuring the Danny Trejo character from the Spy Kids movies, a sequel Machete Kills following soon after. James Cameron gave him Alita: Battle Angel to play with, but the results muffled his flair.

 
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