I didn’t find many positives with Alita: Battle Angel, but its biggest positive aspect is huge. The visual effects in this movie are incredible. Alita herself looked completely convincing, the world that was created is fully realized visually, and the action is awesome fun. The bigger action scenes are well choreographed, but the best sequence is actually small and contained in a bar. It is all CGI, but it still was well shot and just a whole lot of fun.
There are also two very good performances in this movie: Cristoph Waltz, who is easily best known for playing an intimidating and evil character in Inglorious Basterds, doesn’t make you think of that role at all. He plays a gentle and loving father figure to Alita and gives a convincing performance. The titular character is played by the lesser-known Rosa Salazar, who does a good job of playing the type of character who is learning everything about the world due to the lack of memories. She isn’t given a lot to do emotionally, but shows good flashes when she has the chance.
Unfortunately, that’s everything positive I can say about this movie. Overall, it’s a tonal mess with bad dialogue that lacks any sort of real focus. It tries to be an epic, post-apocalyptic action movie, but it ends up being just a jumble of scenes stitched together without any real purpose. The world building is confusing, the characters’ motivations don’t make sense, and the story doesn’t seem to have any sort of message it is trying to communicate.
All we learn about the world of the movie is that it is the way it is because of a war that happened hundreds of years earlier. Some people spend their days living as registered robot superheroes trying to take down criminals and there is a city in the sky. But nothing is ever cohesive enough to explain how it all fits together, or what its purpose is. For that reason, it becomes uninteresting and doesn’t give a reason to keep your attention.
We are given a good amount of time with a few secondary characters, but after the movie finished, I still didn’t feel like I knew any of them. Their backstories seem to be purposely kept from the viewer, and we’re left to figure out what their motivations are. And we are never actually told. This makes it difficult to perceive any sort of main theme, other than, “The made up futuristic sport of motorball is really cool!”
Alita is full of cool action and terrible and confusing dialogue. It has potential with an interesting world, but it just needs to explain it more. Maybe the inevitable sequel will help explain all of this confusion.