Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 400-Word Review: Alita: Battle Angel

Producer James Cameron and Director Robert Rodriguez team up for a sci-fi epic depressingly similar to a dozen others.




Photo courtesy Twentieth Century Fox
 

It seems that a dystopian sci-fi spectacle barely has time to finish bombing before the next one arrives for a box-office swan dive.

The sad, five-week run of “Mortal Engines” concluded in mid-January, with the high-pedigree fantasy scraping together $15 million at domestic cinemas (against a $100 million budget). Hot on its seldom-glimpsed heels, with Hollywood’s studios apparently still unaware that demand for such fare is low, “Alita: Battle Angel” arrives to try to buck the trend.

Like “Mortal Engines,” “Alita” has powerhouses in the credits. James Cameron spent nearly 20 years developing the project, which is based on a manga series; while he backed off a stated intention to direct the film, he is listed as a co-producer, with Jon Landau, and co-writer, with Laeta Kalogridis. Robert Rodriguez — of “Sin City,” “From Dusk Till Dawn” and far more “Spy Kids” films than you’d think — ended up in the director’s chair.

And like nearly every story even vaguely resembling this one, “Alita” is the story of a plucky and initially unwilling young heroine called to rebel against a tyrannical society. The particulars: Alita (Rosa Salazar) is a cyborg with no memory, found in a trash heap by tinkerer/scientist Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz). He gives her a spare body he has lying around (its origin becomes a plot point) and she starts to figure out the world around her.

Which — quelle surprise — is bleak and dysfunctional. The fortunate live in a big floating city towering above the unwashed masses, who are policed by bounty hunters. No one’s allowed to move from the surface to the floating city, a fact which doesn’t stop nearly every character of note from trying to do precisely that.

Oh, and a whole lot of this movie is about a brutal combat sport presented as a hybrid of roller derby and basketball — but which is, in practice, mainly cyborgs ripping one another apart.

The good news: Cameron’s influence and Rodriguez’s visual flair make for some stunning sequences, particularly during the fight scenes (and the games of whatever-ball). The bad news: Those scenes don’t comprise the whole of the film. “Alita” is saddled with a plot that falls somewhere between uninteresting and irritating, and the inescapable fact that we’ve seen it all before hangs over every frame. “Alita” will have fans, but it fails to separate itself from a crowded pack.

My Rating: 4/10
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Our Full 2019 Oscar Predictions

Somewhere beneath all the headlines and controversies, there are actual awards to hand out.

The 400-Word Review: Fighting With my Family

The rags-to-riches tale is an easy winner, when it's not a straight-up ad for WWE.

Pittsburgh's New Airport Design: What It Means for Travelers

A key goal of the new terminal at Pittsburgh International is to get passengers to their planes faster.

Defy Winter: 7 Great Ways to Get Moving in March

With spring (hopefully) right around the corner, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy gears up for a month of nature-centered activities.

Now Open Downtown: Magic Done Right

Liberty Magic, the new venue in the Cultural District, is all about perfect presentation.

The 400-Word Review: Paddleton

The Ray Romano/Mark Duplass dramedy is heartbreaking, but absolutely worth watching.

Perspectives: ‘He Wants to Talk to Ms. Betty’

An encounter at a healing garden in Larimer leads the writer to reflect on his own connection to others.

Astroid Brings Dialed-In Coffee to the South Side

Manager Emerson Graham's detailed approach to crafting a beverage makes for a tasty experience.

Watch: The First Episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

The landmark childrens television series was first broadcast 51 years ago this week.

Sweet Designs: Our Cookie Table Contest Winner and Runners-Up

These Pittsburgh couples certainly know how to bring the cookie table tradition to life.

Skip the Gift at this Wedding at the Carnegie Museum of Art

In a romantic twist on its Third Thursday events, the Carnegie Museum of Art is throwing a wedding this week, and everyone in Pittsburgh is invited.

See What Piece of Pittsburgh is Going to the Moon

Of all of the items proposed, this one earned the most votes.

The 5 Best Seats at PPG Paints Arena

From ultra-premium experiences to bargains with great views, here are five perfect places to watch the Pens.

Lawrenceville Distilling Co. Introduces Its Absinthe

Already known for its Parking Chair vodka, the Lawrenceville distillery introduces absinthe named for a haunted house.

What Brought Walt Disney to Pittsburgh

A futuristic attraction at the Allegheny County Fair drew a curious Walt Disney to Pittsburgh — and had a lasting impact on modern transportation.