By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
The best way to watch the sci-fi thriller “Alita: Battle Angel”
is in IMAX 3-D. It’s a truly heightened cinematic experience that way. Bigger is definitely better and “Alita: Battle Angel” is a sprawling and visual treat.
The cyber drama, from director Robert Rodriguez (Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” and TV’s “Spy Kids: Mission Critical”), is based on Yukito Kishiro's manga series “Gunnm.”
“Alita: Battle Angel” has been an overdue passion project for James Cameron (“Avatar” and “Titanic”) who produced and co-wrote the film and after many stops and starts. Every penny of its nearly $200 million production budget is put to good use on eye-popping stunts and special effects.
The year is 2563 and a catastrophic war has left Earth in shambles. A cyber-surgeon named Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz, “Downsizing”) is surveying the ruins in a junkyard located in the metropolis of Iron City.
It’s here he finds a severely damaged female cyborg. Strangely, her brain is intact. Fascinated by his discovery, Dr. Ido takes the cyborg home and works to rebuild it. And just like that he’s created a droid, who he affectionately names Alita after his deceased daughter.
The big, bright eyed robo-teen (played through motion capture by Rosa Salazar, “The Kindergarten Teacher” and TV’s “Bird Box”), brings a striking authenticity and realistic approach to the performance.
Alita has no recollection of her past. Against Dr. Ido’s wishes, she wanders away from home and meets a boy named Hugo (Keann Johnson, TV’s “Notorious”) who is a talented skater. Hugo would love to live in the wealthy sky city of Zalem. His skills on wheels could get him their soon.
Hugo introduces Alita to the competitive and brutal sport of Motorball, the Iron City’s major spectator sport where cyborgs battle to the death and winners can punch their ticket to Zalem.
Nothing is ever as easy as it seems. Dr. Ido’s ex-wife Chiren (a glamourous Jennifer Connelly, TV’s “Snowpiercer”) has teamed with the conniving Vector, (Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”) to rig the games.
Suddenly Alita must defend herself against them as well as a group of killer cyborgs and a cyborg bounty hunter (Ed Skrein, “If Beale Street Could Talk”), who are gunning for her.
During the battles, Alita discovers some secret powers within her which helps her slowly recall and piece together her true origins and identity as she desperately tries to save the world.
Although “Alita: Battle Angel” becomes a bit convoluted with several characters popping in and out, the special effects trump that weightiness and makes it fly.
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Take A Look At This Trailer For "ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC), The Alliance Of Women Film Journalists (AWFJ) and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.