Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

An kinetic flurry of assured action setpieces, hokey cyberpunk manga worldbuilding, and charming accelerated character growth by way of Rose Salazar’s strikingly well-handled growth from big-eyed robo-daughter to purposeful avenger. Still with big eyes though. Which work oddly well, accentuating the cyborg character’s outsider nature as well as Salazar’s very deliberate performance.

The world feels lived-in and dense without being overdesigned. The action is always engaging and well-staged. Christoph Waltz completely phones in his performance, and Mahershala Ali fails to make his character work, but Salazar’s lead performance is so commanding and attention-grabbing that most scenes more or less smooth out. The love interest arc pays some dividend in Alita herself’s character development, but feels awkward because of the casting and mismatched performing skills of the two.

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The film feels *happy* to exist, there’s a real sense of purpose and push and pep to it. While it fits into James Cameron’s remit and godfathership, it very much is director Robert Rodriguez’s film, and the seriousness with which he took making it is evident throughout the whole thing. His pulpy style is anchored by the dizzying earnestness of the lead performance. The varied environments and setpieces of the film would feel like excuses for the two of them to try out their skills if it weren’t for how efficiently the film draws its connective tissue between scenes. It’s an odd, sometimes slapdash film, but made with such purity and intention that it is immensely likable. Three bars of chocolate and an orange.

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