Alita: Battle Angel takes place 300 years after the Fall – one of those sci-fi apocalypses they don’t tell you a lot about, so the big reveal at the end surprises you. When we first meet Alita (Rosa Salazar), our heroine doesn’t even know her real name. She is discovered in a scrapyard by Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz), a surgeon who mainly works on cyborgs and humans with metal parts. Suffering from amnesia, Alita quickly realizes that she can assassinate anyone who crosses her path like its her destiny.
Iron City, a near-dystopia right underneath the aerial city Zalum, is an overcrowded metropolis. Most of its inhabitants dream of ascending to the supposed paradise above them, but the only way up is by becoming the final champion of a dangerous sport called motorball. Most of its competitors are here to score points to get to that number one spot on the scoreboard, and are willing to kill for it. The motorball sequences are thrilling and fast.
Alita discovers her hidden abilities by accident and wants to start using them more so she can remember who she really is. In brief flashbacks, slowly the bigger picture becomes clearer as we progress through the story. Her past and what exactly is going on up there in Zalum, are the two main mysteries. She is something else, something different and in many ways superior. But she’s also capable of human emotion – love hurts.
This is the first leading role for Rosa Salazar (who’s most recent role was in Netflix’s Bird Box), but her performance – which is completely motion-capture – is aside of Andy Serkis’, one of the most impressive I’ve ever seen. She embodies the character and you can’t help but feel and root for her. Supporting cast includes Jennifer Connelly, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley and most importantly the always sophisticated Mahershala Ali who only has a small role, but an important one, as the bad guy who’s possessed as a vessel by the mostly unseen villain.
Producer James Cameron, who has been wanting to direct Alita for the last 20 years, also co-wrote the film. The reason why he didn’t direct this one is because his Avatar-sequels are taking up all of his time.
Robert Rodriguez has showed us potential with Desperado and Sin City, but after going quiet for 5 years (his last film was the unsatisfying sequel to Sin City), he’s back and better than ever before. “Alita: Battle Angel” is a vivid sci-fi epic that lives up to its potential while leaving you wanting more.