‘Alita: Battle Angel’ Review

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Writers: James Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis

Cast: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Keean Johnson, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Jennifer Connelly and Mahershala Ali

Synopsis: A deactivated female cyborg is revived, but cannot remember anything of her past life and goes on a quest to find out who she is.

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Based on the anime and manga series created by Yukito Kishiro, Alita: Battle Angel has been a passion project for James Cameron for decades now, but put if off for Titanic, and because he didn’t think the visual effects were up for the vision he had. Then Avatar happened and Cameron’s focus went to developing those films that he passed along the directorial duties to his friend Robert Rodriguez, who was also a fan of the series. Now, we get the vision that Cameron probably intended with bombastic visual effects, some pretty solid set pieces and a pretty descent cast.

Set 300 years after The Fall, Alita: Battle Angel follows a resurrected abandoned cyborg named Alita (Rosa Salazar), by Doctor Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz). When she awakes, she has no recollection of her former life, despite not being hardwired like a normal cyborg that Ido usually deals with. Alita now has to learn how things work in Iron City, while also dealing with Vector (Mahershala Ali) – the man who runs Iron City from above – a group of bounty hunters called Hunter Warriors, taking an interest to Hugo (Keean Johnson), a local in Iron City, and Iron City’s favorite sport – Motorball.

One of the best aspects going for Alita: Battle Angel is the amazing special effects that Cameron and the special effects department were able to pull off. On top of that, the 3D makes everything pretty immersive from Iron City, to the city of Zalem in the sky and Motorball (although, we can probably safely assume that most of that was CG). Plus, when it comes to Alita herself, she was motion-captured by Salazar herself, with some new motion-capture Cameron is going to use in the Avatar sequels. While most big budget movie – this being Robert Rodriguez’s most expensive movie to date –  have great ambition like Alita: Battle Angel, the adaptation actually works for what it’s trying to accomplish.

Which, of course, is an accomplishment in itself since most – if not all – anime adaptations lose a lot of what made the anime so beloved. I haven’t watched original anime, nor read the manga, but from what I was able to read it seems like Alita: Battle Angel is a pretty faithful adaptation, which should make fans happy. But, you don’t need to watch the anime to really enjoy the movie, because overall, Alita: Battle Angel is a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining film.

The cast is also pretty solid considering how bombastic the movie is, with almost the whole movie being put on Rosa Salazar’s shoulders. Thankfully, Salazar is able to carry it as she brings the right amount of naivety, wonderment and badassery the role requires. Christoph Waltz plays the father-figure role well, but I wish he was in it just a tad bit more, while Alita’s other man in her life is Keean Johnson’s Hugo, who is just a bit wooden at times, and even though his character gets an interesting storyline in the movie, his development is just a tad lackluster. The villains are very mixed with Mahershala Ali’s Vector not getting enough screen time to be a real threat, Ed Skrein plays a Hunter Warrior named Zapan who is just the right amount of smug and Jackie Earle Haley plays the dangerous Grewishka, who Alita goes head-to-head a couple of times. I would mention Jennifer Connelly’s Chiren, but she doesn’t have enough screen time to really make an impact. The movie is also filled with some cameos that could surprise people, especially one that I was shocked, like many, that they were able to keep secret.

The movie does have some minor problems, like some pacing issues here and there, but weirdly – and surprisingly – with the two hour runtime the movie moves are a pretty brisk pace. The overall story misses some beats, and one thing most viewers might not like is the ending. Admittedly, I found out it’s essentially how the anime ends too, but seeing how Hollywood is a different beast, and seeing how they set up it, it should be interesting to see how things work out.

All in all, Alita: Battle Angel has some minor flaws, but overall is thoroughly entertaining and ton of fun to watch. Rosa Salazar holds the movie up on her shoulders, and no the big CGI eyes will not bother you, plus, it actually helps with the character’s situation. Hopefully, Alita: Battle Angel starts a resurgence of good anime adaptations, no matter the result at the box office.

Alita: Battle Angel

4 out of 5

New Podcast: Mr. Sinister will be in Wolverine 3, Stan Lee Becomes Action Hero & More

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‘Robocop’ Review

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Dir: Jose Padilha

Cast: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams, and Samuel L. Jackson

Synopsis:. In 2028 Detroit, when Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) – a loving husband, father and good cop – is critically injured in the line of duty, the multinational conglomerate OmniCorp sees their chance for a part-man, part-robot police officer

 

*Reviewer Note:  This is a spoiler free review, as always.*

 

The original Robocop wowed moviegoers back in 1987 with its heavy blend of hardcore violence, state-of-the-art special effects, and social satire, all wrapped in the hugely entertaining film of a police officer who is fatally wounded in the line-of-duty and reborn “part-man, part machine, all cop.”

Well let’s fast forward, yes forget the sequels and I’m looking more at you Robocop 3.  We have a loose remake that pays the original homage here and there, but does the best it to make the movie stand on its own. It doesn’t take the full satire route that Verhoeven did but instead tries to make its own point about what it means to be a man and or a machine.

Alex Murphy (Kinnaman) is a detective who ends up in critical condition after the arms dealer he’s investigating tries to blow him up. The timing works out for the robotics company Omnicorp, which is run by Raymond Sellars (Keaton), who has been trying to figure out a way to get the American people on board with the idea of robotic law enforcement. Omnicorp has robots policing the entire world, but can’t deploy in America as Americans don’t trust robots to make life or death decisions. They want a human element, or as Sellars puts it “a man inside a machine.” Enter Alex Murphy

The actual man responsible for putting Alex in the suit is Dr. Norton (Oldman).  Norton is convinced by Sellars but unlike Sellars’ lawyer Liz Kline (Jennifer Ehle) and marketing man Tom Pope (Jay Baruchel), Norton knows that this isn’t completely going to work. Norton knows that the human part will always beat the mechanical at the end of the day but all Sellars wants is his cash-cow.  Nevertheless, Norton goes against his better judgment and gives Alex his “life back.”

But where the original movie merely touched on the moral issues of turning a man into a machine before murder and mayhem took center stage, the remake make the issues the prime idea. In fact, unlike the original RoboCop, Kinnaman plays a much larger role. He brings the character of Alex Murphy out more with family, which is another thing the original only touched on briefly. The family situation digs only a little deeper but gets pushed to the side once again for the action sequences and its moral question.

Since I’m talking about Kinnaman, he does a pretty descent job in the lead role. It’s almost hard for me to judge since he does most of his acting with his face. But, there are certain scenes where that’s all he needs and he really makes you feel sorry for him. His best scenes are those shared with the always dependable Gary Oldman, with Dr. Norton the film’s most interesting character, as he wrestles with the consequences of his actions. Michael Keaton’s bad guy is okay, he’s not over the top but not very menacing either. I’d say the best villain is Jackie Earle Haley, whose Maddox – a former soldier now working for OmniCorp – entertains whenever he appears. He really deserved more screen time.

The only real satirical elements to the movie is the news show called The Novak Element, in which Samuel L. Jackson character delivers agenda-heavy monologues that are pro-robot and anti-freedom.  Other more nods to the original are hugely effective, from the music to the taser gun emerging from Robocop’s leg and of course some line from the original.

The action sequences are scattered throughout the movie in order to give the drama center stage. But, when the action sequences kick in they’re highly entertaining to watch. One of my favorites comes at the half way point of the movie when Alex gets a lead on the people that wanted him dead.

Besides its missteps, Robocop suffers from being named Robocop and trying to follow in the footsteps of the original. I know people won’t look over that fact and people will probably be disappointed that it isn’t satirical enough but truth of the matter is, director Jose Padilha isn’t trying to do that. Padilha is trying to make another statement. Verhoeven’s movie worked back then, and for the most part still holds up today, but this version isn’t trying to be that.

All in all, this new version of Robocop works on some levels and fails on others. While some might see it as trying to compete to the original, it is truly trying to make its own point in today’s society. It’s not a great movie but certainly not a bad one.

 

Robocop

3 out of 5