This movie suffers from a very similar problem to that of ‘Mr. Glass’ but instead of turning into a parody of itself, it turns into manga-porn filled with unbearable cliches and stereotypes. It’s such a disappointment after the first/opening act.
The setup and exposition in the first act is very good and, it is good enough to get you interested in the story of Alita, Battle Angel. The problem is that the story quickly begins to accelerate and unravel during the second act and completely abandons everything in the third act. It turns into a series of, “see?”, “see?”, “see, what I did there?”, “see?”. They just beat you over the head with an unimpressive plot that you increasingly care less and less about as it progresses. By the end of the film, you don’t care for these characters and there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to why they do anything. Plot points are introduced and abandoned; there is no pay-off…well, other than the fetishizing of the main character, Alita. I’d be surprised if the “fan boys” and “fan girls” are able to keep it in their pants by the end of the film. If that’s your thing, if you get turned on by manga comics, then this film is for you. For the rest of the world though, it just gets increasingly and laughably unbearable.
In the first act, there is a fairly decent amount of character introduction and world building. We meet Dr. Ido, a well-meaning scientist who refurbishes junk he finds in a scrap yard. In fact, at the first, he discovers the remains of Alita in a scrap yard and that is how the film starts. Right away, we discover that he repairs cybernetic parts for cyborgs (hence the scavenging for parts) and, with the help of his assistant, Nurse Gerhad, he rebuilds Alita.
Alita wakes up and, much like us the viewer, she doesn’t know anything about the world in which she inhabits. Perfect! It creates an opportunity to build the situated world for the audience. We learn that 300 years ago, there was a cataclysmic event, called the Fall, which has turned the environment into a dystopian society. We meet some other secondary characters like, Chiren (Ido’s ex-wife or ex-girlfriend), Vector (a generic and illusive corporate figure) and Hugo (a young man who takes an interest in Alita; while also acting as a plot device for expanding our understanding of the characteristics of central figures in this new world). Basically, through Hugo, Alita continues to learn about the world and so do we.
Pretty soon, we discover that the good Dr. Ido also moonlights as a Hunter Killer; a group of bounty hunters who hunt down and kill people who violate the laws of the society/world in which they live. We discover that there is an utopian (literally floating) world which everyone aspires to reach to escape the grimy surface world. We learn that the most popular sport in this apocalyptic society is a game called Motorball combat; a mashup of extreme sports, gladiator melees and, basketball. Most importantly though, we learn that Alita is a cyborg warrior and a member of the most elite army/warriors to have ever existed in the world; the URN. Unfortunately, this discovery reaches an all-powerful, shadowy overload scientist, called Nova, who now wants to destroy Alita. We don’t know exactly what his motivations are but the match is set. We have our protagonist and our antagonist and, they are set on a collision course with each other. It’s not perfect but it’s good enough to get you interested in what comes next.
From that point on, the story goes off the rails. It basically turns into a live-action manga comic. The characters have no more depth that what I’ve mentioned above. Nobody else you come across in the movie matter much. There’s no reason to buy any conflict between Alita and Nova. The characters end up being no more than red-shirts to the fan worship (fetishizing) of Alita. Nothing else happens or matters in the movie.
Overall, it’s a pretty disappointing movie. It’s hard to believe that it was produced by James Cameron because it hardly resembles his work. It seems more like he was the name they used to give credibility to the project. In typical fashion for movies like this, characters are white-washed, meaningless platitudes are spoken, the action goes from zero to a thousand for no reason at all, there is a lot of death and destruction but you could care less about it and, the minor characters don’t do anything meaningful (at all). Really. Just pylons. The movie introduces a plot with a call-to-action, it introduces a beautiful world with lots of moving parts and then basically stops to revel in Alita for the rest of the way. She experiences everything that other characters should; she’s the alpha and the omega. Boring.
Skip this if you can. Better yet, get the manga comics. You can thank me later. Unless you get off to this kind of stuff then, for God’s sake, wait until the Blu-Ray comes out so you can go to work in the privacy of your own home.