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Alita: Battle Angel – Review

Anyone who follows pop culture often has the impression that we’ve been hearing about Alita: Battle Angel for a long time — and we really are. Director Robert Rodriguez and producer Jon Landau came to Brazil to promote the film at Comic Con 2017 – check out the IGN Brasil interview here .

And it was in the distant 1999 that James Cameron, the producer and co-writer, acquired the rights to make this film, inspired by a manga little known in the West. In other words, it is a real relief that the idea has finally materialized in theaters.
And the wait (if there were so many people waiting) even paid off. Alita is a visual spectacle that both amuses and impresses. But you have to be very in the mood to keep up with the fast pace and fully enjoy the ride.

The film is an adaptation of the Japanese comic Gunnm, by Yukito Kishiro, which was baptized in the US as Battle Angel Alita ( released in Brazil by JBC ) and which also became an anime . Only a small part of this story is revealed over the course of the two-hour film: Alita (Rosa Salazar) is a young cyborg found in pieces in a junkyard by a well-meaning scientist (Christoph Waltz).

After being rebuilt and still unremembered, she tries to find her true purpose for existing, which it soon becomes clear is anything but decorative. It doesn’t take long for Alita to discover her absurd physical powers, which live up to the nickname “Battle Angel” she receives halfway through the adventure.

In theory, there was no way Alita: Battle Angel could go wrong. The ingredients for success are everywhere: you have the sharp brain and passionate heart of Cameron, responsible for the blockbusters Titanic and Avatar; the ever-creative eye of Rodriguez, one of the most acclaimed directors of his generation; an all-star cast of three Oscar winners — Mahershala Ali, Jennifer Connely and the aforementioned Waltz; and special effects from production company Weta Digital, responsible for impressive digital movie worlds, from Avengers and Justice League, from The Lord of the Rings to Planet of the Apes; At least on the surface, all this weight materializes into a product worthy of today’s popcorn cinema.

And it’s really impossible not to value the very high aesthetic level that Alita manages to achieve. Most of the time you will forget that all the scenarios of that dystopian world don’t really exist, as well as the many robotic creatures that roam freely among the humans that are left on the planet. This dreamlike sensation defines the entire experience, determining one of the most visually stunning products ever designed by Weta, the New Zealand company co-founded by Peter Jackson in 1993.

Such technical care can be seen mainly in the protagonist’s look. Alita’s already iconic big eyes (and consequent small mouth) cause initial awkwardness, as she is the only character to boast such attributes, but that doesn’t make her the weirdest creature in the work. But it is the charisma of Rosa Salazar’s performance (also seen recently in Netflix’s Bird Box) that promotes immediate sympathy.

In a few minutes, we stop trying to remember what the actress’s true face looks like and come to believe that that beautiful and captivating being really exists in that disproportionate way.It is sad, however, that this beautiful package wraps a final product of a quality not quite equivalent to its great possibilities. For example, it is worth noting the excessive amount of subject that the film explores in just over two hours. Interesting themes addressed by the manga, such as Alita’s existential questions (do robots have the right to feelings?), the inevitable humanization of machines and the degradation of living conditions in the post-apocalyptic future, end up diluted and are not treated with care. the care it deserves.

The impression one gets is that Alita would have worked better if it had been a Netflix series divided into eight episodes, but that way the huge investment of $ 200 million would not even be justified. It is even possible to see a certain episodic structure of the feature, as the problems and solutions arise and are resolved in quick acts, as if the film was in a hurry to resolve itself and reach the next subject. But there’s so much time to cover everything that the story ends up open, with a surprise appearance and a hook for a sequel that’s unlikely to happen, as box office numbers aren’t helping.

If Rosa Salazar shines in disguise amid so much computer graphics, there is a certain waste of talent from the rest of the award-winning cast. In addition to the three mentioned, we also have Jackie Earle Haley, unrecognizable as the robotic villain Grewishka, in addition to an uncredited appearance by another important actor that I won’t name to avoid spoilers. Everyone tries hard to get it right, but they seem out of place and end up underused amid the avalanche of plots, special effects and intense action scenes – which includes long brawling sessions between Alita and the other robots and the various moments of Motorball , the blood sport that is the sensation of this shattered world.

It’s also hard not to think that this is a very different film from the kind of work Robert Rodriguez earned a reputation for doing in the first half of his Hollywood career. Known for his rapprochement with Quentin Tarantino (in the great Drinks in Hell and Planeta Terror), renowned for his rawest and most spontaneous films (in the bloody El Mariachi and The Gunman’s Ball) and showing ease in talking to children (in the first films from the Spy Kids series), the Texan director hasn’t hit the nail on the head or shown his personal marks in the films he’s been directing for a long time. In Alita, this is again the case, and anyone hoping for the return of that ancient and inspired Robert Rodriguez will be disappointed.

The filmmaker tries to bring out his characteristics in the breathtaking action sequences, especially in the well-choreographed martial arts combats and in the crazy Motorball matches, but the high dependence on computer graphics ends up obscuring his creativity, which gives Alita the air of a generic science fiction that could have been directed by anyone. Perhaps this more “commercial” inclination of Rodriguez is a facet that we will see more and more often, which is acceptable at this point in his career, but which only adds to the nostalgia for those more authorial films of his.Another aspect that is evident is that Alita: Battle Angel has little to do with a work inspired by a complex manga — without going into the merits of “whitewashing”, which is why the adaptation of Ghost in the Shell was heavily criticized.. Despite faithfully following the basic plot of Battle Angel Alita, the film weighs heavily on the romance between the robot and the human Hugo (Keean Johnson), something that is not so important in the original work. It seems like the kind of narrative choice that is understandable if the intention is to humanize the protagonist’s motivations and make the plot more accessible to audiences less accustomed to plots of a cyberpunk nature. But it also works to steer the film away from the deep concepts of Yukito Kishiro’s original plot, which is precisely what attracted James Cameron to film this story in the first place.

In the end, Alita: Battle Angel is an efficient action movie filled with worthy attributes and good intentions. But the desire to address so many topics in a short time turns out to be not so well executed, emptying its essence and making its content uninteresting. If the intention was to make the audience fall in love with the protagonist and the world around her, this happens much more for the aesthetics than for the narrative quality. And that won’t be enough for us to remember Alita forever, or even for the foreseeable future.

After years shrouded in high expectations and equipped with the best tools available in Hollywood, Alita: Battle Angel was set to be a memorable cinematic work, and as a result, the start of an enduring franchise. However, the work was not able to balance so many positive attributes and, even with good intentions and much to offer, it ended up getting lost in its great ambitions. It works like a popcorn movie and fulfills its basic role of fun, but it could be much better.

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