This long-gestating manga adaptation offers up stunningly realised visuals, insanely agile action and a resonant emotional core. It's all pretty ridiculous, but if you're willing to accept that up front, there's lots of fun to be had.
Five hundred years in the future, cybernetic body enhancements are common place, and Dr Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) is the go-to guy for repairs. While sifting through the junk dumped down from a floating city in the sky where the rich people live, Ido finds the head and chest of an android that he restores to life and names Alita (played via performance capture by Rosa Salazar).
But Alita isn't a robot. She still has a human brain and her swift, lethal combat abilities betray a mysterious past that makes her a target of some powerful people.
Representing a collaboration between two of the boldest film-makers working today: producer/co-writer James Cameron (Avatar, Titanic) and director Robert Rodriguez (Sin City), this is a cutting-edge sci-fi wonder of modern cinema.
The decision to digitally render Alita's face with giant manga eyes is a risky gambit that will be a turn-off for some viewers but it worked for me. I could feel Salazar's performance in Alita. Only in a couple of scenes did the otherwise flawless CGI (from Weta) seem ever-so-slightly less than perfect. This also extends to the nuts action sequences in which bionic hulks brawl bombastically, sometimes on wheels, in a hyper-kinetic future sport called Motorball.
Of the two principal creative contributors, Alita: Battle Angel mostly bears the trademarks of Cameron's oeuvre - dynamic futurism and ham-fisted emotional arcs that work in spite of their ham-fistedness.
The closest thing to a live-action anime ever made, Alita: Batttle Angel is a dazzling assertion of cinematic ambition.
Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly
M (vioence, offensive language and content that may disturb)
Epic sci-fi hokum that works if you go with it.