Alita: Battle Angel (** ½)   

Rarely in the annals of cinema has the end result been a favorable one when two directors of note join forces to collaborate on a film project. A list of failed attempts at this sort of thing would be too long to mention, albeit a worthy subject for another column at another time.

And so it goes that the uneasy alliance between directors James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez on their first joint effort, Alita: Battle Angel, is not going to be one that’s remembered in a positive way. Not that it’s a terrible effort, mind you. There are certainly things to embrace every now and then but it’s painfully obvious that the vision between these two very different artists never quite comes together as a cohesive whole in spite of the best intentions of both parties.     Alita: Battle Angel is a film project with an interesting history. For those not in the know, its source material is a 1990 Japanese comic, the rights of which were purchased by filmmaker James Cameron in the years between his two films, Titanic and Avatar.  Word is that he intended to direct but got sidetracked with the production of his massively successful effort Avatar. What possessed Cameron, who receives a co-writing credit here, to hand the project over to Rodriguez is unclear, however, considering the former hasn’t directed a film since the ill fated 2014 sequel Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

Whatever the case may be, Rodriguez seems pretty comfortable working in the field of digital animation and brings to the plate the directorial flourishes that we’re used to seeing in his films.    

The Alita of the film’s title is the main character in this story, a cyborg who has literally been thrown away, only to be rescued by a doctor who uses her as a way to bring his dead daughter back to life by implanting Alita’s core onto the dead girl’s robotic body. There are the expected scenes of Alita experiencing her new existence for the first time in a very childlike manner before eventually finding her destiny utilizing her fighting skills to defend those to whom she has an emotional attachment. There’s also a semi romantic subplot involving a street urchin name Hugo on whom Alita develops a crush. I could go on but you get the point.    

The reported cost of this film is a whopping $200 million and the film’s look reflects this expenditure of money. Unfortunately, all the money in the world can’t save a film whose script should have had a couple more passes at the writer’s table before getting the green light. Storylines are introduced and go nowhere, motivations of some characters are hazy at best and the film’s tone varies wildly. There are things to enjoy in Alita: Battle Angel but there should have been a whole lot more for all the effort and talent involved.

This movie is showing in Hickory and around the area.

Photo: Alita in Alita: Battle Angel

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