BattleBots meets Rollerball with some mind-blowing animation.
In a dystopian world 500 years into our future, the elite are separated from the poor by a literal cloud city. In the trash of this cloud utopia a damaged robot, Alita, is discovered by the one doctor that can repair her back to full health. Though her background remains a mystery, the more these two learn about one another, the more their futures are intertwined.
For Alita to remember her dark past and to help her friends she must connect with her warrior training and fight all of those that are in her way. To make it to the cloud city to face the man with all the power she is going to have to join a dangerous sports league where robots are killing each other for the chance to win. With so much going on, Alita is on a mission to find her real purpose.
My first thoughts of this film take me back to a time when television was at its worse. In 2000, Comedy Central of all channels premiered a little show called BattleBots. This destructive show would take inventors robotic creations and put them in a cage to battle until only one was left standing. It’s not an original concept, tournaments like these are one of the Earth’s oldest sports – I mean, without robots, of course. And, the idea of machines destroying one another for our entertainment has been done before, the most recent that comes to mind is Hugh Jackman’s “Real Steel”. Honestly, it’s a good idea, people love violence, and if no one is technically being hurt, all the better. However, with animation and film budgets where they are today, the sport within Alita, MotorBall, takes things to a whole new level.
Out of everything that I could have predicted from the Alita plot, I would have never guessed that I would be getting to see a whole plethora of original robots with unique skills and attributes. Then to take these powerful machines and have them duke it out, well, all the better. Above them, all is the talented Alita who manhandles any robot that gets thrown at her.
For all of this violent action, and original creations to gawk at, the film suffered for having a bit too much going on. Aside from the MotorBall storyline, there is also a bounty hunter situation going on, that, of course, Alita joins; a battle between the elite and the poor, which leads nowhere; and a story about a teenage girl and her adoptive family and the boy she likes. All of this would be manageable, especially with a writer carrying the talent of James Cameron. But, what really hurt the plot was that this movie was so focused on building up for a series, or at least a trilogy, that it forgot to be a solid film on its own. Too many movies have been suffering lately because they are so focused on the big payday of a multi-movie industry. It’s like 2010’s The Last Airbender taught Hollywood nothing.
Considering we are on Bubbleblabber right now, the best site for anything to do with animation, we should probably talk about the elephant in the room, the animation. I remember being a kid and seeing Toy Story in theatres for the first time. I was blown away by how realistic it was, and disbelief easily slipped over me allowing me to believe that toys could come to life. Man, I was so stupid. Looking back at the original Toy Story today is like trying to boot up an old Apple-1 computer. Animation has come to a place where soon we won’t be able to tell the difference anymore. Alita could easily be mistaken for a real character, and the action scenes were astonishingly well done. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that these cartoons are surrounded by talents like Christoph Waltz and Jennifer Connelly. The latter absolutely killing it as a half-hero, half-villain, though I may be biased as I’ve carried a crush for her since the Labyrinth days.
For the most part, I truly enjoyed the ride that was Alita: Battle Angel. Taking my son to the movie, it was fun to talk about all of our favourite robot warriors on the drive home. There was so much eye-candy it was hard to take it all in at times. Getting over the complicated plot is hard. I would have been fine if they had multiple things going on in the story, but at least one of the themes should have been wrapped up. I was also concerned with the romance and how it would take over the movie, so I was happy to see that they Gwen Stacy-ed the guy which means if they do manage a sequel the love story won’t be there to taint it. As for a sequel, I would love to see one, but at the same time, I feel like if a movie is that focused on one during the first film they deserve to learn a lesson and fail to reach the box office numbers to endorse a franchise. We’ll just have to wait and see how that plays out.