Alita: Battle Angel was a much anticipated James Cameron/ Robert Rodriguez manga adaptation that became a lot less anticipated after missing several release dates. Shifted from last summer to Xmas to Feb 2019, it’s been in development for nearly 20 years. The team behind Alita seemed to have little confidence that this $200 million film would have made a dent in the packed Xmas market. They were probably right, but it would be a shame to write off Alita because of the delay; it’s actually quite a mind-blower. Most comic book adaptations come from an ancient IP (Batman, Superman and so on are all from the 40’s and 50’s) and the world male-dominated, violent and tediously All-American in outlook. Alita is none of these things, a comparatively recent Japanese comic with a strong (in every sense) female main character and a twisted dystopian world-view. Alita (Rosa Salazar) starts out as a girl soldier’s head attached by a scientist (Christoph Waltz) to the limbs of his dead daughter. Alita sets out to train up as a bounty hunter to discover her true self, but gets dismantled by authority-figure villains (Mahershala Ali and his henchman Ed Skrein) only to be reborn in a battle-angel’s armour. After showing off her moves in a mad Rollerball sports tournament, Alita sets out after those who wronged her to extract revenge, with a little romance on the side. Although the teenage boy Alita falls for is typical Rodriquez hero, complete with bandana. this is very much Cameron’s vision, with Terminator-style mechanical creatures and a healthy cynicism about technology running alongside an amazing production design. Best of all is Alita, with her massive eyes, looking kind of like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Grey-beards and old fogeys won’t like it, but if you can get your head around the fresh sci-fi concepts, Alita is strong, thoughtful fare, rendered in ground-breaking style. It’s a shame that the fan-boys who wet themselves over antiquated Marvel and DC movies won’t give this kind of thing a chance, like the character in the film, Alita is a vastly superior product.
On digital in the UK July 12th, on disc July 22nd 2019.