Based on a graphic novel by Yukito Kishiro, Alita: Battle Angel follows a recently-revived female cyborg (Rosa Salazar’s Alita) as she attempts to find her place within a futuristic, violent landscape – with the movie also detailing her relationships with the man who put her back together (Christoph Waltz’s Dyson Ido) and a hunky love-interest-type (Keean Johnson’s Hugo) with a secret of his own. There’s little doubt that Alita: Battle Angel fares best in its deliberately-paced yet somewhat fascinating first act, as director Robert Rodriguez, working from a script written with James Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis, does an effective job of establishing the picture’s Blade Runner-like atmosphere and its various denizens, with, especially, Salazar’s tremendously appealing turn as the affable protagonist certainly perpetuating the compelling, ingratiating vibe. (Salazar is so strong here, in fact, that the special effects used to bring her less-than-human countenance to life aren’t as distracting as one might’ve feared.) It’s fairly disappointing to note, then, that Alita: Battle Angel eventually segues into a needlessly convoluted and increasingly uninvolving midsection that’s rife with tedious (and special-effects-heavy) action sequences, including an almost intolerable roller-derby-like interlude that makes one long for the comparative subtlety of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace‘s much-maligned podrace scene. The degree to which Alita: Battle Angel subsequently loses its grip on the viewer and utterly peters out is nothing short of palpable, and it’s clear, too, that the ludicrous open ending ensures that the whole thing concludes on a frustratingly ambiguous note – with ultimately does cement the movie’s place as an ambitious misfire that could and should have been so much better.
*1/2 out of ****