Alita movie poster
In a post-apocalyptic world, cyborg scientist Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) finds robotic remains in a junkyard and rebuilds his discovery - naming her Alita (the voice and motion-capture body of Rosa Salazar) after his deceased daughter. The wide-eyed teen awakens with no recollections of her previous life, but is rebellious and determined to become a Hunter-Warrior in the bleak Iron City. Befriending Hugo (Keean Johnson), a robotic parts dealer, the cyborg teen becomes involved in Motorball - an arena, gladiator-style death race that's controlled by Vector (Mahershala Ali) and Ido's ex-wife Chiren (Jennifer Connelly). The victor gets the promise of reaching the utopian sky city of Zalem, which hovers above the grim metropolis. But flashes of memories from her past and mysterious enemies get in the way of Alita's goals.

Immersive 3D and massive special effects highlight this technically
perfect sci-fi epic. But the story, based on Yukito Kishiro's manga series "Gunnm", leaves a lot to be desired. It feels like a mash-up of several movies in this genre, but lacking originality. Director Robert Rodriguez ("Sin City") and producer James Cameron ("Avatar") are expert filmmakers who are known for much better work. Their screenplay, with help from Laeta Kalogridis, is a major letdown. Too many familiar plot elements, including those of "Rollerball", are thrown into a mix that even includes an unseen menace that gets into vulnerable villainous minds. Not a letdown: the cast and technical wizardry - with CG animation seamlessly blended into live action. Christoph Waltz delivers another impressive performance and Rosa Salazar nearly equals Andy Serkis in motion-capture. Mahershala Ali, in a deliciously despicable role, validates his award worthiness while Jennifer Connelly makes the most of her brief appearance. Hardcore fantasy and manga fans may be entertained by the story (the ending screams sequel), but average moviegoers probably won't. This film works best as a rather inexpensive, lengthy park ride. See it on the largest format screen in 3D. The screening I attended also had the seats rumble in tune to the action - creating the wow factor. For pure thrills, "Alita: Battle Angel" is a devilishly good time. (3/5 CAMS)

Rated PG-13 (for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language)
Running Time: 122 minutes

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