Rosa Salazar gives voice to the manga-eyed title character in “Alita: Battle Angel.” (Twentieth Century Fox)

Rosa Salazar gives voice to the manga-eyed title character in “Alita: Battle Angel.” (Twentieth Century Fox)

‘Alita: Battle Angel’ is too staid and lumbering to be truly fun

This tale of a teen cyborg warrior girl is filled with action but isn’t as crazy as it needs to be.

A little too glib to be truly memorable and a little too top-heavy to be really fun, “Alita: Battle Angel” doesn’t stick the landing.

But, as you would expect from a movie produced and co-written by James Cameron, this baby does have spectacle. It’s one wild thing after another, all produced on a vast scale.

There has to be technical innovation, because Cameron can’t possibly make a film without inventing some new gizmo for our viewing pleasure. In this case, it’s a leading lady who doesn’t actually exist.

Meet digitally generated Alita, a teenage warrior assembled from cyborg spare parts. She’s given voice (and motion-performance modeling) by Rosa Salazar. In the manner of Cameron’s “Avatar” creatures, the process is so detailed that Alita comes across as an incredibly expressive character.

Her “creator” is Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz, in a rare warm ‘n fuzzy mode), although Alita’s memory bank has existed before. Her attempts to remember a past life provide the movie’s most tedious sections.

Our setting is — oh, but do we really have to describe yet another dystopian futuristic landscape? Things are overrun and rusting, there’s a floating city where everybody wants to go, and a deadly mechanized sport (sort of like Rollerball with Transformers) takes up everybody’s attention.

Alita scoots through Iron City with her super-warrior skills and befriends a likable young guy (Keean Johnson). The gender-reversals here are enjoyable, as Alita is constantly getting her pal out of trouble.

We’ve got villains, played by two Academy Award-winners: Mahershala Ali (currently waiting to get his second Oscar, for “Green Book”) and Jennifer Connelly. I couldn’t tell you what their goals are, but they must surely be nefarious.

“Alita” has so many chases and martial-arts fights and robotic smackdowns that the actual story line is difficult to distinguish. The action is well-choreographed by director Robert Rodriguez (“Sin City”), but it has a tendency to overwhelm the stuff that might make us care about the characters.

Frankly, given the hypercaffeinated imaginations of Rodriguez and Cameron, I was expecting more craziness from “Alita.” It’s a little on the safe side, as you suspect an alleged $200-million movie must be.

The filmmakers have gone all-in with their artificial heroine, giving her the giant eyes of a Japanese manga character (the story is adapted from a manga by Yukito Kishiro). I think it works — you’re always reminded that Alita is not entirely human — but the effect is undeniably odd.

A sequel is promised, given the incomplete ending and the introduction of a new character played by a well-known star, who resembles an MTV New Wave frontman circa 1982.

But will there really be sequels? “Alita” feels so lumbering and overbearing, it’s hard to believe audiences will truly be charmed by its algorithms. Human audiences, that is — the cyborgs out there should love it.

“Alita: Battle Angel” (2½ stars)

Producer James Cameron and director Robert Rodriguez team up for a manga-inspired tale of a teen cyborg warrior girl. Given the hypercaffeinated imaginations of those filmmakers, this big-budget computer-generated extravaganza ought to be crazier than it is, although the action stuff is definitely huge. The humans onscreen include Christoph Waltz, Mahershala Ali, and Jennifer Connelly.

Rating: PG-13, for violence, language

Showing: Alderwood, Alderwood Mall, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood Cinemas, Meridian, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Seattle 10, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall, Oak Harbor Plaza, Blue Fox Drive-in

Talk to us

More in Life

It only takes a small amount of cash to build a homemade swamp cooler to make your home comfortable this summer. (Jennifer Bardsley)
Can a do-it-yourself swamp cooler beat the August heat?

Instead of spending $400 for an air conditioner, purchase $25 of simple parts and assemble one yourself.

Oslo’s City Hall, with stirring murals and art that depict Norway’s history. (Rick Steves, Rick Steves’ Europe)
Rick Steves on Oslo, the polar opposite of ‘Big Box’ culture

The Norwegian capital city is expensive, but its charm and civility are priceless.

Also known as Rose of Sharon, hibiscus is a hardy shrub is one of the few that blooms in the late summer. (Nicole Phillips)
Hibiscus will bring a tropical look to your August garden

Also known as Rose of Sharon, the hardy shrub is one of the few that blooms in the late summer.

Dave Dodge stands on a speaker while playing his guitar during Nite Wave’s show at Tony V’s Garage on Saturday, June 8, 2019 in Everett, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Curtain falls on Tony V’s in Everett — at least for now

The nightspot was hit hard by the coronavirus epidemic. It might reopen when the county hits Phase 4 of the state reopening plan.

Lennon Wiltbank’s art adorns an abandoned, soon-to-be-demolished home and spreads joy in her neighborhood.
For this Bothell artist, ‘happiness is flowers’

Lennon Wiltbank’s art adorns an abandoned, soon-to-be-demolished home and spreads joy in her neighborhood.

Glacier Lanes won’t be spared: Owners decide to close forever

Bowlers statewide are rallying to open venues shut by COVID rules, but this Everett business isn’t waiting.

Practice the art of doing nothing to nurture inner peace

It’s the ability to sit, listen to the sounds of nature, look at nothing in particular, and just be.

Rich Davis works on finishing the deck of his home in Mukilteo on June 11. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Mukilteo man’s pandemic project: A 500-square-foot deck

Rich Davis had never built anything before, but the shutdown left him with ample time to learn a new skill.

The Sauk River rushes by near a popular boat launch area close to White Chuck Mountain off the Mountain Loop Highway, just outside of Darrington. (Daniella Beccaria / Herald file)
Outdoors classes and activities around Snohomish County

Some of the events listed here are contingent on whether each jurisdiction… Continue reading

Most Read