Alita: Battle Angel is set several centuries in the future, the film starts when the abandoned Alita is found in the scrapyard of Iron City by Ido, a compassionate cyber-doctor who takes the unconscious cyborg Alita to his clinic. When Alita awakens, she has no memory of who she is, nor does she have any recognition of the world she finds herself in. As Alita learns to navigate her new life and the treacherous streets of Iron City, Ido tries to shield her from her mysterious past.
Why is Alita: Battle Angel so bad?
It’s never easy to pinpoint exactly what makes a movie bad.
Critics and moviegoers all have different tastes, and one person’s hit is another person’s flop.
On the whole, critics took issue with lack of exposition and reliance on CGI for storytelling.
The CGI is impressive according to movie reviews, but can’t make up for haphazard storytelling.
Tim Robey at the Daily Telegraph wrote: “It’ll remind you of 50 other films at least, from The Fifth Element to Blade Runner, and for anyone unlucky enough to have seen it, the crashingly tedious Total Recall remake.”
Anne Cohen at Refinery29 took special issue with the male gaze rampant in the film.
She wrote: “I wish Alita: Battle Angel had been made by a woman.
“The cyberpunk action film inspired by Yukito Kishiro’s manga Gunnm, could have been a game-changer in the way women — and specifically teenage girls — are portrayed on screen.
“A bounty-hunter cyborg with the power to bring down toxic masculinity? Sign me up!
“But alas — Robert Rodriguez directed James Cameron’s pet project, and instead of a complex, vibrant female character, Alita (Rosa Salazar) is reduced to a wide-eyed young woman (literally, her CGI-avatar eyes are huge) who feels more like a male fantasy than a woman’s idea of a hero.”
Another criticism levelled at Alita: Battle Angel is the obviousness with which it sets up sequels.
ScreenJunkies writer Dan Murrel expressed exasperation at watching a movie “about the seven other movies they’re going to make after this one.”
A parallel could easily be drawn between Alita: Battle Angle, a would-be franchise, and Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise, which suffered from the same problem.
With Bumblebee, however, Bay’s lascivious camera was traded for a younger, less sexualised one.
The result was a critically acclaimed movie that reinvigorated the Transformers franchise, sans male gaze.
Alita: Battle Angel seems to be suffering the fate that Bumblebee avoided, simply by making its main character a complex and well-rounded girl in an unbelievable sci-fi world.
Of the plethora of characters, Cohen reported only four spoke and they almost never spoke to each other.
This is a clear failure of the Bechdel test. And though the Bechdel test does not guarantee critical success, it is a pretty good indicator according to this study.
Reviews as a whole have focussed on the mechanism of the movie – its CGI and clunky script.
However, Cohen aptly focusses on the one point which should have made Alita: Battle Angel great, Alita herself; ultimately, the movie let her down.
Alita: Battle Angel is out in UK cinemas on February 6, 2019.