“Alita: Battle Angel” is one of those rare movies that, based on trailers, could either be spectacular and revolutionary, or entirely forgettable.
I just can’t make my mind up about this thing. The first trailer was nothing to write home about, except as a textbook case of how not to approach the Uncanny Valley.
The latest trailer shows just enough promise to suggest that this could be an important movie.
It also has so much generic stuff that I can’t shake the feeling that the whole thing might be the new “Ghost in the Shell” or “Jupiter Ascending”.
Sci-fi movies are in a bit of a weird place at the moment.
The genre has never been more mainstream. Marvel and “Star Wars” have helped make robots and holograms feel commonplace and accepted.
With this comes a slew of imitators that are getting increasingly sophisticated in their presentation, even if their storytelling leaves a lot to be desired.
The Future is Now
It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that the majority of sci-fi movies bomb. The annals of history are littered with movies that look an awful lot like “Alita: Battle Angel”, but which completely fail to capture the public imagination.
Thus, watching the trailer for this movie, it’s easy to tick off all the clichéd tropes that make up its visual language.
Dystopian city. Check.
Damaged robot with a secret past. Check.
Big CGI villain. Double check.
As if, somehow, this trailer was aiming to be as generic as possible, the music is a slow tempo cover of a Linkin Park song.
That’s not a big deal in and of itself (although the slow tempo cover trope is a little too prevalent in modern trailers). The problem is that the song in question comes from the 2009 movie “Transformers: Rise of the Fallen”. The film that tipped people off to just how atrocious the Michael Bay “Transformers” series was going to become.
Plenty of ideas here feel incredibly old and tired. But among this are just enough new concepts to potentially justify the film’s existence. Heck, this could end up being the new “Pacific Rim”; a fast-paced action romp that borrows from previous films, and mashes them together into something stylish and new.
The Battle Angel
Most notably, there’s Alita herself. Once you get past the horror of her anime eyes, the character feels very well constructed. She has personality and emotion beyond the average protagonist in this kind of movie.
There’s also something very satisfying about seeing a tiny girl beating the mechanical snot out of some truly scary robot monsters.
I feel like if any element of this film goes on to have a wider cultural impact, it’ll be Alita. She could very easily become the Buffy or Katniss of her time. An icon of feminine power that young women can rally around, as she challenges more entrenched views on what an action hero should look like.
Director Robbie Rodriguez has a somewhat patchy record, but in his best moments, he can make some very cool stuff.
So maybe this movie will be good. It’s possible.
We could certainly do with another fun sci-fi blockbuster franchise to compete with all the more established brands that are starting to show their age.
I’m not going to hold my breath, but I will cross my fingers. Maybe, just maybe, “Alita: Battle Angel” could end up being something special.