Messy, Bloated Script;
Great Visuals Can’t Save It;
From A Great Collapse.
As an avid fan of Robert Rodriguez, I was extremely excited about this movie from the first trailer I saw. I love a good bit of action, and he though it looked over-the-top in a sense, he has done well in that setting before. Unfortunately, about halfway through I realized I wasn’t going to get what I had hoped for, and by the end credits I left feeling entirely disappointed.
The largest issue, though, is through no fault of Rodriguez. James Cameron has provided a script so silly, far-fetched and convoluted that I was in awe for all the wrong reasons. Most of the characters are mere outlines of people (or…cyborgs) that we might respect, root for or have any real vested interest in, but are never filled in with any real substance. With campy villains, goofy dialogue and a plot that dips its toe into the pool of absurdity before diving in headlong, the screenplay makes it very difficult to get into the movie beyond the dimly-set but brightly-colored dystopian set pieces we have seen so many times before.
As someone who can’t stand 3D, I saw the normal, 2D format, but I’m almost wishing that I had shelled out the extra cash for the fancy glasses. Everything I’ve read about that presentation suggests that the film can be saved when seen in that format. I certainly enjoyed a lot of what the film was achieving from a visual standpoint, and Alita herself comes across very well in badass digital cyborg mode, especially in the action scenes. The problem is, none of that is enough to save this from sinking to the depths of the post-apocalyptic wasteland.
The cast of A-listers in Mahershala Ali, Jennifer Connelly and Christoph Waltz seems wasted on a movie like this, though, to their credit, they are all committed to their performances. And with names like Rodriguez and Cameron taking the lead on the project, I can see why they would take the roles on, but the overall results simply fall short.
I have nothing against mindless popcorn entertainment, but when you’re aiming at something more highbrow, you need to swing more carefully to avoid striking out. In the end, I left with the impression that all I had really seen was two hours of robots fighting in an amped-up version of Rollerball where the stakes are too high to be believable without laughing. Perhaps with a much better script, it wouldn’t have felt like watching a downgraded version of Ready Player One.