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'Alita: Battle Angel': What the Critics Are Saying

The critics have weighed in on director Robert Rodriguez's latest.

The reviews are in for Alita: Battle Angel, the sci-fi film from director Robert Rodriguez and which stars Rosa Salazar, Mahershala Ali, Christoph Waltz and Jennifer Connelly, among others — and the critics aren't impressed.

The pic, which currently holds a Rotten Tomatoes score of 37 percent, follows the titular humanoid droid (Salazar) as she seeks to rediscover her past when she wakes up in a future world she's not familiar with. The film is based on the Japanese cyberpunk manga created by Yukito Kishiro in the '90s.

The Hollywood Reporter's Stephen Dalton found that the sprawling movie never really takes flight. "Backed by a reported $200 million budget, this kick-ass cyberpunk adventure seems to be aiming for the same blockbusting box-office heights as the Hunger Games franchise. But a lumpy script, muddled plot, stock characters and tired genre tropes may dampen its commercial breakout potential beyond its core sci-fi action-fantasy demographic," Dalton wrote in his review.

However, he doesn't go so far as to call it a true "misfire." Dalton praised the "razzle-dazzle rush of inspired design flourishes and suspenseful clues" of the pic's opening, and calls many of the movie's 1,500 CGI shots "magnificent," although much of that is undone when the "plot becomes bogged down in clunky exposition, illogical sideways serves and action-heavy carnage."

Entertainment Weekly's Darren Franich was confused about the film's premise. "No one told me Alita: Battle Angel was a movie about rollerblading. And we’re talking Xtreme Future Rollerblading. Like, with actual sharp, limb-chopping blades," he wrote.

In all seriousness, Franich found the movie to be dull. "This manga adaptation is a tired science-fiction odyssey, with bland digital effects piled onto a sappy non-story that feels like a two-hour elevator pitch for a 70-film franchise." He added, "Calling this movie junk does a disservice to the authenticity of trash."

The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, however, had issue with the fact that the pic felt like it was geared more towards "tweens." 

"The extravagant cartoon violence involves damage to metal and circuitry rather than flesh and blood, which explains the [PG-13] rating and the air of teen innocence that surrounds an essentially conservative film — despite some rather macabre moments involving the cradling of severed heads and one pretty racy scene when Connelly’s character reveals herself to be wearing stockings and suspenders," he explained.

Concluded Bradshaw: "Alita: Battle Angel is a film with Imax spectacle and big effects. But for all its scale, it might end up being put on for 13-year-olds as a sleepover entertainment. It doesn’t have the grownup, challenging, complicated ideas of Ghost in the Shell. A vanilla dystopian romance."

Vinnie Mancuso of Collider was a little more warm to the film, finding enjoyment in the visual effects and finding that "the action, which arrives loudly and often, is so coherent, and that makes it consistently thrilling." Mancuso also admitted that the script is so full it "struggles to keep up," making for "an over-stuffed world, but one that I would gladly return to."

Indiewire's Michael Nordine asserted that Alita: Battle Angel is Rodriguez's best film since Sin City, "a sci-fi epic that does something rare in an age of endless adaptations and reboots: lives up to its potential while leaving you wanting more." He went on to say that Rodriguez keeps "overt exposition to a minimum," in part because "his heroine is a cipher who doesn’t even know her own name when first we meet her."

Nordine concluded that the film creates "a fleshed out world that's vivid enough to make you wish you could see it through Alita's eyes. 

Time Out's Phil De Semlyen called Alita: Battle Angel "visually epic," though he noted that the "monotonous collaboration between James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez is less than the sum of its slick parts." De Semlyen praised the solid cast, but argued that ultimately the movie is too predictable and the dialogue is "exposition-heavy" with not enough "killer payoff lines."

Karen Han of Polygon argued that the story isn't particularly interesting and each character only has one defining characteristic, though she pointed out that a strength of the film is that it delivers a distinct "visual spectacle." Han praised the look of the aerial city that's "packed to the gills with life," the impactful colors and the film's commitment to action, especially through its title character Alita, who is, as the title suggests, built for battle. 

Alita: Battle Angel hits theaters Feb. 14.

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