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Alita: A Significant Girl In An Insignificant Film

Subhash K . Jha

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Alita Battle Angel

Starring Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz.

Directed by Robert Rodriguez

Rating: ** ½(two and a half stars)

“I am a very insignificant girl,”  our  petite firebrand , easily the most heart-melting super-hero ever, says when she  is surrounded by assorted mean machines who just want to kill  her and be done with  it.

If only life in a superhero movie were that simple!

Punk cyborgs  infest the world  of this James Cameron-produced misfire which aims to give the  superhero  a new Avatar(pun intended). To be  sure. Rosa Salazar with those big  expressive  eyes and a face that  launches a  thousand  airships, is just the  kind of new-age  heroine we were looking for.A true wonder-woman,  no  offence meant.

Because of  Salazar’s  tender years and  fragile personality, the film is artfully (though  not cleverly enough) perched between  being a big-spectacle super-hero adventure and  a teenhighschool romance.The mix doesn’t make  the narrative  squirm in an  uneasy blend. But neither  is the synthesis  of  sci-fi and silliness conducive  to the kind of  screen-ripping spectacle that Cameron’s name is associated with.

In  short, the  film is not short  of  meat but abysmally  short  of   spice .

Though the  female lead is  a fine discovery who makes even the most awkward  pauses  in  the script(and  there are many  of those  here, roll  your eyes  to your heart’s content) negotiable, the film overall delivers a vapid blow, meant only to tease us. No  harm intended.

The scale of  the  film is impressive. We’ve seen post-apocalyptic cities being created adnauseam in  super-hero  films. But  here  the ruination  is ravishing. Every detail  makes the topographical flaws  seem  fabulous. And the 3D(a technique I abhor as  much as Indra Kumar’s comedy) is used with more  restrain and  thought than  I’ve seen in any recent  film.

The  narrative does well for itself when  running fast. Where  the  film fails is in the pauses . Those attempts to humanize Alita’s  girl-superhero character  by making her go gooey-eyed  for the  neighbourhood  boy-man(Keean  Johnson)  is at best,  a giggle fest.At worst, a laughable nuisance.

Sample this.  Alita the cyber-girl, all  lovelorn and hopelessly devoted,s reaches into her  blouse .Lover-boy looks panicky.  She  reassures him and pulls out… her heart.  UA lives!

Christoph Waltz whop lays  Alita’s  Frankenstein has  an incurably mournful look  about him. He cannot  bring to the screen the  mystery  of  a godlike creator. More than  Waltz I was  intrigued  by  the actress who plays his nurse. She hardly  speaks,always smiles. Perhaps she knows where this  film is taking us, better than we  do.

The corny  tributes to conventional courtship  sit uneasily on the narrative, dragging it down to a sluggish slo-mo when  all this  swish-and-whoosh  actioner really wants to do is get down on the floor to  do a dance  of  death. The  action is splendid. Cameron’s  crew has spared  no expenses  to ensure a  surplus of  stunts  that explode on to the  screen  like chorus dancers  doing the cha-cha-cha for a  visiting dignitary.

It’s all  very eye-catching and  impressive. But  finally it leaves  us with nothing to hold on to. What I carried home was Salazar’s lucid eyes speaking  more than  the words and the action , looking with dreamy  curiosity into the camera, searching into the  yonder . What  was  she looking for? Whatever it was, I hope she found it. Because I didn’t.

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