For fans of the manga series, it comes as no surprise that Alita: Battle Angelis meant to serve as the first of a series in a new franchise, produced by the Hollywood fun factory that produces movies based on product placement and demographics. Regrettably, while the film is certainly entertaining (meeting, not exceeding our expectations), it falls into the trap many movies do and I question whether another installment will be green-lighted. The decision is often based on box office receipts and while projections exceeded forecasters ($42 million on opening weekend versus the estimated $23), the film has a long way to go to turn a profit because of the pricey production budget.
This baby was a pet project of James Cameron, who impressed us with gorgeous 3-D visuals with Avatar, but the movie studio clearly did not promote the Alitain a manner worthy of establishing the foundation of a new box office franchise. Domestic box office receipts taken into consideration, this movie crashed and burned. No fault to the studios, however, who wisely moved the picture from a Christmas opening weekend to February, outpacing The LEGO Movie2 and Glass, but as business is all about pennies, percentages and profits, the margin was not enlarged enough.
Special effects and production design is spectacular, far superior to many films produced last year. Many of the characters look realistic – not a cartoon – but we saw that technology applied in Avatarand worse, Disney’s optical illusions in Jungle Bookand the up-coming The Lion King are making me wonder if Cameron’s advance in technology is being surpassed by the young kids graduating from MIT. In short, Cameron should have wowed us with the next step in visual evolution and instead we get the same with a different story.
Cybernetic bounty hunters serve Nova, a supervillain who enjoys the true power of control, in a post-apocalyptic future where everyone lives among the street rats, including Dr. Ido, who applies his trade to help those who cannot afford medicare. As a hobby, Ido constructs mechanicals including Alita, whom he connects to a daughter he once had. Alita quickly discovers her mainframe contains the training and ability to dominate anyone who stands in her way. Projectile spike calls, spinning chains and death traps challenge the up-and-coming teenager who many youngsters can relate.
As a 3-D experience, this movie is the first in years to be worth the difference in ticket price, but unlike Avatar, you can still enjoy the movie in standard 2-D. If sequels are not produced, at least the story ends satisfactory. Financially, Cameron and Fox will have to rely on the foreign box office to determine whether this movie is dead on arrival or the launch of a new franchise. Hollywood (and Fox in general) is desperate for new franchises, especially those that could compete against Disney… but this may not be one of them.