Alita: Battle Angel Early Reviews: Mind-Blowing Effects Meet A Mind-Numbing Script

See what critics are saying about the long-in-the-making manga adaptation from James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez.

by | February 1, 2019 | Comments

After years in the making, James Cameron’s pet project – the dystopian manga adaptation Alita: Battle Angel – is finally on its way to theaters, albeit with Robert Rodriguez in the director’s seat. Is it worth the wait? The first wave of reviews are leaning negatively, but the gist is pretty clear that, once again, Cameron and Co. are delivering big, eye-candy spectacle with a script that doesn’t do the visuals justice. Whether the effects and action and even the breakout performance-capture performance by Rosa Salazar are worth a ticket anyway varies from critic to critic, and may also differ from moviegoer to moviegoer.

Here’s what the critics are saying about Alita: Battle Angel:

Is this another must-see James Cameron spectacular?

Alita: Battle Angel is the old school blockbuster the world has needed for some time now.” – Mike Reyes, CinemaBlend

Alita: Battle Angel is the first great live-action manga adaptation.” – Karen Han, Polygon

Alita: Battle Angel is a mesmerizing feat of filmmaking — and stunning in 3D.” – Molly Freeman, ScreenRant

Alita: Battle Angel is a solid, visually stunning blockbuster that doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not.” – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

“Like the titular character, the film is a visually impressive technical marvel that lacks substance under its glossy shell.” – Matt Maytum, Total Film

“Calling this movie junk does a disservice to the authenticity of trash.” – Dennis Franich, Entertainment Weekly

Does Rosa Salazar give a star-making performance?

Alita: Battle Angel

(Photo by © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

“Salazar is the breakout of Alita: Battle Angel, portraying her character’s optimistic naïveté and lust for life with an enthusiasm that rarely grates.” – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

“Salazar brilliantly navigates the character’s emotional journey.” – Beth Elderkin,

“Tremendous…her ability to make the viewer believe in Alita in turn helps us believe in the world of Alita: Battle Angel all the easier.” – Mike Reyes, CinemaBlend

“To Salazar’s credit there’s something likable and determined about Alita, but the CGI puts an emotional forcefield around her.” – Matt Maytum, Total Film

“It’s possible Salazar gives a good performance, and I hope to see it someday. Her sensitive line readings clash madly with Alita’s digitally juked bot face.” – Dennis Franich, Entertainment Weekly

What about those big eyes, though?

“No, they did not need to be that big. But yes, I still love them.” – Karen Han, Polygon

“The impressive thing about the CGI is that the viewer soon gets used to these saucer-sized peepers.” – Nicholas Barber, The Wrap

“I found I had completely forgotten about them by the second scene she’s in.” – Emily Yoshida, Vulture/New York Magazine

“Alita’s eternally uncanny eyes are actually a great analogue for the film itself: a heightened visual gimmick that better delivers the film’s outsized emotions.” – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

“Her smoothed features and dewy, supersized peepers may be a direct nod to manga character design, but they make her look more like an android imagined by Margaret ‘Big Eyes’ Keane.” – Guy Lodge, Variety

How are the rest of the visual effects?

Alita: Battle Angel is a special effects marvel that raises the 3D bar.” – Julian Roman, MovieWeb

“With Jackson’s Weta Digital handling animation and visual effects, the first act is a sumptuous sensory experience shot in warm colors and radiant, super-crisp 3D. Many of the film’s 1,500 CGI shots are magnificent.” – Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter

“The detail put into Alita: Battle Angel‘s world-building is a feast for the eyes.” – Vinnie Mancuso, Collider

“The motorball sequences, in particular, are whooshing Big Mac cinema of the most jittery, adolescent order.” – Guy Lodge, Variety

“[They] might look cool now but won’t hold up.” – Beth Elderkin,

But the script ruins it?

Alita: Battle Angel

(Photo by © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

“Its umpteen story threads and endless mythology-meets-tech-porn jargon finally pound the interest out of you.” – Philip De Semlyen, Time Out

“There are so many plates spinning in Alita: Battle Angel, but all are vital to truly building the world we could potentially return to.” – Mike Reyes, CinemaBlend

“Too much of the movie is spent having characters over-explain things to people.” – Beth Elderkin,

“That the story isn’t particularly interesting is occasionally a drag, but, again, that’s not the point here.” – Karen Han, Polygon 

Did we really need a love story here?

“The cyborg romance is sappy and uneven…the valleys to the action peaks.”- Julian Roman, MovieWeb

“A dreary slab of boilerplate young-adult soap opera…Johnson is a charisma vacuum of white-bread boy-band blandness.” – Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter

“Why does Alita need a love interest? He just slows her down.” – Anne Cohen, Refinery29

Is there some good action at least?

“The action, which arrives loudly and often, is so coherent, and that makes it consistently thrilling.” – Vinnie Mancuso, Collider

“Rodriguez seems to be one of the only directors working who has figured out how to coherently stage a blockbuster action sequence.” – Karen Han, Polygon

“Dazzling and dizzying, the fight sequences in Alita: Battle Angel capture the dynamism of watching an anime without feeling so cartoonish that there are no stakes.” – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

“A scene where the unarmed Alita single-handedly takes on a bar room full of thugs recalls Joss Whedon’s far superior sci-fi Serenity, which way back in 2005 executed a similar scene with far greater panache.” – Chris Hunneysett, Daily Mirror

Should we see it in 3-D?

Alita: Battle Angel

(Photo by © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

“The movie’s action is phenomenal, especially in 3D.” – Samantha Nelson, The Verge

“No doubt best experienced in the highest quality format possible…if moviegoers have to choose only one 2019 release to see in IMAX 3D, Alita: Battle Angel is it.” – Molly Freeman, ScreenRant

“Visually Alita: Battle Angel is an experience well-worth that extra 3D cash.” – Vinnie Mancuso, Collider

Will we leave wanting more?

“[It] paves the way for potentially more compelling tales to come…hopefully, it’s successful enough to warrant a sequel.” –  Molly Freeman, ScreenRant

“If there’s any justice in the world, this won’t be the last time we’ll see the battle angel herself taking the big screen by storm; because Alita kicks all of the ass.” – Mike Reyes, CinemaBlend

“For the first time in a long time, I’m happy to stay on this wild, visually dazzling ride for a few more stops.” – Vinnie Mancuso, Collider

“This is a crashing bore, which doesn’t need a sequel, and certainly not a reboot.” – Chris Hunneysett, Daily Mirror

Alita: Battle Angel is in theaters everywhere February 14, 2019.

Adjusted Score: 78513%
Critics Consensus: Alita: Battle Angel's story struggles to keep up with its special effects, but fans of futuristic sci-fi action may still find themselves more than sufficiently entertained.
Synopsis: Alita is a futuristic cyborg who wakes up in a doctor's clinic with no memory of who she is. She... [More]
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez

Tag Cloud

The Arrangement classics Lifetime Watching Series hidden camera slasher Fantasy TBS Character Guide franchise richard e. Grant TV Land cooking Marvel Fall TV critic resources rt labs critics edition blockbuster 2017 women TIFF cancelled TV shows Quiz crime sports suspense indie Superheroes 2016 IFC Films game of thrones james bond Marvel Studios Polls and Games Mindy Kaling Women's History Month Creative Arts Emmys king kong legend Peacock dexter 93rd Oscars fresh Amazon Prime Video ABC hollywood book adaptation king arthur animated streaming Columbia Pictures parents archives BBC FX on Hulu popular christmas movies Extras Star Trek HBO Go Emmy Nominations Paramount Plus Amazon Prime indiana jones romance die hard psychological thriller mcc Calendar boxoffice First Reviews Drama diversity rt archives TV universal monsters french NBC Endgame ABC Signature canceled TV shows MSNBC PlayStation Comedy FOX debate adenture screen actors guild 4/20 Vudu The Purge El Rey facebook biopic Tarantino Year in Review trailers Britbox news period drama worst 72 Emmy Awards Film Festival Opinion social media Musicals gangster video game show Stephen King crime drama Alien scene in color movies teaser cancelled TV series Ellie Kemper Pride Month Valentine's Day posters golden globe awards DC streaming service DC Comics Chernobyl OneApp Paramount Network National Geographic 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards anthology Bravo TCM unscripted zombie Showtime boxing Comedy Central CBS All Access Box Office Christmas technology HBO aliens Starz based on movie spy thriller The CW 21st Century Fox TV renewals Sundance Now transformers prank Red Carpet travel YouTube Red Netflix Christmas movies toronto Spring TV breaking bad Freeform Comic Book Turner nbcuniversal PBS APB batman feel good Pop TV TCA Winter 2020 crime thriller dark criterion Shondaland Fox News FX anime deadpool Photos space dragons Music young adult TLC Disney Plus remakes BET Awards biography 45 stand-up comedy streaming movies dc rotten Animation natural history Pixar Brie Larson FXX Disney streaming service zombies heist movie mutant twilight Black Mirror witnail Mary poppins sequel Pirates Warner Bros. Broadway dogs First Look binge Sci-Fi HBO Max Esquire Teen new york MTV Arrowverse Nominations USA Network Thanksgiving Legendary finale DGA Amazon rotten movies we love WGN basketball renewed TV shows Exclusive Video Sundance Marathons spanish robots USA latino Song of Ice and Fire Rocketman DC Universe reviews OWN comiccon Funimation documentaries Interview Chilling Adventures of Sabrina RT21 Spectrum Originals miniseries new star wars movies ViacomCBS golden globes BET joker Sneak Peek spider-man ABC Family science fiction kong television true crime The Witch casting Country A24 Tubi know your critic YA child's play 2018 book theme song TCA cops rom-coms Video Games Tumblr quibi discovery independent Best and Worst festival CMT History critics children's TV mockumentary hispanic free movies Fox Searchlight Binge Guide ID 2015 Martial Arts Action Disney international ESPN superman Amazon Studios comic books adaptation VICE cars green book jamie lee curtis monster movies AMC high school Sundance TV historical drama Super Bowl tv talk Hallmark Christmas movies zero dark thirty Lucasfilm VOD fast and furious Anna Paquin revenge Crunchyroll Horror Classic Film rt labs Syfy Infographic italian award winner halloween tv ITV NYCC GIFs spain nature movie Lifetime Christmas movies BBC America Baby Yoda Masterpiece Cannes blaxploitation VH1 hispanic heritage month Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt NBA Rocky sag awards concert superhero scorecard Walt Disney Pictures 20th Century Fox kaiju Ovation The Walking Dead Rom-Com Biopics telelvision south america target series football reboot Mary Poppins Returns Hallmark BAFTA Family 2021 medical drama satire Winners Hear Us Out Television Academy SXSW directors 2020 DirecTV Crackle Trivia A&E Reality Competition Pop marvel comics YouTube Premium sequels Avengers Shudder cancelled television talk show 71st Emmy Awards Mudbound politics YouTube disaster Writers Guild of America Schedule CBS Apple TV+ screenings CNN cats 007 Toys Comics on TV blockbusters Set visit Awards Tour jurassic park Food Network Cosplay San Diego Comic-Con canceled films Captain marvel PaleyFest comics obituary Travel Channel spinoff adventure Discovery Channel pirates of the caribbean psycho japanese romantic comedy slashers Pet Sematary President 24 frames Academy Awards Holidays 90s Tokyo Olympics mission: impossible Hulu Disney+ Disney Plus Turner Classic Movies strong female leads Pacific Islander Film comedies 1990s Emmys razzies Marvel Television cancelled godzilla Lionsgate war CW Seed TV One best harry potter emmy awards thriller Mary Tyler Moore laika werewolf Podcast what to watch documentary royal family crossover olympics Television Critics Association Paramount vampires X-Men ratings RT History hist name the review 73rd Emmy Awards Countdown nfl aapi Mystery Rock SundanceTV all-time Wes Anderson Spike kids stop motion Summer Black History Month Comic-Con@Home 2021 worst movies Trophy Talk Epix New York Comic Con serial killer Star Wars Musical supernatural Acorn TV australia BBC One GoT Reality new zealand See It Skip It TruTV Elton John comic book movies docudrama cartoon Disney Channel dceu Apple police drama Certified Fresh venice justice league TCA 2017 wonder woman cults ghosts Premiere Dates dramedy Heroines Universal singing competition Nat Geo political drama black Nickelodeon halloween Logo Dark Horse Comics E3 Adult Swim comic book movie Image Comics LGBTQ TV movies scary movies docuseries TCA Awards TNT Trailer Tomatazos foreign Cartoon Network doctor who live action Netflix WarnerMedia Holiday japan Apple TV Plus Western Ghostbusters GLAAD comic Kids & Family lord of the rings saw Grammys stoner Superheroe American Society of Cinematographers video on demand festivals asian-american versus 2019 LGBT toy story Oscars Election a nightmare on elm street Awards The Academy marvel cinematic universe cinemax SDCC MCU The Walt Disney Company 99% E! elevated horror Sony Pictures sitcom IFC spanish language chucky Winter TV action-comedy composers