Action has a new name: Alita: Battle Angel review

With its eye-candy effects and kinetic action scenes, Alita: Battle Angel is immersive event cinema of the colossal kind. Fast, funny and gloriously inventive, this new Robert Rodriguez/James Cameron project is a dizzying ride.

In 2563, after The Fall, cyborgs are commonplace. Christoph Waltz is cyber doc Ido, who appears to run a repair shop for robot appendages. When out scavenging in Iron City, he finds an abandoned cyborg core of a young girl. He scoops it up and before you know it, said android has been gifted with the armature once intended for his own daughter. Alita duly reboots, takes a few stumbles, and develops a taste for oranges ...but has no recollection of who she is or how she ended up in a junkyard.

We saw the movie re-formatted for full-screen IMAX, and presented in IMAX 3D With Laser at Cineworld Leicester Square, and the experience was breathtaking.

Building on special effects techniques pioneered in Avatar, Alita... seamlessly melds live action and CG so well it actually makes 3D seem cool again.

Yukito Kishiro’s original Battle Angel Alita manga series was optioned by James Cameron decades ago, but was perennially sidelined – as he explained when introducing the film at its London press premiere – because another project, called Avatar, 'blew up.'

When Cameron became more embroiled in the Avatar sequels, grindhouse auteur Robert Rodriguez reached out. 'He had such passion for the project,' said Cameron. 'We [Cameron and long-time collaborator Jon Landau] stood back, and let him run with it.'

It was a good decision. Rodriguez directs the film’s many martial-arts-inspired action scenes with bravura style. One standout is a bar fight between Alita (Rosa Salazar) and a horde of outlandish Hunter-Warriors. We’ll be watching this one for years.

The soundmix is also spectacular, with the movie's hulking Centurion robots given genuine heft by the sheer weight of their clumping LFE stomp.

Pacing throughout is breakneck. There’s an awful lot of world-building and mythology to plough through; at first, this is taken slowly, as we learn more about Waltz’s character, but things get ever more frantic as Alita’s back story is explained through flashbacks.

The movie is given a 'young adult' spin by Rodriguez. Alita may be a killer cyborg but she’s also a moody teen, and there’s an icky romantic subplot with Hugo (Keean Johnson), clearly a wrong ‘un. Presumably this angle will play well with its target audience, but we were much more interested in the extraordinary production design of this Rollerball/Blade Runner/Terminator mash-up.

Alita: Battle Angel is a popcorn pleasure. Go see it on the biggest, best screen you can find.