Release date: February 14
Cast: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Keean Johnson, Mahershala Ali
Director: Robert Rodriguez (Sin City)
Why it’s worth watching: The first thing you notice are the large eyes, beckoning like portals to another dimension. Alita, a cyborg discovered in a junkyard by a possibly mad scientist consumed with grief over the death of his daughter, is played by the actress Rosa Salazar (Maze Runner, Bird Box), but she's brought to uncanny life via technology Alita producer and co-writer James Cameron developed for his alien environmental opus Avatar. (Cameron was originally going to direct Alita, but he got sidetracked by the world of the Na'vi.) Compared to Avatar, or other recent colorful acts of gonzo-world-building like Jupiter Ascending or Valerian: City of a Thousand Planets, Alita: Battle Angel moves in fits and starts, occasionally struggling to merge Cameron's hyper-earnest, ponderous sensibility with Rodriguez's more garish, ironic approach. Still, when the movie connects, like in the ridiculous and kinetic "motorball" sequence, which finds Alita fending off brutish attackers in a violent, X-Games version of tag, it's as exhilarating as this type of reality-altering, money-burning sci-fi blockbuster gets. Perhaps fitting for a story about a character's complicated relationship to her own body, the movie takes time to feel comfortable in its own CG skin.
Where to watch: Rent on Amazon, iTunes, and YouTube (Watch the trailer)