Alita: Battle Angel ★★★ 

While languishing in development hell for nearly 20 years, it seemed that Alita: Battle Angel was never going to be made. As an American adaptation of the sprawling manga Gunnm, it required a writer (James Cameron) who could pare down the script into something comprehensive yet simple, a director (Robert Rodriguez) who knew big-budget CGI action inside and out, and truly massive amounts of funding to pull it together—not to mention the audience and timing for it to succeed in theaters. Yet against all odds, the movie was made, and it actually works. While previous live-action manga adaptations like Death Note and Ghost in the Shell came out bloated and disingenuous, Alita: Battle Angel is fun, fiery and focused enough to know what it’s about. The titular Alita (Rosa Salazar, under some uncanny-valley motion capture CGI) is a disembodied “core” who awakens with no memory in a steampunk future destroyed by a great technological fall. The kindly Dr. Ido (an unusually warm Christoph Waltz) finds her among the rubble and builds her a new body, essentially adopting her as a surrogate for the daughter he lost. As she adapts to a new world, Alita discovers her immense physical and mental powers from a previous life, all while falling in love, fighting crime and becoming a professional athlete in a sport called motorball. It’s good popcorn fun without a dull moment in sight, and the action sequences will knock you out of your seat. Bonus: Jennifer Connelly and Mahershala Ali co-star as some deliciously stylish villains. Watch it at Assembly Row, Boston Common, Fenway, South Bay and the suburbs

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