Alita: Battle Angel had a long road to theaters, but the battle is almost over. The film was co-written and co-produced by James Cameron, and directed by Robert Rodriguez. Alita stars Rosa Salazar in the lead role, with star-studded backup from Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, and Michelle Rodriguez. Alita has now screened for critics, ahead of its Valentine's Day release, and the response has been very mixed.
CinemaBlend's own Mike Reyes was a big fan of Alita: Battle Angel, giving it 4.5 out of 5 stars. He noted in his review that the film lays a foundation to further explore this world, and he hopes that happens:
In the current market, it's not hard to find a potential franchise starter, or big-budget eye candy, at any given moment in theaters. And yet, Alita: Battle Angel feels like it's put its best foot forward. The love for the world being crafted by Robert Rodriguez and his collaborators can truly be felt throughout this entire film. No corners are cut, no shortcuts are taken, and if something feels unexplored, it's because it's being saved for the sequels that totally need to happen.
Karen Han of Polygon was also a fan, although she pointed out some shortcomings:
Absolutely everything about Alita: Battle Angel is unapologetically outsized — there is interplanetary war, there is a sport called “motorball” that’s basically jai alai with robots, there are slo-mo shots of objects of varying degrees of deadliness flying out of the screen — and it’s delightful. [...] That the story isn’t particularly interesting is occasionally a drag, but, again, that’s not the point here. Sure, each character only gets one defining characteristic (Alita loves to fight, Ido loves to be a dad, Hugo loves Alita, etc.), but it’s enough. Alita: Battle Angel is pure visual spectacle; it’s not trying to be anything more than it is.
Michael Nordine of IndieWire gave Alita: Battle Angel a B+, praising the sci-fi epic as Robert Rodriguez's best movie since Sin City:
Alita: Battle Angel is his best film since he brought Frank Miller’s graphic novel to the screen, a sci-fi epic that does something rare in an age of endless adaptations and reboots: lives up to its potential while leaving you wanting more.
Molly Freeman of ScreenRant gave Alita 3.5 stars out of 5. She pointed out issues with the story and clunky dialogue, while recognizing that the true star of the film is the visuals:
All in all, Alita: Battle Angel is a must-see for anyone wanting to check out stunning filmmaking in theaters before they run the risk of missing out on the next Avatar-style spectacle. It remains to be seen whether Alita: Battle Angel has even a chance of reaching the heights of success as Avatar, but given the wide world introduced in Rodriguez's movie, hopefully it's successful enough to warrant a sequel. As we've seen from other franchises that have introduced heroes with an origin story film then found greater success once the heroes' stories are truly allowed to flourish, Alita: Battle Angel sets the stage for even more compelling and visually beautiful filmmaking to come.
That perceived focus on the films to come irritated Dan Murrell of Screen Junkies, who gave Alita 4.5 stars out of 10:
I am so tired of a movie coming out that is about the seven other movies that they're going to make after this movie.
Matt Maytum of Total Film was also unimpressed, giving the film 2 stars out of 5:
This is a grim, frequently violent world, but it’s also very, very silly, and Rodriguez might have fared better had he pushed it further in one direction or the other. Only Ali gets to have some fun, as a baddie who’s the mouthpiece for a bigger, off-screen villain. From the cyborg aggressors that look like overdesigned video game bosses (led by an unrecognisable Jackie Earle Haley), to the ripe dialogue and not particularly compelling romance, there are frequent unintentional laughs. Throw in a few distracting cameos, and the result is an extremely bizarre mishmash that seems desperate to set itself up for a sequel, even though it’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to spend much more time in this world.
Overall, some critics were excited by Alita's debut and eager to see more of this world while others were frustrated that the film seemed to exist to set up more story ahead.