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The Lego Movie 2/Alita: Battle Angel — explosions without energy

The Lego Movie 2/Alita: Battle Angel — explosions without energy

February 06
22:53 2019
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We’re all going to hell in a self-assembly handcart (Lego or cyber-toy), whooshed thither by digital special effects. That’s the message of popular cinema, or sometimes seems to be, for young adventure wonks. The Lego Movie 2 and Alita: Battle Angel are part of the new movie physics: explosive without energy, which used to be a contradiction in terms. There are good action fantasies around. But they prove how staggeringly boring a style formula can become, however kinetic its imagery (or novel its particular franchise), when that formula is on its second, fourth or umpteenth go-round.

The three previous Lego comedies — the “2” is a joke, compounded by a full title that reads The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part — were likeable larks trading on post-ironic, in-crowd gags about everything from toy-world artifice to comics to the self-gnawing solipsism of Batman. Outing number four (directed by Mike Mitchell) is loud, weary, repetitive and psychopathically wacky. Vivacity without wit is a mechanoid product, like Lego itself, and it’s hard to believe this film came from anywhere but a droid-staffed factory assembly line “somewhere in Hollywood”. Only Batman (yet again) gets the good gags. The age now aimed at seems to have dropped from circa 15 to six or under.

★★☆☆☆

Rosa Salazar in ‘Alita: Battle Angel’

“What is James Cameron doing now?” is, in the aftermath of Titanic and Avatar, a question asked every moment somewhere in the world. When the answer is Alita: Battle Angel, which Cameron produced and co-scripted from a manga comic series by Yukito Kishiro, it might prompt the cessation of further inquiries.

Akira meets Blade Runner meets Rollerball meets Transformers in a sci-fi adventure to which director Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Machete) brings all the usual stuff: punk noir visuals, digitised robo-humans, colossal decaying cities, wild showdowns in skies where warring machines clash by day, night, dawn, twilight and Saturday matinees.

The reason the word “dystopian” is overused in modern film criticism is that critics are driven into a corner, howling and gibbering, where no other word in this kind of cinema applies. For a semi-modern movie genre, cyberpunk is starting to seem terminally old-fashioned, helped here by baggy swags of old-Hollywood music. From a strongish cast (Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Edward Norton), only Mahershala Ali, as a preening villain with glowing blue eyes, emerges with any sheen of novelty or shine of intelligent mischief.

★★☆☆☆



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