Though Alita: Battle Angel is still playing in theaters, it's undeniably clear that this film will not be one of James Cameron's most successful. Although a majority of critics have praised the visual effects, they have almost all criticized the film for its overly complex plot, thinly written characters and dependence on heavy action. All this has resulted in a critic score of 60% on Rotten Tomatoes, just 1% away from being labeled "Rotten."
What's noteworthy about the reception of Alita: Battle Angel is the fact that the audience score disagrees with the critics by a large margin. It currently holds an audience score of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, with a multitude of users praising its attempt at adapting a complex manga in addition to the visual effects.
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Alita: Battle Angel is set in a post-apocalyptic United States in the year 2563 and takes place in Iron City, a place populated with both humans and cyborgs. The film is an adaptation of the cyberpunk manga Battle Angel Alita, which was created by Yukito Kishiro and first published in 1990. The original story ran for nine volumes over the course of six years. It featured a large cast of characters, each one featured in a complex storyline of their own.
Adapting such a story is no easy feat. The manga was brought to James Cameron's attention some time in the early 2000s and, although the director was interested in bringing it to life, the project remained in development hell until 2016. Cameron's original screenplay was reportedly more than 180 pages long and had to be cut down and condensed.
Although critics didn't seem to enjoy the end product, the audience score seems to argue that regular moviegoers were entertained by Cameron's work. However, the box office numbers tell a different story. The film has currently grossed a worldwide total of just $286 million against a budget of approximately $170-200 million, with the vast majority of its earnings coming from overseas. This suggests that, despite the online reviews, the film simply has not garnered enough interest.
Directed by Robert Rodriguez, Alita: Battle Angel stars Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Keean Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Lana Condor and Eiza González.