If one looks closer at movies such as the Rise of the Planet of the Apes, or the new Alita: Battle Angel, what is perceptible is not just the state of the art visual effects but the future of the movie industry.

Robert Rodriguez’s 200-million-dollar Alita, which was co-written by James Cameron, stars a rather unknown Rosa Salazar as a robot through the use of impressive animation.

This is a huge step forward in digital technology and makes it clear that the movie industry is on the verge of ridding itself of the obnoxious, entitled, expensive and flawed film stars that have been the face of cinema for a century.

How easy would it be to fire Salazar? How many people would notice that it is a different person behind the mask?

Of course, this was bound to happen. The world moves along, and new technology leaves in the dust all that had come to define a certain medium of art. But it is not a bad thing in itself, as long as what follows branches out in its unique way, and continues to mesmerise us with original stories.

It seems though that original plots and two-dimensional characters are far harder to invent than computer-generated images. One should not complain about Disney’s remake of its beloved animated productions, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and Aladdin, into shot-by-shot live action movies. Originality is so rare and challenging that movie studios have long stopped pretending anymore.

Alita is no different. Adapted from a Japanese magna series, it introduces us to Alita. Like Bumblebee before her, and Captain Marvel ahead of her, she is a hero that falls from the sky, has no memory of her past, looks so innocent but, surprise, surprise, she has extraordinary combat capabilities.

On her journey to find the truth about herself, she learns that what matters most is family, and will use her capabilities to defend all those she loves, even if she has to sacrifice herself.

Before going to Rodriguez, the film was originally intended to be directed by Cameron. He evidently has a disposition for the “being from another universe” trope. From Terminator 2 to Avatar, it is outsiders that get to save the day.

For all of Cameron’s charisma and ambition, he has fallen by the wayside. Big has come to mean something other than character depth and story originality for him. Perhaps we have Terminator 2 to blame for it. It was his best film but its success impressed upon him that audiences have a liking for the audio-visually fantastic, but still not aesthetic.

He experimented to an incredible scale on this vision in two of his last movies that were released over a decade apart, Titanic and Avatar. Both turned out to be the highest grossing movies worldwide at the time of their release. But neither was the sort of movie that could be watched twice.

It was worse with Avatar, which was essentially Dances with Wolves with lots of the colour blue. Cameron was so spiteful, he did not only give us a derivative movie but jump started a trend that had died down decades ago, 3D.

Akin to the special effects obsessed Cameron, Rodriguez, once one of the most anticipated up and coming filmmakers, has been trying to recreate the Sin City magic.

He has somehow figured out that he will not make a movie with a good story thus has been trying to make up for this shortcoming through the use of various gimmicks. He has made short films in 4D and made a movie, 100 Years, that will not be released until almost a century later.

Rodriguez is one of those on a terrible rush to make the next Star Wars. It is unlikely to happen anytime soon for there is not a single reason outside the special effects to like about the movies that are being pumped out audiences way. It is clear that Hollywood can mesmerise visually but audiences are yet to be convinced it can consistently happen story-wise as well.

PUBLISHED ON Mar 02,2019 [ VOL 19 , NO 983]

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