Monday, February 18, 2019

A Private War – unravelling the private and public contradictions at the heart of war correspondent Marie Colvin

Later this week sees the seventh anniversary of the death of the legendary Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin, killed when her impromptu media base in Homs, Syria was shelled on 22 February 2012.

Lindsey Hilsum’s terrifyingly honest biography In Extremis: The Life of War Correspondent Marie Colvin kept me awake into the wee small hours over Christmas reading about the seemingly fearless yet troubled journalist. I can’t recommend this book enough.

Photographer Paul Conroy was with Colvin on her final assignment, and had worked with her for many years. He delivered the annual Amnesty Lecture at Belfast Festival in 2014. His appearance, promoting his book Under the Wire, was so popular that it sold out and he somewhat traumatically repeated his talk immediately afterwards to meet demand.

The Marie Colvin from those books is brought to life in the film A Private War, detailing her style of journalism and peeking between the sheets of her private life.

The film picks up in Sri Lanka where Colvin lost the sight in her left eye. It wasn’t an excuse to stop travelling and reporting. With a near reckless bravery, she ran into situations while others withdrew or stayed away: she was compelled – probably addicted – to war reporting. Caring for vulnerable people caught up in conflict more than the reasons for the conflict, she often highlighting the plight of women and children as a way of connecting western audiences with the horrific situations she encountered, giving voice to the voiceless.

Colvin was a charismatic figure that instilled loyalty (“we have to go” she tells colleagues), was dogged, temperamental, ignored advice, unreliable, was hard to manage, was bad about ‘phoning home’ to the Sunday Times foreign desk and continually challenged by technology (she jinxed laptops and once ran up a five figure satphone bill). She wore the finest underwear in the field, about her only luxury other than cheap cigarettes. She interviewed PLO chairman Yasser Arafat and Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi on multiple occasions, asking tough questions but staying in relationship.

Rosamund Pike brings the central character to life, unravelling the private and public contradictions of a woman who was both wracked with anxiety yet fearless under pressure, an alcoholic yet could be sober when reporting, sensual yet able to work and sleep in primitive conditions. With tousled hair tied back and wearing the trademark eyepatch, Pike’s Colvin is lean and upright.

Jamie Dornan plays photographer Paul Conroy, the main witness to Colvin’s final moments. He captures the somewhat blasé attitude I saw in Conroy when he was in Belfast, and the Scouse accent mostly stays intact.

The Sunday Times foreign editor Sean Ryan is played by Tom Hollander, capturing the tension between wanting his ‘prize pig’ to deploy overseas to bring in the stories and wanting her to stay alive. Though at times, Hollander seems smug and derivative of some of his other high profile roles.

Colvin told stories about the human cost of conflict, “finding truth” while “writing the rough draft of history” and injecting her own feelings and emotions into pieces that could otherwise have been merely factually shocking reports about terrible atrocities. But her writing didn’t acknowledge the panic attacks, sadness at being childless, multiple partners and fear of aging and dying.

As well as being a tribute to Colvin’s unique attitude and style, A Private War reminds audiences about the appalling situations that she reported from, bringing forgotten and continuing horrors back to public attention. She might have liked that, even if the rest of the film might have embarrassed her.

The strength and clarity of her words in live audio interviews with TV broadcasters around the world was likely to have intensified the targeting of her shelter and ultimately cost her her life. While Paul Conroy escaped with injuries, another photographer Rémi Ochlik was also killed in the raid.

Director Matthew Heineman crams a lot in to the 110 minutes to give a good flavour of the character and the conflicts. The quotes from Colvin’s articles and snippets from an interview about her style of reporting give a sense of the character driven to be reckless in order to make a difference.

Each new reporting trip is captioned with the time ‘before Homs’, building up the sense of forbearing. Yet the journey through the tunnel to Homs is rushed and underwhelming – much better described in the books – with effort instead put into the later hair-raising journey by road ‘dodging’ bullets and rockets to reach the media centre. But the ending is strong, rising up from a singular incident to survey the devastation that the city of Homs suffered.

The lights came on far too soon in the Lisburn Omniplex, diminishing the intensity of Annie Lennox’s song that plays over the closing credits and images of some of Colvin’s reportage in the Sunday Times.

A Private War is only showing in a handful of Omniplex Cinemas (including Lisburn and Dundonald).

Friday, February 15, 2019

Ruby – warts and all tragedy of Belfast talent troubled by anxiety and alcoholism (Lyric Theatre + NI tour)

Driving down the Donegall Road yesterday, I counted three poster displays linking Ruby Murray with the area. After today, there’ll be a fourth mention with the erection of a blue plaque to recognise the singing sensation born in south Belfast.

A few years ago, playwright Michael Cameron was sitting near me in an opening night audience at The MAC. During the interval we chatted and he mentioned that he was working on a play about Ruby Murray. I knew the name, but couldn’t have listed anything she sang, though it turns out I could have hummed along with most if you’d played them.

Then last May, I was present at a read-through of some scenes in East Side Arts Centre and could begin to piece together the troubled life story behind this musical star as I listened to a story that was darker and more complex than I had realised. Cameron’s mentor Sam McCready was directing proceedings, adding his silvery touch to the emerging work. Sadly he died early this week before the show opened.

The full production of Ruby directed by Richard Orr is now in the middle of a sold out run in the Lyric Theatre before embarking on a regional tour. Seated in a comfy armchair in a Torquay nursing home, the retired and ailing singer addresses the Lyric audience as if we’re sitting on a sofa opposite her. While sedentary for the majority of the performance, Actor Libby Smyth creates an intimate atmosphere and you begin to believe that this plainly dress woman once had her hair lacquered back and belted out hits in her distinctively husky voice. The play builds to an emotional crescendo and Smyth channels frustration and disappointment in those final moments.

Fortified by a wee drink or two, she reminisces about wartime evacuation as a child – a very bad experience that haunted her for the rest of her life – and the unexpected road to musical success that began singing in pubs and peaked by topping the bill at the London Palladium. The oft-quoted fact of having five singles simultaneously in the top twenty is remarkable. She worked with Norman Wisdom, her bête noire Alma Cogan, Morecambe and Wise, Frankie Laine and a rash of other household names.

Belfast audiences seem to revel in donning their rose-tinted spectacles to look back the good old days in Belfast, and the last year has featured a feast of shows in the Lyric served up to meet this nostalgic appetite: Paperboy and Good Vibrations. Ruby adds to that list with its dark tale of what goes up must come down.

Ruby’s story is blighted with poor business advice, serial exploitation, and the effects of alcoholism on her family and her own health, an all too common trait of Belfast stars. The script is honest about the physical violence she meted out on her husbands. I can see why this isn’t the first time a playwright has tackled her bittersweet story with Marie Jones creating a show with the same name back in April 2000.

If you sat down in the black Mastermind chair after the end of the 80-minute performance, you probably wouldn’t embarrass yourself answering questions on Ruby Murray’s given the information in the play. Yet Cameron’s mature and pared-back script conveys it all in a very natural way, and I never felt like I was being given another fact, just another facet of the story. The monologue is chronological and recounts enough drama that it doesn’t warrant other theatrical bells and whistles.

Performed as a tragedy rather than a musical celebration, only snippets of Murray’s hit songs are injected into the performance. But they’re well-chosen and apt with the prescience of the opening “I shall always hope and pray / That you love me in the end” making sense in the final scenes of the play as the state of her relationship with first husband Bernie Burgess is revealed.

Ruby is a promising work by a relatively new playwright. In the retelling of her life story, Cameron succeeds in celebrating the talent without papering over the trials and tribulations that blighted success.

The sold out run in the Lyric Theatre continues until 17 February, before touring through Marketplace Theatre, Armagh (Thursday 21 February – sold out), Web Theatre, Newtownards (Friday 22 February – sold out), Craic Theatre, Coalisland (Saturday 23 February), Alley Theatre, Strabane (Thursday 28 February), Island Arts Centre, Lisburn (1 March – sold out) and Theatre at the Mill, Newtownabbey (Saturday 2 March).

Photo credit: Dave Pettard

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Ubu The King – let battle commence in this absurd disrupted food court (Tinderbox at The MAC)

The normal rules of theatre suggest keeping the audience in rows, keeping the action on the stage, and avoiding mess. But the first rule of Tinderbox Theatre Company is to tear up normality and challenge comfortably-held beliefs.
“Kill the King and take the crown for yourself”

Ubu The King adapts of Alfred Jarry’s play Ubu Roi which was first performed in Paris in 1896 and was followed by a riot. A vulgar kitchen porter stages a management coup and takes over a patisserie kitchen. Soon the other staff who supported his popular uprising realise that he is making empty promises and behaving like the show horse head chef he emasculated and replaced.

The absurdist nature of Jarry’s work is quickly apparent as kitchen utensils are repurposed as puppets, masks and an army of forks. Ciaran Bagnall’s set has the air of a cooking school installed in an abattoir with stainless steel worktops sitting on top of a distressed metal floor, enclosed inside a heavy translucent plastic curtain.

Rhodri Lewis plays Ubu, a disruptive upstart with a grizzly sense of comedy who begins by acting the lig and playing up to the audience of thirty sitting on raised platforms around the food court. Soon less savoury bullying behaviour is on display. Meanwhile Julie Lewi, Jo Donnelly and Claire Connor are kneading dough, whisking ingredients and sifting cocoa powder over buns while Tony Flynn minces around with a clipboard playing head chef.

The dialogue is sparse and sometimes the detail of what is said – along with the lyrics of Katie Richardson’s bespoke music – gets lost in the general melee of the hellish kitchen. Yet director Patrick J O'Reilly makes sure that the choreographed dance sequences and physicality of the clowning wordlessly imparts the changing power relationships that drive this demonstration of brutalist anarchy and extreme behaviour.

It reminded me of a third form history lesson in which ‘Red Ken’ meandered away from the First World War curriculum to instead explain the spectrum of political activity and opinion, from far left to far right. The workers feel that “when we are together we are unstoppable” but they fail to appreciate how they are being manipulated (including celebrating previous conflicts when the new leader is under threat). Under the horseshow theory, sometimes those on the far left become bedfellows of the far right.

Wearing similar protective clothing to the cast to shield us from spillage or flying ingredients, the audience are invited to vocally collaborate and become complicit in condoning the bullying and intimidation happening feet away from our ringside seats.

We realise that what is being acted out is merely a representation of the real life power games that continue to dominate modern office life, churches, politics and communities across Northern Ireland and beyond. Ubu could be Donald Trump. Equally he could be Arlene Foster, Mary-Lou McDonald or Jeremy Corbyn. Or maybe he’s you … or me.

Ubu the King is experimental. During the 70-minute performance, there are moments of entertainment among the more absurd and confusing scenes. It’s not a terribly satisfying piece of theatre – I doubt it even intends to be – but it certainly succeeds in being thought-provoking.

Continues in The MAC until Saturday 23 February.

Photo credit: Ciaran Bagnall

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

If Beale Street Could Talk – immerse yourself in a beautifully-told story about love and racial injustice (from 14 February)

Fonny and Tish grew up in Harlem, playing together as friends. But in adulthood they’re falling in love and from our plush cinema seats we watch their lips finally lock. Their hesitant and adoring touch is breath-taking to watch in If Beale Street Could Talk. Yet just as their lives begin to inseparably interlock, a crooked justice system intervenes with a false charge of rape that sees Fonny held behind bars while he awaits a trial stacked against him.

Adapting James Baldwin’s novel, director Barry Jenkins has created a beautiful piece of unhurried cinematic storytelling. From the first time Tish asks “Are you ready for this?” the dramatic tension begins to tighten and the audience are left with questions … and trusted to figure out the answers without too much help. Flashbacks make sense without having to be labelled.

The near constant sound of jazz is restrained and mostly allowed to remain in the background. The costume colour palette matches the autumn leaves underfoot as the lover birds coo over each other. The camera lingers on full facial closeups as Fonny and Tish gaze across the dinner table or through the glass in the prison visitors’ room. Their conversation is shown to be as intimate as their lovemaking.

KiKi Layne and Stephan James’ faces switch between joy and trepidation. Layne is brimming with heart-felt empathy, wearing Tish’s vulnerability on her sleeve while James internalises Fonny’s fears until he allows them to explode out into the open. His physical failure in some later scenes adds to the darkness of the mood.

The two mesmerising central characterisations are backed up by great performances from Tish’s family sisterhood (Teyonah Parris and Regina King) and Fonny’s super-spiritual and over-judgemental clan (Aunjanue Ellis, Ebony Obsidian and Dominique Thorne).

If Beale Street Could Talk tells the story of racism, prejudice and injustice through the eyes of one young woman whose fortitude and hope in the midst of change, uncertainty and new life is thoroughly uplifting. Funnier than Moonlight, it has a similar intensity and the same love of dreamy silence over wordiness.

You can immerse yourself in If Beale Street Could Talk from Thursday 14 February in the Queen’s Film Theatre, Omniplex and Odeon cinemas.

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Kid Who Would Be King … either a Brexit parody or a pre-teen film steeped in Arthurian legend (cinemas from Friday 15 February)

After a brief bit of animated context setting to get everyone up to speed with the Arthurian legend and the evil sister Morgana who practices dark sorcery from her underground lair, action returns to modern day Britain and we meet The Kid Who Would Be King.

Alex (played by Louis Ashbourne Serkis) finds the sword Excalibur while running away from some bullies (Rhianna Dorris and Tom Taylor), encounters a youthful-looking wizard Merlin (Angus Imrie) who is sustained by fried chicken, specialises in enchanted clapping and sometimes reverts back into a physically-older form that looks like Patrick Stewart. Backed to the hilt by his tropefully-stout mate Bedders (Dean Chaumoo) with his trusty triangular shield, they set off to defeat Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson) and save Britain from an eternity of slavery.

If Merlin’s explanatory dialogue and the pages from a book aren’t enough to follow what’s going on, people asleep at the back can take advantage of Bedder’s brief recaps which pepper the journey to Cornwall, Glastonbury and back home for the final battle.

While the plot is steeped in Arthurian lore, the film could have borrowed a ‘There and Back Again’ subtitle from The Hobbit along with a fire-breathing dragon, a quest through Mirkwood, and Stewart’s impression of a wispy-haired Gandalf, and throws in some quirky self-awareness of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.

The Kid Who Would Be King could be a genius parody about the current Brexit debacle with May (let down by a parental Cameron) and Javid teaming up with bully boys Gove and Johnson to have a giant tug of war match with the evil Tusk (or Barnier) and save Britain from eternal servitude under the tentacles of the evil European Union. But May and Javid don’t have as many good ideas as Alex and Bedders, and Gove and Johnson could never be trusted to stand by them on their quest. So that’s only wishful thinking that the film has another layer.

The animation is good and the young acting is better than the script from writer/director Joe Cornish (of Adam & Joe fame). While the two long hours are full of creative ideas and situations, the pre-teen cinema audience and their parents deserve a better script that is not full of clichés, platitudes and truisms – “it’s a tough world out there and it’s getting tougher”, “how could telling the truth make everything worse?” – and unforgivable shouts of “I’ve got an idea!” and “I know!” to drive the plot forward.

The Kid Who Would Be King’s journey of self-discovery is keen – overly so – to teach lessons about fallen heroes, the power of the underdog, and the need for leadership. But my inner pre-teen sensibility is now nearly as long ago as the Knights of the Round Table, so who am I to cast doubt on the entertainment value of a film that I don’t want to remember at the end of year review in December.

Released in UK and Irish cinemas on Friday 15 February.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Sweeney Todd – close shaves and revenge served hot in a production that emphasises societal complicity by ignoring injustice (NI Opera at Lyric until 23 February)

A London man is wrongly imprisoned and banished to Botany Bay. When he returns he finds that he has lost his wife and daughter, and seeks revenge on the errant Judge. Returning to work as a barber above a pie shop, he conspires with his landlord and while he gets down to the somewhat grizzly business of cutting heads, she boosts the turnover of her business with a popular range of unsavoury savouries.

I’m not a particular aficionado of Stephen Sondheim’s work, so I appreciated that NI Opera’s coproduction of Sweeney Todd with the Lyric Theatre makes the story easy to pick up and follow. The cast – a mix of traditional opera singers and musical theatre artists – have good vibrato-free diction and get their tongues around the more rapid-fire lyrics.

Steven Page’s rich baritone voice expresses the emotion the frustration of the troubled man. Julie Mullins gives Mrs Lovett a bawdy music hall feel and is rewarded with audience laughs from early on in the show. Together they make a great couple until the bending of the truth behind her moral pragmatism pushes an already distraught Todd over the edge.

It’s good to see NI Opera Studio’s Jessica Hackett back on stage playing Todd’s daughter Johanna. She is now the ward of the seedy Judge Turpin (Mark O’Regan) whose sits in judgement of other people’s crimes while yoked to his own misplaced and sleazy lust for the young girl supposedly in his care. The pantomime villain of the piece, I’m surprised the stalls don’t boo or hiss.

Opera performances are typically larger than life, with extreme characters taking extreme actions in extreme circumstances. Dorota Karolczak’s elaborate distressed costumes and macabre make-up stand out when compared with ‘normal’ musical theatre productions and really add to the signposting of each character’s state of mind. Wolfgang Göbbel sporadic use of UV lighting adds an extra layer to the set, though the sideways beams across the cramped stage often leave actors in the dark and don’t fully light Joanna’s otherwise immaculately white satin boudoir.

Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd is a story about how one act of injustice can lead to brooding resentment and revenging actions with far reaching consequences. As if to emphasise our societal complicity in seeing injustice but not getting off our backsides to do anything to challenge or stop it, Karolczak set design uses wooden panelling that merges in with the Lyric’s main auditorium, and at points the patterned lighting extends beyond the stage to include the audience in the action.

While the first act gets off to a good start, it’s as if the handle on the mincer gets stuck and there’s a sense of drag in the performance by the time the interval arrives after ninety minutes. While it may be sacrilege to suggest it, some judicious trimming of the top heavy first half might preserve the energy and balance out the less-musical scenes.

Act two abandons the set’s rather neat revolving door and instead turns the wooden wall into a giant sliderobe with characters and rooms appearing somewhat randomly as panels are smoothly slid aside. In particular, the bejewelled barber chair switches from left to right which confuses, and the use of amplification sometimes makes it hard to discern where the actors are on the multi-level stage, particularly when Todd and Lovett pop out at the very top.

Highlights in this production include the shave-off between Todd and the flamboyant leather cat-suited Italian extortionist Alolfo Pirelli (Matthew Cavan), the duets between Todd’s daughter and her nautical lover (John Porter), and the talented, emotionally-flawless ‘common man’ Tobias Ragg (Jack Wolfe) who gets caught up in the sordid tale.

While the organ prelude was underwhelming and needs turned up to eleven to quell audience chatter as the show opens, the nine-piece band under the baton of Sinead Hayes are effective in delivering the musically complex score.

The cutthroat effects are stylish and comically gruesome to avoid being too naturalistic until the final wounding of the haunted protagonist. Director Walter Sutcliffe has created a consistently stylish show that relates its story with heaps of operatic pizzazz but none of the genre’s supposed stuffiness.

Sweeney Todd runs in the Lyric Theatre until 23 February.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

All Is True – Eastenders meets the House of Shakespeare in this delightful fictional tragicomedy about the Bard of Avon’s final years (from 8 February)

Ben Elton has history with Shakespeare but he has written the rather delightful tragicomedy screenplay for All Is True which, contrary to its title, imagines what might have been going on inside the head and house of Shakespeare in the last three years of the playwright’s life.

The story picks up after the fire burnt down the Globe Theatre during a performance of Henry VIII (whose alternative title was ‘All Is True’) and the Bard bows out of the cultural scene and retreats to Stratford-upon-Avon to spend time with his long-ignored family.

In what could have been a prequel for modern Eastenders, over 100 minutes Elton’s quill pens a story of accusations and cover-up, family secrets, reputation and legacy, grief, unfaithfulness, puritanism, illiteracy and self-confidence, and even has space for a ghost.

The dialogue is suitably theatrical and Shakespearean in style – though some modern aphorisms are allowed to sneak into the 1600s – as if the Bard had written one final autobiographical work to draw together the themes of his life.

Having been infected with a permanent case of writer’s block, a barely recognisable Kenneth Branagh confidently embarks on a spot of gardening and amateur horticulture to take his mind off the good old days in London and to try to dig his way into coming to terms with the death of his son Hamnet some 16 years prior.

Equipped with a chiselled beard and a false conk, Branagh delivers a deliberately-neutral performance that gives the audience space to size up his faults and failings without too many nudges from the director, and to empathise with the women in Shakespeare’s life – stolid and no nonsense Anne Hathaway (Judi Dench), unhappily married Susanna (Lydia Wilson), and Hamnet’s gloriously unfiltered twin sister Judith (Kathryn Wilder) – and size up their motivations.

Ian McKellen pops in as the Earl of Southampton wearing a wig stolen from a pantomime Goldilocks and adds a smidgeon of cruelly-spurned bromance and some of the funniest lines in a scene that sprinkles yet more stardust over the film but could have been left out of the final cut (along with some of the longer recitals of Bill’s best bits by a less indulgent director and editor.

All Is True would be a beautiful film to watch even if you turned the sound down. Cinematographer Zac Nicholson deserves awards for near perpetual autumn tones and the distinctive framing (lots of over the visible shoulder shot and fixed views that allow headless people to wander in and out of shot).
“For family is everything …”
While there are moments in which Shakespeare nearly turns into a nineties man embracing his inner feminist and accepting the messiness of his wonderful family, the script always wrenches him back to his longing for a male grandson (even while his unnamed granddaughter sits at his table) and chuckles at the greatness of men who have sex with boys and girls. Shakespeare’s putdown to local snob Sir Thomas Lucy (Alex Macqueen) is classic Elton; however, the valedictory speech at the close lays it on too thick and too long.

Lifting the imaginary lid on the unexpectedly complicated house of Shakespeare, together with the beautiful landscapes and Elton’s snappy one-liners creates a charming film that works even if you only the most cursory memory of Shakespeare from school.

All Is True is being screened in Queen’s Film Theatre and Movie House cinemas from Friday 8 February. Note that the QFT’s Saturday 9 morning show followed by a Q&A with Kenneth Branagh has already sold out.

Alita: Battle Angel – cyberpunk slasher roller derby dystopian triumph of motion capture and CGI over plot (from 6 February)

“Who am I?” asks the woman whose head and ‘core’ were found on a trash heap under a city in the sky and stitched together with the cyborg body created for someone special by Dr Dyson Ido. He breathes life into an amnesic woman who goes on to uncover the secrets of a cyberpunk world in which there could as easily be a bounty on your enhanced arm as your whole body.

The motion capture and mix of live-action and CGI in Alita: Battle Angel is the most impressive thing about this movie. The titular kickass hero with distinctive eyes is played by Rosa Salazar, ably transforming her movement and mannerisms to switch from a 14-year-old to an 18-year-old half way through the film (although flashbacks hint that the character is much older than that).

That may be good enough to warrant a trip to the cinema. Your stomach will lurch when Alita and her BFF Hugo (Keean Johnson) perch on the edge of the roof an old crumbling building. And the 3D version showing in some cinemas may be even crazier and more fairground fabulous. However, be warned …

Expositional dialogue abounds to educate the audience about the constraints of this geographically-compact multi-cultural dystopian society. The ‘no gun’ rule certainly makes the weapons so much more interesting. The goodie/baddie flag for every single character – other than Ido’s surgical nurse, played by Idara Victor who regularly appears on screen but is strikingly given no dialogue – toggles throughout the two hours of action.

Clichés are embraced with abandon, with Alita even donning a long trenchcoat before entering a bar to deliver an impassioned speech that made the cinema audience audibly smirk as well as the hardened bounty hunters in the drinking den. There’s even a spot of kissing in the rain.

While the manga roots of Alita are preserved – it’s based on Yukito Kishiro’s Gunnm – it’s a bit of a derivative mashup with Transformers-esque fighting machines, Samurai sword fighting that could make it a slasher movie (the action is pretty gruelling for a 12A when you forget that they’re not real people), the addition of Thor’s hammer (with added blow torch), lots of roller derby with a hint of golden snitch, not to mention Dr Ido’s imitation of Bagpuss, from which he must have learned as a child:
“We will find it, we will bind it / We will stick it with glue, glue, glue / We will stickle it / Every little bit of it / We will fix it like new, new, new”

Alita: Battle Angel ticks James Cameron’s boxes for having a strong central female lead character and exploring how humanity adapts to technology. Making the next two parts of the threatened trilogy would be able to reuse much of the technical setup cost invested in this first episode. However, the epic ambition in Cameron’s mind was not delivered in the script he wrote and the film costing close to $200 million that Robert Rodriguez directed.

Released two days before The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, I fear that everything is not awesome and this fantasy dystopia is going to be buried under a pile of brightly-coloured bricks until it is resurrected for Alita: The Two Towers when the protagonist will ascend to Zalem in the sky, to battle the evil scientist in charge and avenge the death of someone else’s pet.

Alita: Battle Angel is released in local cinemas on 6 February.