Because I’m adverse to pretty much all things manga (those giant eyes and that hyper-stylized look creep me out), Yukito Kishiro’s early 1990s series of graphic novels titled “Battle Angel Alita” wasn’t on my radar. Well, maybe there were a couple of blips. I do recall reading, many years ago, that James Cameron was going to direct a film called “Alita.” That never happened because something called “Titanic” came by and became the biggest money-making film in the world. Then “Avatar” happened, supplanting “Titanic” as box office king. Then work began on “Avatar 2, 3, 4” and “5.” What’s a director to do?

What Cameron did was stay on as producer and writer, but hand off “Alita” to director-writer Robert Rodriguez, and the big, bold science fiction film, retitled “Alita: Battle Angel,” came to be. I don’t know what manga devotees are going to think, but I am happily announcing that the effects-drenched, action-packed, philosophically challenging movie was worth the wait.

The opening frames and set-up make it appear to be a cinematic journey that’s been taken many times before. It’s 500 years in the future, and 300 years “after the Fall,” meaning after Earth was defeated by Martian forces, leaving the planet in post-apocalyptic ruins. The difference here is that there are still plenty of people around, at least in the teeming streets of Iron City, where a big chunk of the population shares a violent temperament and remains mobile with the assist of technologically advanced replacement body parts.

Different people need different parts for different reasons. They might have been mugged and maimed. They might be athletes in the popular game of motorball - a hybrid of roller derby, demolition derby and the title sport in the old James Caan film “Rollerball.” Competitors get to bring and use deadly weapons. Lives or at least hands and feet can be lost.

Whoever you are, Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz) is a good man to know if you need a new hand or leg or even if all you’ve got left is a head. He can rebuild you. And one day, while scavenging through an Iron City’s scrapyard, Dr. Ido comes across the head of a cyborg, one with a brain that’s still alive, and in his private lab, creates a body to match, resulting in Alita (Rosa Salazar). She looks like a normal person, except for her huge manga eyes (Note: It’s weird to see Waltz in a film with a big-eyed heroine after starring in “Big Eyes.”).

Alita is young, innocent, curious, excitable, and has no memory of life before being found by the doc. But who is she, and why, when she senses danger, does she jump into an attack pose, and then attack? Where did she get her formidable combat skills?

If Dr. Ido knows, he’s not telling her. But he does know, as does his ex-wife Chiren (Jennifer Connelly), who’s also a top-notch body replacement expert. But she works for a power-mad loony named Vector (Mahershala Ali, in Wesley Snipes mode), who runs the motorball industry, is in constant need of new combatants, and lives by the motto “No one is greater than the game.”

If those aren’t enough entanglements for you, there are roving hunter-warriors - just call them bounty hunters - all over the city, going after bad guys for money, but are often, as in the case of narcissistic and nasty Zapan (Ed Skrein), bad guys themselves. There are big, clunky machines right out of “Robocop’s” ED-209 school. There are vicious cyborgs, the worst of whom is oversized Grewishka (Jackie Earle Haley). And there’s a bit of romance. Young Hugo (Keean Johnson), who will work for anyone willing to pay him, no matter what color hat they’re wearing, has his eyes on Alita’s big eyes.

Action sequences are spectacular, marred only by a few too many uses of the impressionistic slo-mo fight scenes introduced in the “Matrix” films; the performance capture presentation of Alita, flawlessly mixing in with real actors, is amazing; and the film comes complete with satisfying revelations and resolution. Look for an “Alita” 2 and 3 down the road.

Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at esymkus@rcn.com.

“Alita: Battle Angel”

Written by James Cameron, Laeta Kalogridis, Robert Rodriguez; directed by Robert Rodriguez

With Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Mahershala Ali, Jennifer Connolly, Keean Johnson

Rated PG-13