ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL
US, 2019, 122 minutes, Colour.
Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Keean Johnson, Jorge Lindeborg Jr, Jeff Fahey, Rick Yune, Casper Van Dien, Edward Norton, Jai Courtney, Michelle Rodriguez.
Directed by Robert Rodriguez.
Not too many of us contemplate what life on this planet might be like in the 26 century? The 24th? Or the 27th? Probably not interest or wondering!. However, if you do want to speculate in the science-fiction, science-fantasy mode, then here is an entree. It is not based on speculative science; rather, it is a dramatisation of Manga comics.
You can foresee the approach if you are familiar with the names behind the film – including writer, James Cameron, meanwhile making several sequels to Avatar, and director, Robert Rodriguez, a lover of action shows (from Spy Kids stories for younger audiences to From Dawn to Dusk, Machete and Sin City). It means that this is quite an elaborate show. In fact, there are some statistics to indicate that it cost $170 million to produce! However, scanning the bloggers’ opinions in the IMDb, they are all in favour, more than in favour, so it may do well at the world box-office.
So, who is Alita, this Battle Angel? She is a cyborg with origins several hundred years prior to this action where her face and some remains are found in a rubbish tip. Fortunately, the man who finds her is an expert in reconstruction, quite a whizz in fact. He is played by Christoph Walz (two-time Best Supporting Actor Oscars with Quentin Tarantino). He seems quite benign here – although, for a moment, he looks to be villainous as a Bounty Hunter. But, spoiler alert, he remains nice throughout the story, earnest and helping Alita.
However, there are some authorities who are not so nice. They are played by Jennifer Connelly, former wife to the scientist, and Mahershala Ali who dominates on earth, especially managing a deadly sport popular with the inhabitants, Motorball, a kind of no-holds-barred rollerball derby. He also represents a higher power who lives in Zalem, a mysterious floating planet above earth. Nice one is Hugo, Keaan, as with a group of scavengers, tangling with the bounty hunters, but he and Alita, of course, falling in love.
So, while there is an emphasis on cyborgs in reconstruction, their personalities, and Alita trying to remember something of her past, she is more than a feisty character, eager to step into combat, no hesitations in confronting opponents or rivals. Which does mean that quite a lot of the film is taken up with battles and the derby, the effects personnel having more than a field day. Many of the sequences are quite elaborate, with fans panting for more. Which they get.
There is a whole range of bounty hunters, some of them human, some of them cyborgs, especially Grewishka, Jackie Earle Haley, and the sinisterly aggressive Zapan, Ed Skrein, many of them quite sinister and monstrous – more work for the special effects experts. (Some cameos from Michelle Rodriguez, Jai Courtney and, at the end, a glimpse of Edward Norton in Zalem.)
There are emotional complications – just what is the status of a cyborg in terms of love and relationships? Fortunately, Alita seems to have something like a human heart.
Some romance, some tragedy, some betrayals, some power struggles – and sad finale – except that, given box office success, it is not final. Alita stands ready, more than ready, to do battle in a sequel.
1. Hollywood interpretation of the Japanese Manga story? Cyborgs, superheroes, the future?
2. The recreation of the 25th century, the film’s production values, production design, special effects? The world, the aftermath of a disaster, Iron City, the results for the humans, robotics, the creation of cyborgs and their roles? The planet hovering above, Zalem, a place for humans wanting to ascend to?
3. The visuals of Iron City, the streets, markets, crowds? Laboratories, homes, arenas for Motorball? Restaurants and dives? The musical score?
4. Zalem as a goal, the visuals, people wanting to ascend? Not succeeding? The glimpse of Nova at the end, watching earth and Iron City?
5. Professor I do, in himself, his life, skills, his daughter’s death and the need to remake a body, the relationship with his wife, the separation, her skills in robotics as well? His work, his assistant and her help? Going to the tip, finding the remains, the face? Taking it home, the work, the details of reconstruction? The achievement?
6. Alita, a cyborg, her brain, her heart and power? Not having any memories? Her personality? Her voice? The relationship with the professor?
7. Vector, his role in Iron City, representing Nova, his dapper style, his command, control of the games, his relationship with the professor’s wife? Working together? Robotics?
8. The professor’s wife, the past, her decisions, her power, her regrets – and her final decision for Hugo, connecting him to Alita’s heart, his survival?
9. The work of the bounty hunters, the killing of the prostitutes? The professor becoming a Bounty Hunter, Alita suspicions, his going out at night, discovering the truth?
10. The range of the hunters, cyborgs, visuals, mutants? The look, the power, their missions, personalities, the controls and attacks? The gathering at the bar?
11. Hugo, young, part of the young group, their attacks, dismantling the cyborgs, selling the parts, the deals? His attraction to Alita, their time together, the dangers, the revelation of the truth, their love?
12. Alita discovering her powers, fighting, wanting a warrior body but the professor stopping her? The confrontation with the bounty hunters, with Grewishka, his return, her wanting to fight, her being cut by him?
13. The escape, joining Motorball, Hugo and the motivations? The various confrontations? The performance, her hopes, the rivals being bounty hunters, the decimation?
14. Alita, the relationship with Hugo, his wanting her to save him? Her being connected to him from her heart?
15. Her being saved, the professor healing her? Her final stands – and the preparation for the sequel?
16. The image of Nova, looking down from Zalem to the earth?