“Alita: Battle Angel” ~ My Review


Hannah Clark, Editor


Alita: Battle Angel, directed by Robert Rodriguez and produced by James Cameron, was released on February 14, 2019, topping the box office with $27M. The film bested dismal box office expectations with $27 million over the weekend, but the anime adaptation/cyberpunk fantasy still has a long way to go to recover its $170 million budget, unfortunately. Despite that fact, Alita: Battle Angel is visually phenomenal and absolutely mesmerizing. Let’s enter Alita:

Beware! Spoilers ahead!

Set several centuries in the future, in 2563, after a catastrophic war known as “The Fall” that has left Earth devastated, an abandoned female cyborg has fallen from the sky city of Zalem into a scrapyard below. She is found with a fully intact human brain in the junkyard metropolis of Iron City by the compassionate cyborg scientist Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz), who takes the damaged robot back to his clinic to repair her. When she awakens, she has no memory of who she is, where she came from, what her purpose is, nor does she have any recognition of the world she finds herself in. She doesn’t even remember her own name. Ido names her “Alita”, after his deceased daughter. As Alita (Rosa Salazar) learns to navigate her new cyborg life within the treacherous streets of Iron City that sits below the wealthy sky city Zalem, Ido tries his hardest to shield her from her both the dirty cruel world and her mysterious past.

Alita meets and befriends a boy named Hugo (Keean Johnson), who shows her around Iron City, introducing her to the new world, chocolate, and many other things, and tells her of how he dreams of moving to Zalem. Hugo also introduces the cyborg girl to the competitive sport of Motorball, a battle royale race game wherein cyborgs fight to the death, champions fighting champions to win access to Zalem. Alita is enthralled and learns how to play in a scrimmage with Hugo and other kids, already a pro at it, becoming increasingly fond of her new friends and life.

After hearing about how the numbers of unsuspecting women that have been getting murdered continues to increase, and becoming suspicious of her new adoptive father, Alita discovers that Ido is actually a Hunter-Warrior who fights crime in Iron City when she follows him one night and they are caught in a trap, encountering three cyborg assassins led by a powerful, murderous cyborg named Grewishka (Jackie Earle Haley). Ido tries his best to protect Alita, but is injured, triggering Alita, completely out of pure ancient instinct, to attack the cyborgs, killing two of them easily and severely damaging Grewishka, who retreats underground. Despite Alita recovering a memory and rediscovering her skill in the ancient martial art of “Panzer Kunst”, Ido discourages her from teaming up with him and becoming a Hunter-Warrior.

The next day, Alita, Hugo, and a few others explore the outside of Iron City, taking the cyborg girl here and there in hopes of helping her recollect more of her lost memories. They explain how The Fall happened, and how URM, “the United Republic of Mars” was the major enemy 300 years ago that attacked Zalem, but failed to do so. In the process of their journey outside the city, they stumble upon an untouched enemy warship that was downed 300 years ago, Alita subconsciously activating it and finding a sole cyber body inside that feels familiar to her. She brings the body home with her, taking it to Ido and insists that she is somehow connected to it. Ido refuses to install her in the body, fearing the consequences of her artificial heart’s full compatibility with it, as it is a highly advanced weapon and lost URM technology from way before The Fall.

Angry with Ido, Alita storms off and registers herself as a Hunter-Warrior. She and Hugo then enter the Kansas Bar to ask the other Hunter-Warriors to help her take down Grewishka once and for all, but they laugh at her and refuse, as Grewishka is not on the wanted list and not their problem. She exclaims how disappointed she is, insulting the warriors and starting a huge fight. Suddenly, an upgraded Grewishka storms into the bar and challenges Alita to a rematch, revealing that he has been sent by his superior, Nova, to destroy her. Alita is more than willing to fight, saying she does not stand by in the presence of evil, but despite her courage, combat skills and collection of another lost memory, Alita loses the battle; her body is sliced up by Grewishka’s bladed fingers, but she doesn’t let that get the best of her just yet, as she leaps up using the last bits of strength she has in her arm and blinds him. Ido, Hugo, and another Hunter-Warrior arrive to help Alita, forcing Grewishka to retreat. Ido apologizes to Alita, taking her home and transplanting her into the URM Berserker body, which automatically interfaces with her system, revealing that Alita was indeed connected to it after all.

Alita returns, stronger and faster; much more herself, and having fallen in love with Hugo, Alita enters a Motorball tryout race as a means to help raise money and send him to Zalem, as it is his dream. She enters a tryout race, but Ido discovers that the other contestants are Hunter-Warriors and wanted cyborgs hired by Vector (Mahershala Ali), a businessman working under Nova, to kill her. He warns Alita, and as the race begins, she destroys the contestants one by one with her superior skills, earning much love and adoration from the crowd that watches and cheers her on, deeming her “battle angel”.

Meanwhile, Hugo is being hunted by a sadistic Hunter-Warrior named Zapan (Ed Skrein), after he snitches on Hugo for thievery and frames him for murder to get revenge on Alita. Hugo calls Alita for help and she leaves the Motorball race to rescue him. Alita jumps in and protects Hugo from Zapan, but gets distracted when she sees Hugo’s wanted poster flash up on a screen from afar. Zapan reveals to Alita that Hugo is a murderer and has been attacking innocent people and stealing their cyber parts for Vector for use in his Motorball games. Alita is confused, devastated, and angered, Hugo becoming flustered when she punches a hole into the concrete by his head and demands answers. Zapan tells Alita that Hunter-Warrior law dictates that she must either kill Hugo or let Zapan finish him off, but Alita tells him to back off and that Hugo is hers to deal with. However, after looking Hugo in the face, she finds she is unable to bring herself to harm him.

Becoming frustrated with Alita’s hesitation to kill Hugo, Zapan steps in to “give her a hand” and stabs him, mortally wounding him. Zapan laughs and says that Alita better kill Hugo before he does as it is Hunter-Warrior law. Alita runs away and hides with Hugo, wanting to take him to Ido to save him, but Hugo tells her that if she walks out with him still alive, they’ll both be killed. Alita demands to know where he was and what he was doing while she was fighting, and Hugo admits to his deeds, but reveals that he was going to put a stop to it because he has fallen in love with her. Alita is overwhelmed by this and begins to cry, kissing Hugo in his last moments.

From the shadows, Chiren (Jennifer Connelly), a doctor, cyberphysician, and also Ido’s ex-wife, spys on Alita and Hugo from afar on orders from Vector. After watching the couple and listening to their conversation, however, she begins to question her selfish and greedy motives, as she remembers how she was once a mother. This leads her to falsely report that Alita is nowhere to be found and Hugo is dead, allowing them to escape from Vector’s grasp. She approaches Alita and the dying Hugo, and helps the couple by connecting life support wires from Alita’s heart to Hugo’s head. Zapan attempts to stop Alita from leaving after discovering that Hugo is being kept alive, but Alita fights back, slicing half of Zapan’s fake face off with his prized sword. Alita walks off with Chiren, taking Hugo and the sword with her.

With the help of Chiren, Ido manages to successfully save Hugo by transplanting his head onto a cyborg body, explaining to Alita that Hugo’s actions were based upon the false belief that he would be able to eventually buy his way into Zalem. Ido confides that this was a lie fabricated by Vector, and that citizens of Iron City cannot ever enter Zalem, not unless they become a Motorball champion; knowing this because he was originally born in Zalem along with Chiren, but both were exiled to Iron City because of their daughter’s illness, demonstrating Nova’s cruelty. Alita is distraught, watching over Hugo and believing that all of this is her fault, but Ido tells her not to feel sorry for herself, and that she is the only one who can stop Vector.

Alita, now enraged, leaves to confront Vector, who reveals that Chiren has been killed for her betrayal and harvested for her organs, then orders Grewishka to kill her. Alita battles Grewishka again and this time, thanks to her new body and regained memories of who her true enemy is, (Nova), finally kills him with ease. Nova takes over Vector’s mind, greeting Alita. He explains how impressed he is with her, but then begins to threaten her with the endangerment of the lives of those she cares for since she is a nuisance to him. Alita, enraged, stabs Vector, telling Nova that he has lost one of his puppets and that he has made the biggest mistake of underestimating her. Nova is amused, and as Vector dies, he tells her he is always watching, and that they will meet again.

After the confrontation, Ido contacts Alita, saying that bounty hunters all over the city are searching for Hugo, who has fled and began desperately trying to climb a factory tube towards Zalem. Alita runs after him, but he stops her, refusing to go back down to Iron City, obsessively insisting that they belong in Zalem. She tells him that they do not belong anywhere, pleading with him to return to Iron City with her and that together they can forge a new life, better than any life Zalem could ever offer, holding her hand out for him. The temptations of Zalem melt away, and Hugo tearfully accepts, reaching for her. Before he can take her hand, a massive barbed defense ring set off by Nova shoots down the tube, shredding Hugo’s body and throwing him into the air. Alita leaps after him but is unable to prevent Hugo from falling to his death, but not before she can say that she loves him, and he can smile and thank her for saving him.

Months later, Alita, still mourning Hugo, is the star of Motorball, extremely close to becoming a champion and going to Zalem. A game begins, and as the crowd cheers and chants her name, Alita stands and aims her flaming sword towards Zalem while Nova (Edward Norton) watches her from above.

To begin with, this is a gorgeous film that is the utmost stunning to gaze upon. CGI animation is a fantastic tool, however, if overused, it can become very noticeable, even to the point of it being so fake that it is cringeworthy. In Alita, there is a ton of it, but it melts in with breathtaking production design virtually seamlessly; it works. The attention to detail is just about flawless, movements are fluid and believable, and regardless of her abnormally orange-sized anime eyes, Alita looks, sounds, acts, thinks, and is entirely human in this film. She is a lovable, relatable, intense, very lifelike and real character. James Cameron never ceases to amaze.

The soundtrack fits perfectly and the score composed by Junkie XL is very lovely; spot on for the cyberpunk action-packed story. The world and the diverse characters of this movie are so well created, realized, and beautifully thought out. This is the Alita: Battle Angel universe. On screen, big budget, big name; the people who worked on this project nailed it, not to mention the sequences that pay respectful and loving homage to Yukito Kishiro’s original source material; remaining faithful and pleasing fans, possibly even polishing it up and making it even more spectacular! There is much to praise and love about Alita.

Be that as it may, this movie is not without a few flaws, of course, it is not perfect. The pacing is quick, character development can be seen as rushed as there is a lot to take in, and walking in blind with no knowledge of what this film is about or of the manga it is based off of can possibly leave you puzzled. This does not completely trash the film, however, and it does not ruin the plot. Alita still a wonderful treat!

Alita: Battle Angel is very unique and beautiful, but is not for everyone. However, I personally enjoyed it and loved every minute of it, and have seen it four times already, and I am looking forward to seeing it again soon. Critics have been very unapologetic and picky about this film, practically trashing it to the point people don’t want anything to do with it. In my opinion, this is hardly giving Alita a proper chance to prove herself and is quite unfair. Nonetheless, I encourage you to take a dive into the world of Alita yourself and see what you think. You may adore it, you may not. Go find out! Try something new and immerse yourself into this charming adventure. Go see and support Alita the battle angel! I’ll see you at the theater!