Alita: Battle Angel

Alita: Battle Angel

Alita: Battle Angel is a 2019 American cyberpunk action film based on Yukito Kishiro’s manga series Gunnm or Battle Angel Alita. Produced by James Cameron and Jon Landau, the film is directed by Robert Rodriguez from a screenplay by Cameron, Rodriguez and Laeta Kalogridis. Rosa Salazar as Alita, a cyborg (human robot), with supporting cast such as Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley and Keean Johnson.

Originally announced for this film project in 2003, production and release of the film was repeatedly delayed as James Cameron preferred to complete Avatar and its sequels. After years of languishing in development hell, Rodriguez was announced as director of the film in April 2016, with Salazar undergoing casting the following month. Principal Photography started in Austin, Texas, in October 2016, and ran through February 2017.

Alita: Battle Angel premiered at the Leicester Square Theater on January 31, 2019, and will be released in the United States on February 14, 2019 by 20th Century Fox in Real D 3D, Dolby Cinema and IMAX 3D formats. The film received praise for its visual effects, action sequences and Salazar’s performance, with some calling it one of the better manga adaptations, while criticism was directed at the film’s “chaotic” screenplay and the film’s ending leading up to a sequel.

Plot

In the year 2563, the catastrophic war known as “The Fall” had left Earth devastated. While examining the junkyard metropolis of Iron City, cyborg scientist Dr. Dyson Ido finds a disembodied female cyborg with a fully intact human brain. Ido rebuilds the cyborg, who has no memory of her past, and names her “Alita” after her dead daughter, even fitting her into the body he had built for the ‘real’ Alita before she was killed by the insane cyborg.

Alita befriends a teenage boy named Hugo, who dreams of moving to the rich sky city, Zalem. Hugo introduces him to the competitive sport of Motorball, a battle royale race in which cyborgs fight to the death.

Alita discovers that Ido is a Hunter-Warrior when she follows him one night and they meet three cyborg assassins led by Grewishka. When Ido is injured, Alita instinctively attacks the cyborgs, killing two of them while damaging Grewishka before she retreats underground. Although Alita rediscovers her skills in the ancient martial art “Panzer Kunst”, Ido prevents her from becoming a Hunter-Warrior. The next day, Alita finds and brings back the Berserker’s body from the ARM ship that crashed outside the city. Ido refuses to put it in the body, fearing the consequences of Alita’s full compatibility with that body; since the ship belonged to the opposing faction in the war that destroyed other sky cities, this indicates that Alita was originally part of the enemy army.

Fed up with Ido, Alita herself registers as a Hunter-Warrior. One night, he and Hugo enter the Kansas Bar to ask other Hunter-Warriors to help him defeat Grewishka, but they refuse, as Grewishka is not on the wanted list. Suddenly, an upgraded Grewishka bursts into the bar and challenges Alita to a rematch, revealing she was sent by her boss, Nova, to destroy her. Despite having courage and martial arts skills, Alita’s body is sliced open by Grewishka’s sharp fingers, leaving only the upper half, left arm, and head left, but she is able to damage Grewishka’s eyes with her remaining arm, allowing Ido, Hugo, and Hunter -Another warrior to force him to retreat. Ido implants Alita into the Berserker’s body, which automatically interacts with his system.

With her new body, Alita enters her name in the Motorball test race, but Ido discovers that the other contestants are Hunter-Warriors and the criminal cyborgs hired by Vector to kill him. During the race, Hugo, whom Alita fell in love with, calls Alita and asks her to meet him at the abandoned church.

After Alita gets rid of the other Motorball contestants, she heads to the old church and is confronted by Zapan, a cyborg bounty hunter who has captured Hugo. Alita learns that Hugo spends his nights attacking cyborgs and stealing their body parts for Vector, the creator of Motorball, with Zapan accusing him of being the murderer. Zapan then fatally injures Hugo, but Chiren, Ido’s ex-wife, manages to save his life by making him decapitate and using Alita’s heart to stabilize his brain. Zapan tries to stop him but Alita cuts off part of his face with Zapan’s own sword.

Ido transplants Hugo’s head into a cyborg body before telling Alita that Hugo’s actions are based on a false belief that he will eventually be able to buy his way to Zalem. Ido confesses that this is just a lie made up by Vector, and that the citizens of Iron City will never enter Zalem; only a Motorball champion could hope to achieve such a goal. Alita decides to confront Vector, who is one of various ‘puppets’ that can be controlled remotely by Nova, a powerful Zalem scientist.

Through Vector, Nova reveals to Alita that Chiren has been harvested for her organs and then orders Grewishka to kill her. Alita fights Grewishka again and kills her before stabbing Vector, telling Nova that she made a mistake by underestimating her.

Ido then tells Alita that Hugo has escaped and is trying hard to climb the factory tube towards Zalem. Alita begs Hugo to come back with her, but suddenly a large spiked ring triggered by Nova comes hurtling down the tube, tearing Hugo’s body apart and throwing him into the air. Jumping after him – having regained the memory of going through the same attack during the original Autumn War – Alita manages to grab her remaining arm and uses her sword to secure herself to the tube. Hugo’s elbow joint couldn’t resist and he fell to his death, but not before he could say goodbye.

Months later, Alita has become the star athlete of the Motorball tournament, preparing for the final match that will determine whether she can enter Zalem. As the crowd cheered, he pointed his sword at Zalem while Nova watched him from above.

Player

  • Rosa Salazar as Alita, the titular cyborg hero, revealed to be three centuries old and the last species of her kind.
  • Christoph Waltz as Dr. Dyson Ido, a renowned scientist, Hunter-Warrior and protector of Alita.
  • Jennifer Connelly as Chiren, Ido’s ex-wife who was expelled with their daughter from Zalem’s fake utopia and dreams of returning.
  • Mahershala Ali and Edward Norton (unaccredited) as Vector and Nova: Vector is a Hunter-Warrior who is also a Motorball fighting match player while Nova is a Zalem scientist who has the ability to transfer his consciousness to other people’s bodies, sometimes controlling Vector’s body and Grewishka.
  • Ed Skrein as Zapan, a cyborg bounty hunter tasked with tracking down and killing Hugo.
  • Jackie Earle Haley as Grewishka, a massive cyborg who works for Nova as her personal assassin, based on Grewcica from the Battle Angel OVA.
  • Keean Johnson as Hugo, Alita’s partner who also teaches her to play a gladiator-style game called Motorball.
  • Michelle Rodriguez as Gelda, a cyborg soldier from Mars who trains Alita.
  • Eiza González as Nyssiana, a cyborg assassin with a bounty on her head.
  • Lana Condor as Koyomi, an orphaned teen and freelance photographer.
  • Jorge Lendeborg Jr. as Tanji, a friend of Hugo’s.
  • Idara Victor as Sister Gerhad, Ido’s maid.
  • Marko Zaror as Ajakutty, a Motorball player.
  • Elle LaMont as Screwhead, a female Hunter-Warrior.
  • Leonard Wu as Kinuba, a Motorball player.
  • Jeff Fahey as McTeague, a Hunter-Warrior who leads a group of robot dogs.
  • Rick Yune as Master Clive Lee, a Hunter-Warrior who claims a record of over 200 murder victims.
  • Casper Van Dien as Amok

Critical response

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Alita: Battle Angel holds a 60% approval rating based on 112 reviews, with an average rating of 6/10. The website’s critical consensus reads, “Alita: Battle Angel’s story” struggles to keep up with special effects, but fans of futuristic sci-fi action may still find themselves more than moderately entertained.” On the Metacritic website, the film has a weighted average score of 53. out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating “mixed or average review”.

Michael Nordine of IndieWire gave the film a “B+” rating, saying, “Alita: Battle Angel is Rodriguez’s best film since he brought Frank Miller’s graphic novel to the big screen, a sci-fi epic that embodies something rare in this age of adaptation. and endless reboots: fulfilling its potential while leaving you wanting more”. Writing for Variety, Guy Lodge praised Rodriguez’s efforts but called the film “chaotic” and wrote: “This virtual cyberpunk saga is an incredibly funny, rambling effect show from the soul-defying Frankenstory tale, which short-circuits every time it moves”.

Future

Cameron and Rodriguez have hinted that the film could lead to several sequels. On February 6, 2019, they announced that they had plans for Alita: Battle Angel 2 in the future. The casting of Edward Norton in a non-spoken role as Nova in the first film was meant to be the setting for the sequel.