"Alita: Battle Angel" Gives Us A Look At Dystopia With Fresh Eyes
Alita: Battle Angel suffers from the usual storytelling problems that plague comic book adaptations. But Director Robert Rodriquez creates such a vivid cyberpunk world and for 122 minutes, you’ll be so immersed in his alternate Earth that the pacing won’t seem that significant.
But before anything else, do note that this film is based on a manga (Japanese comic book) series by Yukito Kishiro so things tend to go bonkers and weird. But it’s a Japanese kind of weird so it’s crazy but in a good way. So without further ado…
In the distant future, a catastrophic world war dubbed “The Fall” resulted in the destruction of almost all of Earth’s great floating cities. Only the city of Zalem remains afloat, fueled by the factories of Iron City, a near dystopian counterpart that stands silent beneath Zalem’s shadow. To further drive its point home, Zalem’s trash is often seen falling to Iron City. It is then used by the human and cyborg citizens below who are forever dreaming of ascending to the perfect world above.
Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz), an expert in cybernetics, is scavenging in Iron City’s junkyard, when he stumbles upon a disembodied female cyborg with an intact human brain. He rebuilds her with parts meant for her deceased daughter. The next day, the cyborg (Rosa Salazar) awakes with no memories of her past except for her innate ability to do an ancient martial art called "Panzer Kunst.” Dr. Ido names her Alita after his late daughter.
Christoph Waltz (Dr. Dyson Ido) and Rosa Salazar (Alita)
Alita then experiences the world with fresh new eyes. Heavy emphasis on eyes. She tastes oranges, sandwiches, chocolates for the first time. Falls in love for the first time. Alita meets a boy named Hugo (Keean Johnson) who like him feel an undeniable compulsion to go to Zalem by any means necessary. This includes possibly joining the very (VERY) violent sport of Motorball whose champion automatically gets sent to the floating city.
Keean Johnson (Hugo) and Rosa Salazar (Alita)
Plot-wise, Alita is a bizarre mix of dystopian cyberpunk action and cutesy YA romance. It’s not necessarily bad storytelling but everything else just takes a backseat to the amazing world building employed by Rodriguez. And, no, Alita’s eyes are not distracting. It’s completely justified to go all out and watch it on Imax. It’s that amazing. The elements Rodriguez employed to build such a believable world are not unlike what James Cameron did for Avatar. Being the film’s producer, Cameron’s fingerprints are all over this.
That said, the pacing of the movie is clunky. Alita goes from angsty teen to fierce warrior goddess in two beats. The movie is also super violent. Really, really, violent. But it pretty much gets away with it because it’s mostly cyborgs who get maimed and dismembered.
Despite all its faults, Alita: Battle Angel is a must-watch. It ends with a cool cameo that sets it up for a sequel. Sequels, even. Now that all the info dumping is over and done with, hopefully, we get a second film with a story worthy of its world building. Terminator 2 was a Cameron creation, right?
Catch Alita: Battle Angel on IMAX theatres, Director’s Club and SM Cinema branches nationwide now! Book your tickets through the website, www.smcinema.com or download the SM Cinema mobile app. You may also follow /SMCinema on Facebook and @SM_Cinema on Instagram for updates!