Title: Alita: Battle Angel
Language: English, Spanish
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Screenwriters: James Cameron, Laeta Kalogridis
based on the Japanese manga series GUNNM by Yukito Kishiro
Music: Junkie XL
Cinematography: Bill Pope
Editor: Stephen E. Rivkin, Ian Silverstein
Jackie Earle Haley
Jorge Lendeborg Jr.
Casper Van Dien
In Robert Rodriguez’s cyberpunk pomp ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL, an adaptation of popular Japanese manga series GUNNM, and a long-in-gestation pet project of James Cameron, who gladly passes the baton to Rodriguez with his blessing, an operative question, for viewers who are not conversant with its original material, is who, or more crucially, what is Alita?
Set in a post-apocalyptic 26th century, the ever-so-familiar fertile ground for Sci-Fi adventures, the story shapes up as a cyborg girl trying to find out who she is in a materialistic world driven by bounty hunters, body part smugglers and the murderous sport called Motorball. Alita (Salazar) is recreated by Dr. Dyson Ido (Waltz) by grafting a mechanical body to her undamaged head with its presumably human brain intact, found in the scrapyard. Initially she has no memories of her past, and after 122 minutes, one can only get a vague picture, as ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL blatantly purports that it is just a set-up, multiple sequels are waiting to be green-lit if this first entry’s pecuniary gain passes muster and at the time of writing, the prospect is still moot (a total gross of $404 million may or may not break even its costly budget).
Designated as a teenage girl to make the most accessible appeal across the board (especially by making a meal of the contrast between and her tiny figure and killer fighting skill), Alita’s image is an uncanny amalgamation of live action and CG animation, her disproportionately enormous eyes distinctly sets her apart from the rest of the cast, most of which are human noggins added upon sleek or ponderous robotic parts designed to impress and kill. Only Alita’s mental age doesn’t tally with a later revelation – 300 years has elapsed, how come her brain still remains at that stage? Huge lacunae left to be filled, but since she is made of extraterrestrial technology, sky is the limit to make plausible even the most unthinkable plot holes, if a second installment ever materializes.
Through this cybernetic innovation, gruesomeness of its violence is viably toned down because the severed limbs or bodies are merely inanimate metals, trickling with blue blood notwithstanding, as long as your brain survives, in that cyborg-prevalent world, you will never die, a credo is confidently validated by Hugo (Johnson), Alita’s scrap-smuggling human sweetheart whose ethical conscience is brought into conflict when he is genuinely touched by Alita’s swelling puppy love, the connotation of falling in love with an irreconcilably different kind (especially which you are ruthlessly exploiting) is a warmed-over plot device to grant a new, more wholesome prospective to a guilt-ridden soul, only the rebirth of Hugo actually serves as a bathetic surprise when futility has its drop on the seemingly nonpareil Alita, because the big boss, the powers that be, is still residing in his hovering, inaccessible realm, teased by a smirking Edward Norton in a cameo near the coda. For once, it is a male love interest is fridged just because, it is high time!
Visionally breathtaking and adrenaline rush aplenty, ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL swanks with its sleek, hyperkinetic action set pieces galore and holds its emotional core dear to our heart. Several Oscar-winners relishes a fat check in knocking out humdrum lines without much effort (Jennifer Connelly can still turn heads even for a wordless glance and Mahershala Ali looks as if he is going to corpse by the risible green-eyed mind-switching gimmicks), the long and the short of it, ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL is quite a helluva excitement and entertainment, only, its integrity is permanently marred by the gluttonous, eager-beaver ambition to be serialized as a money spinner, that is what today’s Hollywood is made of, flogging every possible ingenuity to death, maybe, for once, audience’s collective effort can put paid to something that is assumedly cut-and-dried in the eyes of those profit pursuers, a lesson needs to be learnt the hard way!
referential entries: James Cameron’s AVATAR (2009, 8.8/10); Denis Villenueve’s BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017, 8.4/10).