By John Liu
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Good thing the movie title clarified that Alita was a Battle Angel because I had never heard of Alita before this movie. “Battle Angel Alita” is a Japanese cyberpunk manga created by Yukito Kishiro in 1990. The movie, titled “Alita: Battle Angel,” was originally announced in 2003, but was delayed because James Cameron did not believe the CG technology at the time was advanced enough. Meanwhile, Cameron continued work on Avatar, which became the highest grossing movie ever. In 2016, Robert Rodriguez was announced as the director and Cameron finally had time to co-produce. Usually movies that have been stuck in development for decades have a very small chance of being profitable. There was also a controversy over Alita’s large eyes in the initial trailer, but Cameron fixed the issue by enlarging the irises. Now Alita is finally in theaters!
In the year 2563, an interplanetary war has left most of Earth in ruins. In the aftermath, only the wealthy city Zalem is left standing. Below Zalem is Iron City, a poor junkyard city with humans and cyborgs. Factories constantly ship goods up to Zalem and trash drops back down to Iron City.
Not much else is known about Zalem, but some Iron City citizens make it their life’s goal of traveling to Zalem.
One day, Dr. Dyson Ido is scavenging the landfill for cyborg parts when he finds an intact cyborg with a human brain. Ido is able to resurrect the cyborg, but she has no recollection of her past. Ido names her Alita, and she starts learning and “growing up” with a teenager mentality.
Alita makes a new friend named Hugo who introduces her to Motorball, an ultra violent sport where you try to catch a ball, taking place in an arena, and make a shot into a hole, sort of like basketball. However, killing your competition is fair game. The prize for becoming the champion of Motorball is a trip to Zalem. As Alita learns more about her past, she also discovers the people around her have many secrets of their own.
Alita uses Rosa Salazar’s voice and motion capture movements. Rosa did an outstanding job showing Alita’s wonder and amazement at discovering the world and displaying the emotions of a teenager. This is important since we never get to see Rosa on screen.
Christoph Waltz plays Dr. Ido, who is always fun to watch on screen and looks comfortable in his role as a father figure. Now let’s go over the Asian cast. Koyomi (Lana Condor) has a few lines and gets to hang out with Alita briefly. Kinuba (Leonard Wu) is a Motorball champion and has a cool action sequence. Master Clive Lee (Rick Yune) has a brief appearance in the bar.
Kumaza (Alan Nguyen, from Seattle) had a brief Motorball role. I believe that’s the entire Asian cast! At least the movie is based off a Japanese manga. I did not forget about that.
Alita also has a typical Hollywood love story: rushed and awkward. I later read in the manga that this was an integral part of Alita’s emotional growth, but I could do without it. Without a doubt, the cinematography was the best part. I saw the movie in IMAX 3D for the native 3D and aspect ratio opened up to 1.90:1 for select sequences. The action scenes were intense and gorgeous! Do not be fooled by the PG-13 rating. This movie has decapitation, dismemberment, and one very disturbing death scene. Yes, I’m serious.
Even though the violence is regarding cyborgs, who either have no blood or spew blue blood, it feels like the movie should be rated R.
Sadly this movie cost somewhere around $200 million to produce and made only $137 million worldwide so far, so it will need a lot of help just to break even. If you are looking for a fun action movie with awesome cinematography and a generic storyline, then look no further!
Alita: Battle Angel is currently playing at local theaters.
John can be reached at email@example.com.