Alita: Battle Angel

Blog Category: 
Doll Type: 



Alita: Battle Angel

 As reported by Dollyforme

The very lovely Jennifer Connelly stars in Alita: Battle Angel. She does look great for her age too. This cyberpunk extravaganza arrives under the auspices of co-writer and producer James Cameron. Cameron long planned to direct the script he co-wrote with Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island), but after sixteen years of on-and-off development while Cameron attended to Avatar and other projects, Alita finally arrives from director Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Spy Kids). The resulting film retains a lot of Cameron-esque DNA—perhaps especially the skillful application of 3D, worth the upgrade at the box office—while also feeling like the kind of big-budget picture that is Rodriguez’s due after years of economical genre fare.

The “Battle Angel” of the title literally comes together in the film’s first scenes, as cyborg scientist Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) of Iron City scavenges the refuse dropped from Zalem (last of the great sky cities, doncha know) and discovers “a total replacement cyborg” with a “miraculously intact” human brain. This is Alita, soon to be the sensation of post-war 2563. As portrayed by Rosa Salazar in a motion-capture performance rendered over with CGI, Alita has pep, heart, and a Tim Burton-esque whimsy about her, at least at first. Soon enough her big-eyed patchwork-doll design goes to work kicking butt, first as a Motorball player and then as a Hunter-Warrior.

If you’re picking up that Rodriguez's film is busy with world-building exposition, you’re not wrong. Suffice it to say that Alita: Battle Angel resembles Dr. Ido in its repurposing of spare parts. The filmmakers do a fine job of evoking manga and anime in their pop-culture mashup style and lush romanticism (Alita falls into a tragic romance with Keean Johnson’s cute boy Hugo), but it’s also hard not to think of Robocop, Rollerball, and The Hunger Games. There’s a dash of Jack the Ripper here, a dose of Tim Burton’s Big Eyes there on Alita’s face (and the casting of Waltz—coincidence?). Add a supporting cast that includes Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, and Jeff Fahey and, all told, Alita works hard to make boredom an improbability.

The film’s world is indeed richly realized, with highly detailed photo-realistic CGI backgrounds and elaborate, colorful set pieces. The plot may be silly, but Alita is big dumb fun. And if there’s something a bit fetishistic about this doe-eyed killer with the rockin’ bod, at least Alita’s character arc takes her from naïve and passively happy to powerful and fiercely concerned with justice, for herself and her broken peers. Though simplistic in the extreme, the vision of a downtrodden striver stuck below a rich city strikes a chord. Alita sets up sequels that may never arrive—the hugely expensive production may well fail to break even—but I wouldn’t mind seeing more from the battle angel who can hold her own in a fight and offer you the heart out of her own chest.


This is a film made up of three distinct, and sometimes conflicting, aesthetics. At its heart is Yukito Kishiro's manga series Gunnm (or Battle Angel Alita), of which a number of chapters were chopped and rearranged by writers Laeta Kalogridis and James Cameron to create the two-hour feature. Director Robert Rodriguez brings a blend of menace and goofiness, present in a number of his films from From Dusk Til Dawn to Spy Kids and beyond. And then there are the fingerprints of Cameron, whose deep commitment to romance and sentimental tales (as seen in everything from Titanic to Avatar) can feel grating in otherwise gorgeously produced works of art.

The tale of Alita, a cyborg woman who has lost all her memories and was rebuilt by a compassionate cybernetics doctor, has a number of familiar beats, in part because it's not a completely unique narrative and, in part, because its creators all lean into that familiarity. A number of the oddities of Kishiro's manga make it up on screen, presented with some wonderful special effects, though some of the monstrosities within were shamefully excised.

There's a clear love for action and for the fighting that exists on the page present in every grand set piece, unsurprising considering the presence of cinematographer Bill Pope (who shot such treasures as The Matrix and Spider-Man 2, as well as another gleeful manga adaptation, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World). Bodies that are made up of and exist as weapons flow on screen beautifully, but no special effect is greater than the performance at its very core.

In a film that can sometimes feel juvenile and features a number of popular actors, from Christoph Waltz and Mahershala Ali to Jennifer Connelly and Michelle Rodriguez, phoning it in, Rosa Salazar's work as Alita is marvelous. The sincerity present in her eyes — in moments of fear, contempt, anger, pain, joy, and love — is undeniably compelling, enough to sell the viewer on plot points and relationships that are otherwise exhausting.

And to Kalogridis and Cameron's credit, Alita: Battle Angel actually gives Alita more agency as a character than the comic does, tying directly into Salazar's terrific physical performance as a woman coming to terms with a body she barely recognizes in a world she barely knows. With this, Robert Rodriguez has managed to make one of very few genuinely good adaptations of manga, joining works like Speed Racer, Cutie Honey, Oldboy, and Scott Pilgrim. We can only hope he'll get the chance to bring more of her story to life in additional movies. A big thumbs up.