'Alita Battle Angel' review

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, March 20th, 2019 at 4:53 PM

In a world full of cyborgs and killers, “Alita: Battle Angel” boasts a lot of heart and with it, a human story. Based on Yukito Kishiro’s hit manga “Gunnm” and brought to life after almost two decades of development by James Cameron and director Robert Rodriguez, the film focuses on Alita, portrayed by Rosa Salazar.

In a cyberpunk dystopia, Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) finds our heroine cast away and forgotten. Fueled by interest and agony, Dr. Ido takes on a fatherly role to the amnesiac cyborg. Alita’s wish for self-discovery takes a back seat after her realizations of the injustices in the world at large, and more importantly, the connections and feelings she’s discovered and struggles to understand.

While many films in the science-fiction genre focus on the action sequences, technological developments, or the world at large, Alita spends enough time with each element to create a delicate balance. Never do we fully understand the history of the world, nor do we come to learn how or why the current dynamic exists or came to be. We’re left to accept it, as though we ourselves were born into it.

For a film with “battle” literally in the title, Alita’s combat sequences are short and to the point. In fact, they make up only a small portion of the film. We are not shown long, drawn-out fights between characters just for the sake of adding action and excitement. Each battle stems from character-driven plot and exists for a sole purpose within the story. What we are shown, though, is visually stunning and brutal, sequences that establish Alita as a force to be reckoned with.

The most stunning part of Alita’s world is, by far, the design of the characters. Many of the individuals we meet are cyborgs, each sporting a unique and intricate makeup. Alita herself even develops throughout the film as the plot advances. Unfortunately, the greater world design is dreary. Should the screen change to the trademark CGI tone, expect either a few moments of action, or the on-screen appearance of someone from the enhanced cast of characters.

  Thankfully, the concept of humanity is not the center of the titular character’s journey, nevertheless the concept does make an appearance.
“Does it bother you? That I’m not completely human?” Alita asks her love interest Hugo, played by Keean Johnson, roughly halfway through the film. “You are the most human person I have ever met,” Hugo replies.

Alita’s lack of focus on the concept of humanity is its greatest asset. Deaths and injuries have a real effect within the world. The losses seem inevitable, as they do in real life, driving our hero toward a goal that feels both personal and achievable. Her personal journey ultimately combines the ambitions from her previous life and the losses she’s experienced into one, culminating in an ambiguous ending inferring Alita will achieve her newfound goal either on or off screen.

A fun ride for the most part, “Alita: Battle Angel” is a definite must-see for fans of science-fiction. For those not well-versed in the language, you may at least enjoy a love story between two unlikely characters. Though no harm will come if you choose never to see it.

Jason Hurst | edinboro.spectator@gmail.com

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