Step into another of James Cameron’s crazy fantasy worlds with his recent film, Alita: Battle Angel. Co-produced with Jon Landau—who worked with Cameron on Titanic and Avatar—and co-written with Laeta Kalogridis, this movie was set to be a hit. The film idea has been in the works since 1999, but production for Alita has been a long haul. With things starting to progress in 2003, it was placed in developmental hell while Cameron was busy working on Avatar and its sequels. The filming was finally under way in 2016, and three years later, it’s on the big screen for all to see.
Directed by Robert Rodriguez, Alita: Battle Angel is an American cyberpunk action film based on the manga series by Japanese artist Yukito Kishiro called Gunnm (aka Battle Angel Alita). Two of the nine volume comics have been adapted into anime episodes and this 2019 live-action version has been praised as one of the better manga adaptations.
So, what exactly does Cameron have in store for us since the phenomenal Avatar?
The year is 2563, a catastrophic war known as ‘The Fall’ has left Earth in ruins and Iron City is a bustling environment, home to humans and, you know—cyborgs, of course. Short for ‘cybernetic organism’, cyborg is a being both with human and mechanical body parts. One day while scouting the city’s scrapyard, cyborg scientist Dr Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz), finds a disembodied female cyborg with a functioning human brain. Putting her back together with the body he made for his late paraplegic daughter, the cyborg is healed and Ido gives her the name Alita.
Rosa Salazar plays the role of Alita and with the help of technologies used in Avatar, her character looks seamlessly real. However, Landau and Rodriguez have revealed that the process of finding the balance between realism and CGI wasn’t easy; when you see Alita, you are looking at the CG effects, as well as Salazar’s body and performance.
When Alita comes back to life she has no memory of her past and is determined to explore this new city. Helping her find her way is a boy named Hugo (Keean Johnson), who she starts to develop feelings for – along with the sport he introduces to her: Motorball. This is a gladiator-style ball game where the final champion hopes to win a ticket to the wealthy sky city called Zalem.
One of the highlights of seeing this film was the fact it was in 3D. I remember the days where watching a movie in 3D consisted of wearing those floppy, paper, red and blue cellophane glasses that kept falling off your face. Instead they’ve now been upgraded with style (who knew watching 3D movies could be so fashionable?). The 3D experience magnifies the action scenes, making you feel like you are part of the film and standing right next to the characters.
While the battle scenes might seem a bit prolonged, they are never lacking excitement and when Alita rediscovers her skill in the ancient martial arts ‘Panzer Kunst’ she gives every male cyborg a run for his money. She is not afraid to let loose against those that threaten to kill her, and her kick-ass vibes are refreshing to see from a lead female character, rather than have a man stealing the limelight.
While the entire film is visually stunning, the plot was a bit messy and struggled to keep up with the outstanding special effects. This world that is brought to life on screen is complex, and between new terms such as ‘Hunter-Warrior’ being introduced, and trying to figure out who the evil cyborgs are or why they are on the hunt for Alita, the film started off pretty confusing. But as it progressed, it eventually started to make some sense.
Humorous at times, and entertaining all the time, Alita: Battle Angel promises to leave lovers of sci-fi feeling gratified. It does however wrap up very suddenly, taking me by surprise. English singer Dua Lipa supported the release of the film with a song titled ‘Swan Song’ that plays as the credits roll. The open ending leaves room for the potential sequels, so stay tuned as James Cameron has some exciting stuff for us ahead (Avatar 2 and 3 are in progress with two more confirmed *heart rate increases*).
Twenty years in the making, some film critics say Alita is past its sell by date. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed this film, but I recommend hitting up your nearest cinema to make the call for yourself and unleash your adventurous side.
Alita: Battle Angel is in cinemas now!