Alita: Battle Angel

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Battle Angel Alita finally gets its Hollywood unveiling as Alita: Battle Angel, a cyberpunk Manga (Japanese comic) that James Cameron first opted to adapt in the early 2000.

After getting stuck in development and production backburner, Alita comes to the big screen courtesy director Robert Rodriguez, with Laeta Kalogridis and James Cameron (also the producer) serving as writers.

In this film, the “Cameron” brand does what it does well: deliver a well-made, technology pushing sci-fi entertainer which is also paisa wasool.

Adapted from a long line of Manga volumes and series from Yukito Kishiro, the movie adapts a big chunk Alita’s manga volumes into a 122 minute long film, so one has to sit tight because a lot story speeds by. This also brings an inherent flaw to the movie: its emotional interaction and resolution feels rushed.

The story begins in the year 2563 in a dystopic cultural melting pot called Iron City. Here resides Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz, quite good in the role). Dr. Ido is a repairman/doctor for cyborgs. While sifting through the junkyard for parts, Dr. Ido discovers a broken cyborg with its head, heart and human brain still working. He fixes her up and connects this bare bone shell to a cyborg body, and names her Alita (Rosa Salazar, entirely performance captured). As we later learn, Alita was after her dead daughters’ name. Alita, fully functioning as a cyborg, is amnesic, remembering nothing of her past except a few glimpse.

Ido and Alita develop an instant father/daughter relationship. He takes care of her, tries to shelter her from the lawless world of Iron City, where bounty hunters called Hunter Warriors control criminal offences on higher ups’ whims.

Their superiors are literally floating in a city above Iron City called Zalem, where the wealthy reside. Collecting enough credits or wining the Motorball – a high-speed futurist rollerblading game – anyone can go up to the city and live a better life.

Alita, like an average teen wants to hang out with friends, has a boy she likes (Keean Johnson, playing Hugo), and does almost everything her surrogate father does not want her to do. Soon she clash with Hunter Warriors Grewishka (performance captured, Jackie Earle Haley),a giant cyborg, and Vector (Mahershala Ali), the main man who runs Motorball.

Alita: Battle Angel is a completely Hollywoodized version of the original story and its arcs, so a lot of liberties are taken with the adaptation. While the concept is the same, the execution suits the blockbuster trends of summer event films with big fights, twists and build ups for more films to expand to.

Alita: Battle Angel comes off quite balanced for a worldwide Hollywood movie watching audience. The visual effects are stunning, even mindboggling. Most of it is such expertly blended that after a few minutes, one forgets that Salazar is completely performance-captured. The action sequences are big, fantastic, detailed and gruesome and it’s a bit surprising that the film has a PG-13 certification. Rodriguez shows able hands with this big budget studio venture, and does not disappear under Cameron’s gigantic presence.

The film is better than the past misguided manga and anime adaptions Ghost in the Shell and Death Note; in fact is functions as the perfect, less serious sister to classic cyberpunks Blade Runner, Minority Report and A.I.

Alita: Battle Angel makes the beginning of the year feel like summer. A complete masala entertainer that doesn’t want you to search for weighty soul-searching, man-machine philosophies.