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MOVIE REVIEW

Alita: Battle Angel

also known as “Alita - Angelo della battaglia,” “Alita - borbeni anđeo,” “Alita: A harc angyala,” “Alita: Ángel de combate,” “Alita: Anjo de Combate,” “Alita: Bojni angel,” “Alita: Bojový Anděl,” See more »
MPAA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPAA) for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language.

Reviewed by: Alexander Malsan
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Sci-Fi Cyberpunk Action Adventure Romance Adaptation 3D IMAX
Length:
2 hr. 2 min.
Year of Release:
2019
USA Release:
February 14, 2019 (wide—3,789 theaters)
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Relevant Issues
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Fantasy dystopian futures

Post-apocalyptic world destroyed by a technological fall

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Self-discovery

Empowerment

Idealism

Fighting to change the world

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False utopias

Corrupt governments and leaders

Cyborgs and robots

Murders

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Pursuit of justice

Compare to the justice of God

Attempting to save one’s friends

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Angels

Biblical angels

What else does the Bible teach about angels? Answer

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Featuring: Rosa SalazarAlita, a human-brained cyborg
Christoph WaltzDr. Dyson Ido, a scientist and Alita’s caretaker
Jennifer ConnellyChiren
Michelle RodriguezGelda
Mahershala AliVector
Ed SkreinZapan, a cyborg
Jackie Earle HaleyGrewishka, a huge cyborg
Casper Van DienAmok
Eiza GonzálezNyssiana
Lana CondorKoyomi
Jorge Lendeborg Jr.Tanji
See all »
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Producer: Twentieth Century Fox
Lightstorm Entertainment
See all »
Distributor: Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. Trademark logo.
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Article Version: February 23, 2019

The year is 2563. It has been 300 years since the Fall occurred. After the Fall, there was one city in the sky remaining, Zolem. The other city on the ground, the Iron City, was where many citizens were exiled. Let’s just say Iron City is not the most clean or wonderful city to live in. Some wish to live in Zolem, but are unable to do so.

Dr. Dyson Ido just happens to be one of those who live in the Iron City. He works as a cyber-kinetic surgeon (a doctor who specializes in building and installing cyber-kinetic body parts for those who have lost their original body parts). Dr Ido has been hard at work trying to find specific cyborg parts in a junkyard. There he discovers a fully functioning cyborg upper extremity (with an incredibly unprecedented human brain inside). So, what exactly is Dr. Ido up to?

It turns out Dr. Ido is trying to create a cyborg to replace his recently murdered daughter, Alita. And so, Alita (the name Dr. Ido gives her) is, well, for lack of a better term, born. Little by little Alita gets to know her surroundings and the people of Iron City. While defending herself in a fight, she receives a flashback—a memory of a past life as a solider of sorts. But from when? And what exactly happened that resulted in Alita ending up in the scrapyard?

It’s up to Alita to rediscover her past and her purpose, while discovering what it means to be a Battle Angel.

As others have pointed out, Director Robert Rodriguez is one who directs without limitations. When he directs or writes a film, he really goes all out. With an estimated budget of over $200 million dollars, “Alita: Battle Angel” is Rodriguez’s most expensive, and, might I say, most lavish films to date. So, when you have spent $200 million on the production of a film, you would expect the film to be near perfect in most aspects: use of CGI, a thorough and concise plot, amazing performances, etc. And sure “big-budget” films are, in many cases, a success: the Avengers films, “Pirates of the Caribbean” films (such as the “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” with a whopping budget of over $370 million dollars), the Harry Potter film series. The list is endless. But then, there are the big-budget films that prove that money doesn’t mean quality: “Justice League,” “Mortal Engines,” “Pan,” “Green Lantern,” “The 13th Warrior,” etc. “Alita…” falls in the latter.

While there are some terrific performances (particularly by Christoph Waltz and Rosa Salazar) and some amazing use of special effects, there are two things, in particular, that bring this film down. The first, as strange it sounds for an action film, is the violence. The violence in this film, while most of it involving cyborgs, is graphic at time (I’m surprised this film didn’t get an R-rating on the violence alone). It is excessive and gratuitous—at times completely unnecessary. The film barely takes a breath before diving into more extensive action sequences (think the “Terminator” but with less breathing room).

My second issue lies within the plot. There are far too many sub-plots, backstories, characters (some whom we never explore, but should) and issues that, while some are resolved, many are not (e.g., There’s a small sub-plot regarding Dr. Ido and his ex [?] wife Cherin and the surroundings involving their parting of ways that is really never explained). As I recently learned, the film tried to shove 4 novels into one film. A large undertaking, for sure, but an undertaking that doesn’t necessarily benefit the film. A good film has one main plot, follows it while providing some strong backstories, not multiple plots and sub-plots. But, I digress.

Content of Concern

Violence: Extreme. There is so much violence in this film that eventually I just gave up writing it all down (so be forewarned, this is NOT the entire list). There are multiple heavy sequences of violence involving Alita and other cyborgs. Some scenes involve cyborgs being dismembered (their heads, their entire bodies cut in half), including a rather intense, and often violent, game of motorball (think of street hockey and racing combined with swords and buzz saws). There is also a scene where Alita beats a cyborg to death. A dog is killed offscreen. A child in a wheel chair, in a flashback, is killed off screen by a cyborg. A character is stabbed to death. Again, there is so much violence that I will not go into everything in detail.

Vulgarity: Heavy. There are two, really odd, f-bombs (though some may only hear one), s-word (1), pr*ck (slang for male genitals), cr*p (4), p*ss (1) and p*ssed (1), “b*tch broke my nose,” “We should have jacked that b*tch”

Profanity: my G*d (1), H*ll (2)

Nudity: A girl is seen wearing some very tight lingerie leggings, and some other female characters wear provocative outfits. The exterior body of the cyborg-Alita character is in the form of a human teenage girl, produced for the film using photorealistic computer graphics animation. At one point in the film, Alita gazes into a mirror in the nude (in her human-looking teenage body). She is also unclothed when first seen, but nothing too graphic is shown and the emphasis is on her robotic interior.

Sex: Alita and Hugo share a kiss.

Other: Characters threaten to rip body parts off of cyborgs. Alita shows Hugo, a friend, her artificial heart. A mysterious character can inhabit, or possess, cyborgs and humans when necessary to interact with others.

Morals

Dr. Ido tries so desperately to bring back the memory of his lost daughter, Alita, through the cyborg Alita (even making her in his daughter’s likeness). A character named Cherin (Jennifer Connelly) stresses to Dr. Ido that the cyborg-Alita is not his daughter and there’s no way of bringing her back.

I was reminded that God has made each one of us as individuals. As such, no one is exactly like another person, because God made each of us in His image and according to His purposes, not ours. The Bible is clear…

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” —Genesis 1:26

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” —2 Corinthians 3:18

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” —2 Corinthians 4:6

And since our purpose is to serve the Lord, let us remember:

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” —Romans 6:6

“And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. …” —Colossians 3:10-15

Closing Thoughts

At the screening I attended Wednesday there were three other gentlemen who sat at the end of the row. They knew I was writing a review and asked about my thoughts at the conclusion of the screening. They were surprised by my critical response, saying, “You really needed to read the four novels before watching the film. That would have clarified things for you.”

I thought about this as I left the theater. Would having had read the novels helped in my review of “Alita…”? Perhaps. Then again, perhaps not. Even without knowledge of the book source, I should have been able to follow a simple, straightforward plot with terrific performances. Yes, I saw some terrific performances and CGI, but on the other hand I received a plethora of violence and a disorganized plot (i.e., too many sub-plots) with a less than satisfying conclusion. Due to content alone, I strongly advise you to avoid this film. There really isn’t any benefit in subjecting yourself to this film. Perhaps some things are best left in the novels.

  • Violence: Extreme
  • Vulgar/Crude language: Heavy
  • Profane language: Moderate
  • Nudity: Mild to Moderate
  • Sex: Minor
  • Occult: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive
Positive—I walked into the theater excited to see this. IT WAS A blast, so much fun. I don’t remember much objective content, besides violence and possibly swearing, but, in this day and hour, this movie is considered unheard of. …Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 3½
Chris, age 29 (USA)
Positive—This movie had lots of action and was not overly gory. There was lots of violence, but that was to be expected. Most of the violence was either implied, had little or no blood, or was cyborg upon cyborg. I heard one F-bomb and the “B” word used once. I didn’t hear any other curse words in the movie, so they could just as easily have left those 2 words out as well. There were no sex scenes, and there was no nudity. Just some mild kissing.

I wouldn’t exactly recommend bringing the church youth group to see this one, but I did bring some kids with me ranging in ages from 9 to 11. They enjoyed it, and so did I, even though that unexpected curse word hit us all in the face from way out in left field.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
Frank Bailey, age 50 (USA)
Positive—My husband and I saw this movie with our 21 year old son over the weekend, and we all enjoyed it very much. None of us were familiar with the books or any of the back story. I tend to be pretty sensitive to violence in movies, and while I agree that there were many instances of violent behavior in the movie, it was what I expected from a PG-13 movie with “battle” in the title. There was little to no blood, and most of the violence was against cyborgs. That being said, this is not a movie for young viewers. I agree with the reviewer that it was unnecessary to have the “F” word stated so strongly in one instance, but unfortunately that word is allowed one time in PG-13 movies, and it is to be expected, sadly.

I happened to enjoy all of the unknowns and subplots because, for me, a good movie-going experience keeps me thinking and makes we want to come back for more. I found the movie refreshingly unexpected in some ways and compelled to watch it again so I could pick up more details the second time around. The movie definitely feels like an introduction to the world and characters of Alita’s 26th century life, and makes me want to learn more. Some movies don’t follow the basic laws of movie writing, think Dunkirk, where the viewer is dropped into the story and needs to use their mind and other senses to figure out what is happening and how the characters are related. Sometimes a straightforward story can be a boring one.

I would recommend this movie to an older teen or adult audience who is looking for something new and interesting to watch.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
Kay F., age 55 (USA)

PLEASE share your observations and insights to be posted here.

Secular Movie Critics
…By the end of this derivative, heartless mess, you’ll conclude that a garbage dump is exactly where writer-producer James Cameron’s new project belongs. …
Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post
The long-awaited ‘Alita’ isn’t a good movie. It’s more like four lousy ones. …it’s baffling that the film goes to such lengths to show Alita’s sheer brutality. …[1½/4]
By Hau Chu, The Washington Post
…sure loves to watch machinery being ripped to shreds. But it's all uncomfortably close to the gruesome Flesh Fair from Spielberg’s “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence,” revamped as an ain’t-it-cool demolition derby with a charm-and-conscience bypass. …
Tim Robey, The Telegraph [UK]
…It’s a story with too many influences, no cohesion, no apparent narrative purpose. …
Gary Thompson, Philadelphia Daily News
…All the cutting-edge pyrotechnics in the universe can’t overcome the uneven (and ultimately unsatisfying) screenplay. …
Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times
…Do female cyborgs dream of breasts?… A pileup of clichés in service to technological whiz-bangery… There’s so little at stake in “Alita: Battle Angel” that it blurs into uninvolving spasms of visual and aural noise…
Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
…a tired science-fiction odyssey, with bland digital effects piled onto a sappy non-story that feels like a two-hour elevator pitch for a 70-film franchise. …
Darren Franich, Entertainment Weekly
…visually epic, but monotonous …is less than the sum of its slick parts.…
Phil de Semlyen, Time Out
…rarely translates into anything more than an impressive display of technical might…
Tim Grierson, Screen International
…pretty zappy effects…weighed down by a protracted, soul-challenged Frankenstory that short-circuits every time it gets moving…
Guy Lodge, Variety
…With tonal inconsistencies and poorly written characters, any awe inspired by “Alita: Battle Angel” is replaced with a profound sense of confusion. …
Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service
…“Alita: Battle Angel” can get a bit too stupid to bear, like watching a pair of 13-year-old boys play a very expensive video game they designed themselves. …
Barbara VanDenburgh, Arizona Republic
…For all its whiz-bang goodness, “Alita” is almost completely undone by its flawed script. …
Brian Truitt, USA Today
…“Alita” is a living cartoon of a film, which only makes its ridiculousness easier to absorb…
David Sims, The Atlantic