Reviewed by: Alexander Malsan
Fantasy dystopian futures
Post-apocalyptic world destroyed by a technological fall
Fighting to change the world
Corrupt governments and leaders
Cyborgs and robots
Pursuit of justice
Compare to the justice of God
Attempting to save one’s friends
What else does the Bible teach about angels? Answer
… Alita, a human-brained cyborg
Christoph Waltz … Dr. Dyson Ido, a scientist and Alita’s caretaker
Jennifer Connelly … Chiren
Michelle Rodriguez … Gelda
Mahershala Ali … Vector
Ed Skrein … Zapan, a cyborg
Jackie Earle Haley … Grewishka, a huge cyborg
Casper Van Dien … Amok
Eiza González … Nyssiana
Lana Condor … Koyomi
Jorge Lendeborg Jr. … Tanji
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Twentieth Century Fox
See all »
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
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.
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.
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…
“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
And since our purpose is to serve the Lord, let us remember:
“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
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.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.