What do you think of when you see a slender, young, doe-eyed woman with a fragile frame? One often associates that image with weakness and an inability to defend themselves. Now what happens if that slender woman is not human at all, but a cyborg? The association then changes to one of programmed strength and power, along with an inability to feel, yet alone, empathise.
Alita: Battle Angel proves that both perceptions are merely stereotypical and not a ‘one-size-fits-all’. The film, which took nearly twenty years to see the light of day, releases in cinemas on the 14th of February. Thanks to 20th Century Fox, we were invited to the New Zealand premiere and managed to catch an advanced screening.
Alita: Battle Angel is a cyberpunk action film based on the popular manga series, Gunnm, by Yukito Kishiro. Written and produced by James Cameron, and directed by Robert Rodriguez, the film is a visual and narrative spectacle that should be seen in the biggest screen possible, IMAX.
Set in the post-war torn junkyard metropolis, Iron City, the film follows Alita (Rosa Salazar), a female cyborg rebuilt by cyborg scientist, Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz), after finding her disembodied torso with an intact human brain. Unable to recall her memories, the film follows Alita as she learns about Iron City and attempts to recollect the memories of her past self. In doing so, she discovers that she was once a warrior trained in the ancient martial arts known as Panzer Kunst.
Alita: Battle Angel’s narrative and visual effects illustrate firsthand that though Alita may seem like a damsel in distress, she is in fact, a force to be reckoned with. The narrative depicts Alita as more human than cyborg, despite her incredibly martial arts skills. This adds to the feeling of kinship with the character as audiences are able to identify with what Alita experiences as she struggles to learn about the world, regain her memories, fall in love and subsequently find her inner strength to take on the big bad of the film.
In typical manga style, no one comes close to matching Alita in battle, making her almost a One Punch Man of sorts (if you haven’t read this manga or watched the anime, I highly recommend you do). This particular detail in the narrative made for a more entertaining watch as Alita: Battle Angel wasn’t just a typical cyberpunk action film, but one with elements taken directly from traditional manga and anime tropes.
It wasn’t just Alita who made the film an entertaining watch. All the characters were superb and well developed. I, personally, am glad the film took 20 years to produce and finally release as the casting choice made for a film that was thrilling. There wasn’t a single character who felt out of place, meaning that each of the actors did a fantastic job in their portrayal.
The character relationships, too, were of value as they added more human feelings and characteristics to Alita. The relationship between Ido and Alita and subsequently between Alita and Hugo (Keean Johnson) was a focal point of the film and added the much needed emotion to what could have been a mindless action film.
The visuals in the film were, of course, second to none. After all, with a film like Avatar in his repertoire it would be grossly negligent of James Cameron to not have another visually breath-taking film under his belt.
Alita, being a cyborg, was of course created via CGI technology, along with a host of other cyborgs in the film. The life-like way in which these cyborgs moved were so realistic that it almost felt like having cyborgs walking around in society was a norm and commonplace. True to Weta Digital’s form, the film was incredibly visually impressive, from the background scenery of the junkyard city that is Iron City, through to the futuristic and metallic surroundings of the motor ball arena.
It was essentially the visuals and aura of the film that truly made it feel like a true cyberpunk film. Had it not been for such fantastic graphics and effects, the film may have lost its lustre and fanfair. These graphics, however, were made even more obvious having watched the film in IMAX 3D. After seeing such detail in the film, it’s almost criminal to watch it on a standard screen.
Of course, what’s an incredible blockbuster without an epic soundtrack. The musical score of the film, aided in making Alita seem like an unstoppable force. The fight scenes especially were fantastic, the kind that would live audiences on the edge of their seats. I’ll admit that watching Alita perform martial arts was the highlight of the film for me and I appreciate the way her character will help usher in a new age of heroines for young girls. It wasn’t lost on me the way Alita was essentially the protector, working to keep Hugo safe instead of vice versa, something that we’ll all seen much too often in films.
Alita: Battle Angel captivated me. It’s been some time since a film has left me speechless and off guard, wanting desperately to see more. This film certainly had that effect on me. It may not necessarily be an award winning film but there were plenty of epic fight scenes, drama, and feel good emotions to make the film essentially an all round entertaining watch.
Alita; Battle Angel releases in cinemas this Thursday, which conveniently is also Valentine’s Day. Treat your special lady to a film that she’ll be able to identify with while your need for thrills are satisfied.