February 17, 2019 – This film, like “Ghost in the Shell” (2017) is based on Japanese comics and video animated stories, and each has its exotic elements. The story of Alita is the story of a cyborg who cannot remember her past, but does get flashbacks, hints of her past, when she is engaged in battle.
The story takes place in the far future on a post-apocalyptic earth in a place called Iron City which sits below a floating city called Zalem. Those who live in the relative squalor of Iron City consider Zalem to be a place like heaven, where the living is easy. Iron City residents, many of whom are part cyborg, live off the refuse from Zalem.
Wandering through this scrap yard under Zalem one day, Doctor Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) finds the head and torso of a cyborg which is still alive. He puts it into a body he had originally built for his daughter. When the cyborg (played by Rosa Salazar of “Maze Runner: The Death Cure”) awakens, but cannot remember her past, Ido names her Alita, after his murdered daughter.
Alita discovers that she is a skilled fighter, trained in an ancient martial art called Panzer Kunst, enabling her to best opponents who are bigger and stronger than she is. Despite Ido's warnings, Alita goes out at night alone into the dangerous streets of Iron City. There, she meets, and falls in love with a young man, Hugo (Keean Johnson of “Heritage Falls”) who is engaged in shady dealings.
She also secretly follows Ido and night and discovers that he is a Hunter-Warrior, a kind of bounty hunter. She decides to become a Hunter-Warrior as well. Her battle skills, however, make her a target of Grewishka (Jackie Earl Haley of “The Dark Tower”) a dangerous cyborg, and Grewishka's even more dangerous bosses in Zalem.
During her battles, Alita has flashbacks of being a soldier on a different planet (several planets in the Solar System are colonized). She uses her newfound memories and skills to enter an ancient spacecraft and retrieve a powerful cyborg body called a Berserker body. When her cyborg body is badly damaged by Grewishka, Ido puts her brain and heart into the Berserker body, greatly enhancing her power.
The film ends with a lot of plot lines and subplots left hanging. We do not learn about the puppet master in Zalem who seems to be pulling the strings of Grewishka and others below. We learn little about Zalem, or about Alita's past, or her future. The ending seems ripe for a sequel. The source material on which this movie is based seems ripe for a whole series of movies if this one remains popular.
I liked the main character, even though she is pretty sketchy, and I like Ido, too. I think these characters are strong enough to keep the series going, but I'd like to see an Alita movie that is better able to stand on its own.
The battle scenes work well and the computer graphics and motion-capture work are quite good. The film's visual imagination is arresting and there is plenty of action to go with the romance and other aspects of the story. This movie doesn't completely create a new world, but it goes at least half the way towards that goal. This film rates a C+.
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