Alita: Battle Angel remains a film that promises for a delightful affair but falls short as it is in no way substantial enough to make us crave for a sequel
“I’m with her”, says Hugo (Keean Johnson). He wears a stunned look on his face as his girlfriend Alita (Rosa Salazar) has single-handedly and marvellously challenged and fought a group of hunter-warriors. This is not the only instance when Alita’s strength and agility have been depicted. There is a gradual progression, you can say, of depiction involving Alita’s skills, her past (where she is seen indulged in a battle) and the regaining of her lost glory (Well, almost!). Directed by Robert Rodriguez, Alita: Battle Angel, for most parts, remains enjoyable but in a deliberate effort to make a sequel, the movie seems to have held back far too many interesting portions of the story.
Based on Gunnm, a manga series by Yukito Kishiro, the film is set in the 25th century (20th Century Fox graciously presented itself as 25th Century Fox in the beginning). The premise is not too exciting and gives a been-there-seen-that feel. Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz) finds the remnant of an old cyborg in a scrap yard and rekindles the life in it by giving it a new body. The storytelling, then, moves on to delineate how this cyborg, Alita, slowly remembers what she used to be 300 years ago.
Backed by the screenplay rendered by James Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis, there is a conscientious effort of creating a nexus. Alita recalls being involved in a battle where suddenly a giant ring, encircling an enormous pipe, comes crashing down to take down a lot of those fighting over that pipe. We recall this scene when Hugo is climbing up this huge pipe with Alita following him trying to persuade him to come down and all of a sudden that giant ring comes crashing down. Hugo talks about a rugby-like sport called Motorball, in another scene, and says that “champion” gets to visit the sky city Zalem which is apparently controlling the city on the ground. We hark back to this when Alita suggests to Hugo that she will take part in the Motorball competition for him to be able to get to Zalem.
The movie is filled with style quotient. Hugo’s motorbike with a single wheel has a modish appeal to it. In another scene, Dr. Ido’s ex-wife Chiren (Jennifer Connelly) gets inside a car and as the car door opens, we see Vector (Mahershala Ali) sitting inside it. He turns towards the camera and the car door gets closed (It was depicted in such stylish manner). In another instance, Hugo takes Alita to a Motorball game in a stadium and she gets excited and thrilled by the super cool sport.
There is a sudden expression of mingled affability on Alita’s part when she first meets Hugo. But it does not blossom into an interesting or rather, I should say, satisfying romantic relationship as we do not yearn for them to be together. I hate to do a comparison but this triggered a reminiscence. I recalled the iconic romance between WALL-E and EVE from one of the greatest animated films of all time – WALL-E. I can’t remember a better courting scene between robots than this. Alita: Battle Angel does not involve robots per se. But the relationship between Alita as Cyborg and Hugo as a human just did not work out and it hardly moves us when Hugo dies after being attacked by a hunter-warrior. As a matter of fact, it is painful to see a dog getting killed when it comes in defence of Alita and starts barking at a hunter-warrior. Seeing a living being getting hurt or having a romantic relationship is relatable and does invoke feelings inside us. But, WALL-E is a classic example of a human-less yet emotional film. Alita: Battle Angel fails on this aspect.
Nova (Edward Norton), who is controlling the Zalem, can speak through Vector or a hunter-warrior by getting the access of their mind instantly. It seems interesting at first. In fact, he is the most important antagonist. But, all we get to see is his glimpses. A stolid-looking Nova is shown towards the end as he looks down upon the city on the ground from sky city Zalem. Also, as Alita gradually recalls her past, it gives us the chills momentarily. With the movie coming to a close, an unsatisfactory feeling sets in. More than a film, it seems like the first episode of a TV series. Even though the film’s writing has excelled in presenting a narrative with nicely crafted surprises, Alita: Battle Angel remains a film that promises for a delightful affair but falls short as it is in no way substantial enough to make us crave for a sequel.