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'Alita: Battle Angel' portrays a not-so-divine post-apocalyptic world

Liza Yosephine
Liza Yosephine

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Thu, February 7, 2019  /  10:03 am

Set in a post-apocalyptic world that followed a hinted destructive outer space war, Alita: Battle Angel follows the journey of the titular Alita (Rosa Salazar) as the disembodied cyborg core who not only unearths her old body but also re-discovers the mission of her existence. 

Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz), the compassionate surgeon who performs his services on less-than-fortunate cyborgs, finds a still-functioning core among the junk accumulated in the scrap yard and brings it back to life with parts he had previously created.
 
Upon awakening, the young cyborg girl has no memory of herself or her past, which the doctor said is technically still stored in her system and would eventually come back in time.

But with a perceived fresh start in a new life while she searches for her identity, Ido names her Alita, which is later revealed to be the name of his murdered daughter.

Ido treats the revived cyborg as his own daughter, including by trying to protect her from the dangerous streets of Iron City. It isn't until Alita falls into battle and instinctively fights with highly sophisticated skills and formidable strength that she starts to question her real identity and purpose.

Adapted from Yukito Kishiro's manga Battle Angel Alita, known in Japan as Gunnm, producers James Cameron and Jon Landau brought the heroine to life to deliver dazzling battle sequences with thrilling visual effect and captivating action in the 20th Century Fox flick.

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Salazar's performance as the young cyborg, which she delivers with motion capture, is compelling and enjoyable as she carries the film firmly from start to finish. Alita is a vibrant and driven cyborg, almost human-like, to the extent that she even falls in love with a young man named Hugo (Keenan Johnson).

The teen love story adds a layer of drama to the cyberpunk action narrative, as Hugo opens Alita's eyes to some of the mysteries of the past, as well as drawing attention to the city of Zalem, which hovers above the sky where the rich and privileged live. 

The relationship between cyborg and human is an odd touch, but does the job in being one of the motives and driving forces behind Alita's self-discovery. This includes through Hugo encouraging her participation in the deadly gladiator-style motorball game that eventually brings her to her core mission, as hinted in the film, with the anime adaptation ending with an obvious cliff-hanger leaving the way open for a sequel. 

Directed by Robert Rodriguez, the spectacle reaches violent intensities, with some action sequences containing gruesome scenes as fights unfold.

Supporting villainous characters Vector (Mahershala Ali) and Dr. Chiren (Jennifer Connelly) heighten the emotions, as the duo provide a glimpse of the real puppeteer behind the post-apocalyptic societal system. 

For all the action and impressive special effects, the sci-fi flick is best enjoyed on the big screen. (wng)