Saturday, March 23, 2019

Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

There’s something about the future these days where it usually involves humanity’s downfall.  It’s odd how many movies have the planet’s population technologically worse off and a lot smaller than it is today.  In Alita: Battle Angel, there seems to be one city left.  There aren’t many people living there and the ones on the ground (Iron City) seem to live in relative squalor.  However, there is a great city in the sky (Zalem) where the people have it good.

It’s the 26th century.  The residents of Iron City produce goods for those in Zalem.  Many live in hope that they my get to move up, but that sort of thing doesn’t usually happen.   In fact, the only way to get up there is to be the best a roller derby-like competition.

Enter Alita, or what’s left of her.  Dr. Dyson Ido finds her head in a scrap heap.  By head, I mean a cybernetic skull and face with a human brain.  Amazingly, the brain has suffered no damage, despite having been there for who knows how long.  Dr. Ito is able to attach the head to a robotic body and revive her.  Unfortunately, she has no memory of her past life.

The movie comes across as the first part of a larger story.  The movie is based on the first few of a series of books.  Even if I didn’t know that, there would seem to be too many loose ends and not enough of a resolution.  Alita wants answers about her past.  We also never get to see much of Zalem.  (Everything is a wide shot and is usually from below.)

Comparisons to other movies aren’t undeserved.  Whenever I saw Zalem, I thought of Elysium.  The big difference is that we don’t actually see how the people live above.  The entire movie takes place on the ground.  The movie sets up a sequel and I have read that more movies are planned, so we probably will get to see Zalem at some point.  Still, having a population that’s divided based on class is nothing new.

The entire movie seems to be a vehicle for the 3D format.  I’m not saying it wasn’t entertaining, but it seemed to rely more on the visuals than the narrative.  In fact, I probably would have been disappointed if the movie wasn’t setting up Part II.  There are too many unanswered questions, like where Alita came from or how she managed to survive 300 years without a body.  This would seem to be the first act of a larger plot rather than a self-contained story.

I do think it’s a good start and is worth seeing in the theater.  I just wouldn’t go in expecting it to be like other movies.  In this regard, I think it’s a little unfair to compare it to other movies.  It does seem to be setting up a larger experience.

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