Alita: Battle Angel Is Coming Back to Theatres
10/6/2020 • 4 min read
James Cameron (THE TERMINATOR, TITANIC, AVATAR) knows what he’s doing when it comes to making gigantic hit films. The fact that he spent almost two decades getting his adaptation of Yukito Kishiro’s manga “Battle Angel Alita” off the ground should tell you he saw something special in the material. In the end, Cameron produced and co-wrote the adaptation, ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL, with Robert Rodriguez (SIN CITY) directing.
When ALITA arrived in early 2019, audiences showed up, but not in the numbers required to assure a sequel. Those who experienced it the first time around were treated to a vibrant and dangerous sci-fi world and a tremendous lead performance from Rosa Salazar. It’s one of the best examples of live-action Anime ever made. If you missed ALITA, or if you’ve become a fan in the months since its original release, you’ve got another chance to see it on the big screen this year! Cinemark is bringing ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL back to theatres. Here’s why we’re excited to see it again.
Amazing Character Design
Rosa Salazar stars as Alita, a severely damaged cyborg brain dug out of a trash heap by Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz). With a new body provided by Ido, Alita tries to sweep the cobwebs out of her memory. Befriended by Hugo (Keean Johnson), the revived cyborg learns about the severely stratified society around her, and begins to discover clues about her own past.
Leading up to the release of ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL, press coverage highlighted the way director Robert Rodriguez and his team of special effects artists augmented actress Rosa Salazar’s natural features. They effectively transformed her into the title character by making her eyes bigger, her mouth smaller, reshaping her face and giving her an entirely unnatural robotic body. She’s still somewhat recognizable, but it’s essentially a mo-cap performance.
What audiences didn’t know, however, was the extent to which Rodriguez gave every robotic character in the film this treatment. Actors like Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Casper Van Dien, and Jeff Fahey (who steals all his scenes as the dog-loving Hunter-Warrior, McTeague) all appear with new facial features and totally replaced robotic bodies. Some of the performers are borderline unrecognizable. The effect brings an Anime aesthetic to the big screen without sacrificing real performances from actors we love. It helps that these augmentations all look super cool, too!
The Motorball Sequence
ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL doesn’t skimp on action, and its big centerpiece involves a fictional sport called Motorball. This is kind of like Roller Derby, except everyone has a giant robot body filled with knives and saws and a host of other weaponry. Usually, players just try to kill whoever has the ball. When Alita plays, however, her opponents have been paid to destroy her, whether she has the ball or not. We know Alita is tough, but the sight of her on the starting line, surrounded by huge, lethal robots who all want to kill her, make it clear she’s going to have her hands full.
Luckily, she manages to hold her own. Similar to the Pod Race sequence in THE PHANTOM MENACE, ALITA’s Motorball scene helps break up the film’s normal action with a high-speed sporting event where the odds are well out of our hero’s favor. Alita wants to win, but it’ll be all she can do to simply escape with her life.
An Engrossing Vision of the Future
The premise of ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL is fairly simple, but it has a lot going on underneath the main throughline. It begins with the story of a robot girl found in a trash heap and grows into a romance, a father-daughter bonding story, an action spectacle, and the tale of a girl embracing her strength and using it to write her own destiny.
On the way, we learn the ins and outs of a fun and weird underworld filled with bizarre robotic characters. Almost everyone in the movie wants the same thing: To ascend upward to a better life in Zalem, where the elite live without worrying about getting murdered by some crazed robot every time they turn around.
The world-building that supports ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL is one of its best features. Despite the obvious dangers, we want to spend as much time as we can in its dark streets and wild bars, learning everything about this strange version of the future. Alita’s story begs for a sequel, but we're happy to see it projected larger than life once again. And if Disney and Fox wanted to make a sequel or even another film that focused on McTeague and the other Hunter-Warriors, we'd stand up and cheer.
ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL returns on October 30!
All images courtesy of 20th Century Studios.