Battle Angel: Alita Review
James Cameron made quite a few hit films. Terminator, which was awesome, Titanic, which I haven’t seen, but the song is awesome, and Avatar, which...looked nice.
His next upcoming film, which apparently he has wanted to make for over a decade, is called Alita: Battle Angel.
You’ve probably seen the trailer for it, and thought, “Wait, why are her eyes so big?” I’ll get to that later, but the most obvious answer is that it’s based on an anime, called “Battle Angel: Alita”, which is based off the manga with the same name.
I was very curious about what this story is about. What part appealed to James Cameron the most? Will it be robots fighting people, like Terminator? A teenage have/have not love story, like Titanic? Or a pretty atmosphere with humanoid beings with a pretty boring story, like Avatar?
So I watched the anime, which appears to be two half-hour episodes glued together to make a full story. And now I wanna talk about it, and then we’ll talk about the live-action film in another post, because this is a pretty long review.
On YouTube I found a UK and a US dub of the movie. They are a bit different with the transitions and pronunciation of proper nouns. Between the two, I recommend the US version, which is what this review will be based on. The UK has less annoying voices, but the US version has the better script.
Battle Angel: Alita Anime Summary:
The following is a quick summary of the two-part anime. It's not spoiler-heavy and it cuts out a lot of the real juicy stuff.
Battle Angel: Alita is about a little girl cyborg named “Gally”. There is no “Alita” and she is referred to as “Battle Angel” once in passing by a character she never meets. Interestingly, in the UK dub, Gally is renamed “Alita”, and all the other proper nouns are pronounced slightly differently.
The movie begins in a scrap heap where a cyborg-doctor named “Ido” finds a barely-alive Gally, and gives her a new body. Ido looks like an anime-style Gary Larson drawing, and no one else looks that cartoon-ey.
Cut to Gally, all adjusted to her new body. Then she meets Yugo, who was working on the roof. Yugo is an Aladdin-type ruffian whose only dream is to live in the floating city in the sky, Columbia, I mean Salem/Zalem (Zah-lem). I don’t like him. I think he’s annoying, whiny, and selfish.
“Zalem” is a city floating in the sky above Scrap Iron City, where everyone is rich and merry. It has a giant butthole in the center, where it dumps all the unwanted leftovers, which feed and provide for everyone below it.
Not to get political here, but it cannot be more on-the-nose of the “trickle down effect”, the politicians try to convince us “works”.
Meanwhile, just about everybody is a cyborg or has cybernetic implants... which I guess is a cyborg by definition. Ido was from Zalem, but left. Also from Zalem and left is Shirene, who was, quote, “his former partner”. Does Ido mean “lover” or “colleague” by that? We don’t know. Probably both, though; Shirene gets around.
Ido uses his expertise to be a doctor to these cyborgs, and is very lax in payment. That’s because at night, he is a bounty hunter. Bounty hunters have taken the role of the police.
Gally finds out and wants to be one, too, after tailing Ido one night and saving him from a junkie. Criminals in this world are junkies who eat brains, and thieves who steal spines among other body parts. Spines are one of the few things science can’t replicate with synthetics. In fact, Ido was after a serial killer who has been farming spines.
Of course, Gally is no ordinary cyborg, she’s an anime cyborg! So she yells and jumps and bad guys explode! It’s really cool and can get kinda gory!
As typical with these stories, Gally doesn’t remember her past and her fighting abilities were instinctual. But after she kills those goons she mumbles to herself some ominous things, hinting at a certain level of bloodlust, possibility connected to her past.
That’s about as far as Gally’s plot goes before I have to touch on the other characters.
Ido has a whole backstory we only get hints at. He and Shirene were partners back in Zalem. Her first scene is with Ido and she calls him a fallen angel because he came from above and helps the civilians for free. She hates Scrap Iron City and the people, and asks why he doesn’t want to return to Zalem. He doesn’t really give an answer as far as I can tell, but it’s clear he prefers living down there, which makes him the only character to be content with his life.
That’s about as far as his character goes. Near the beginning he has a falling out with Gally, after she told him about wanting to be a bounty hunter. He acted very possessive of her, saying her “precious hands shouldn’t be soaked in blood”. Then Gally points out that that’s kinda creepy: she’s not his toy and leaves. When Gally returns a couple days later, they make up.
All in all, Ido’s job is to be Gally’s moral compass and guide until she figures it out herself. His past seems like it could be a kick-ass story, especially because it’s kind of hinted that he might have a clue why Gally is so strong.
Shirene is next and she has two goals: 1) to one-up her former partner, Ido, and 2) to return to Zalem.
In order to get to Zalem, Shirene finds a man named Vector. He is one of the few people able to get someone to Zalem and agrees to do so if she modifies his gladiators in his coliseum. On a side note, Vector oversees shipments from the factory up to Zalem. The factory is the only way for people to make a decent wage, and what they make is sent up through a number of pneumatic-like tubes leading all the way up to Zalem.
One of the junkies survived the fight with Gally and returned to Shirene, asking to fix him. Shirene learns through him about the little girl that accompanied Ido and Shirene gets kind of pissed, so she upgrades the cyborg to be the strongest, deadliest cyborg she ever created. Obviously, it means “Doc Oc” tentacles.
Shirene then invites Gally to fight him. Gally destroys the cyborg monster by yelling and running around.
Shirene returns to Vector and tells him about what happened. Vector tells Shirene to capture Gally and then she’ll get to go to Zalem. He’ll use Gally in the gladiator ring and call her “Battle Angel”. Shirene ends up kinda just stalking Gally for the next bit of the movie.
The Last character is Yugo. For the first half of the movie we learn that he had a brother who tried to get to Zalem and he hates the people here and the city and his only wish is to go there, even if he’ll be homeless. He’s also a hard and dedicated worker who does maintenance on people’s houses, at least 40 a day. He and Gally hang out in bits throughout the movie. He shows Gally around and they become friends. It’s not long before Gally realizes she loves him.
Yugo almost has enough money to leave Scrap Iron City. He made a deal with Vector that he’ll send him to Zalem for 10 million chips/credits. Three years later and he’s only 500,000 short. Yugo confesses that his brother tried to get to Zalem in a balloon. On the day it was ready, bounty hunters killed him because his wife, Yugo’s sister-in-law and only other family, ratted him out. Yugo took his brother’s hand and replaced it for his own as a “keepsake”.
Gally sympathizes with the sister-in-law, saying that if her lover was more obsessed with Zalem than his love for her, then she’d probably have killed him and it’d be the lesser of the two pains to deal with.
This is obvious foreshadowing that he probably should let Zalem go. But Yugo doesn’t see these red flags, because he’s too obsessed. Gally confesses her love for him and he says he loves her too, but it’s clear that he’d rather get to Zalem. Nevertheless, Gally offers to give him her bounty hunting money so Yugo can get out of Scrap Iron City.
This is about 75% of the movie and it's as far as I'll go, so as to not spoil the biggest and best parts, and possibly the end of the upcoming movie. Sufficed to say, it shifts into high gear and goes out banging. I highly recommend giving it a watch if you are at all intrigued how this all ends. I promise, I left out the really good stuff.
Next time, I will talk about my thoughts and hopes for the live-action film coming in December.