Allow me to preface this with one statement: I had zero knowledge of anything involving Alita: Battle Angel until seeing the trailer. Even when that came out, I still grasped no concept of what the film was. But I knew Robert Rodriguez was one of my favorite directors. And I also knew that James Cameron was not only producing it but co-wrote the film as well.
Alita: Battle Angel not only leaves you wanting more, but its a refreshing feeling to see great cinema not involved with Marvel or DC. That’s not a slight at either but a welcomed addition. From the fighting to the score, this film delivers and subverts classic tropes I wasn’t aware I enjoyed.
I won’t give too much away about this. It’s a story about Alita and who she can become. We don’t know her past and it’s for a reason. Robert Rodriguez does a brilliant job of allowing the audience to discover her past when she does. Mix in the supporting characters around Alita and you see it’s a story about Redemption. It’s a story about second chances and being able to make your own choices to become who you’re meant to become.
Alita also flipped my expectations (during the film since I had no preconceived notions) about what route Rodriguez would actually go. Again, I won’t speak too much about certain events that happen, but I will say I did NOT see certain things playing out. He truly made the story about Alita and not only did I appreciate that, but my daughter Avery did as well. She was on the edge of her seat the entire time and once the film ended, she and I couldn’t believe it. We were wanting it to continue because the story felt like it was just beginning. And I mean that in the best possible way imaginable.
It’s easy to see that Rosa Salazar was phenomenal in Alita. But what I appreciated about this film was that almost EVERY other character never outshined the main star Alita. Even with the love interest, it was always about Alita and her journey. But seeing character development through Dr. Ido & Chiren (Jennifer Connelly) was extraordinary. Both are on opposite sides of fallout due to a loss, but also grow within the film to prove to Alita that people can change.
Mahershala Ali, as Vector, was a welcomed villain even when we, the audience, know someone is behind him. Think if Palpatine was barely mentioned in A New Hope. You know the real villain is Vader but we have no idea why Palpatine is being sinister. So seeing Ali perform was spectacular. Add that Rorschach himself, Jackie Earle Haley, was another antagonist and it rounds out very talented cast. Just know that I’m keeping one out for spoiler reasons but wow, I am really hoping we get to see his character continue in this franchise.
With the amount of heart, in one instance literally, that this film has, it’s astonishing to witness. From the opening 20 minutes, we learn about Dr. Ido (Waltz) and the reason he cares about Humans and Cyborgs. We also meet almost all of our main cast which allows the film to dive into the themes the film conveys.
While I had no understanding of the source material, watching this film gave me what I needed. To see how character arcs played out and reading meaning into them, it was a satisfying surprise. The major themes of Alita delve into what it means to love, to fail, and to succeed. Within each of those themes come their very own subcategories:
Alita asks Dr. Ido whether or not a Human can love a Cyborg. And without missing a beat, he responds with “Does this Cyborg love a Human?” That response works beautifully. Alita is not human, therefore, it would be the same question of asking if a Dog can love a Cyborg. There is no real way of knowing. All that matters would be if the Cyborg can love something.
But Dr. Ido is a Human and clearly shows his love for Alita throughout the film. So he certainly shows that a Human can love a Cyborg. He displays his affection in a paternal way. And in that sense, a bigger question comes to mind: Can a Cyborg be your child? I truly think the film answers that in more ways than one. And Love is at its core of the main characters and reveals the humanity in others. But the theme of Love is explored within meanings in a more nuanced way. With Love, it leads to Passion, then to Loss. All three can be seen scattered throughout the entirety of the film.
“Why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” If you’re familiar with that line, then you can comprehend what Failure means in this film. Time and time again, the Heroes we can truly relate to are those that overcome failures in their life. What Alita accomplishes allows that failure to be present from the beginning. Without giving it away, to start the film with no reason for the WHY of Alita being found, it allows the audience to discover that journey WITH Alita.
There are several times that me and my daughter, Avery, were questioning how certain things would play out. But, in one of the best ways possible, a moment happens when you truly think Alita can’t prevail and yet, she does. I looked over to my daughter and she had the biggest smile on her face. I won’t spoil it, but just know that it involves a word only allowed to be spoken once in a PG-13 film, and it was glorious. What it proved was that even Alita failing in that way, she was picking herself up no matter the odds. With failure, comes redemption, then to purpose. Again, all three can be seen within the main characters of Alita, with Rosa Salazar truly shining in this role.
Not only is this theme prevalent within the film itself, but also how the film is with Audiences in our world. I can’t speak for other sites, but there was definitely an agenda against this film. And when you see it over-performing to great success, it means more for Cinema in general. But with Alita itself, succeeding comes at a cost. And to watch this theme play out was very rewarding.
But what does it mean to succeed? One has to have purpose and meaning in order to WANT success because it’s not easy. And in doing so, purpose and meaning come from within. It also sometimes comes from heartbreak and failure. So as you can see, major themes all lay the foundation of just how Alita succeeds in the film and in Cinema. It begins with the question “You’re Alive?” And it ends with a resounding answer: Yes! After all, moving from failure to failure without giving up is a winners quality. Rodriguez delivered on this theme in a major way and proved that picking yourself up is part of success.
Words aren’t enough to describe the action set pieces in this film. There were times where I didn’t know what was CGI and what was practical. And I was watching it in 3D. The cinematography and visuals were mesmeric. From the opening fight scene, we see that Alita won’t be a damsel in distress. Then to a bar fight which leads to basically a boss battle, we see even more action shining through.
The moment we get to the Motor Ball sequence, it’s such a heart-pounding experience. What I love is that even after Alita finds out what’s about to happen, she doesn’t quiver. She doesn’t question what for or what she did wrong. No, she simply looks around and prepares to fight. I cannot stress enough how tremendous the fight choreography looked throughout the entire film. It’s on a different level.
Lastly, everything throughout the film would have fallen flat, had Tom Holkenborg (Junkie XL) not produced a magnificent score. This was the first time I did NOT listen to a score before going into a film. I did that on purpose because I had no baseline to judge this film. I treated the score the same way to make sure I viewed Alita for the experience it was intending.
For me, personally, Junkie proved WHY he’s one of the hottest film composers next to Hans Zimmer. The score made all the personal moments shine, and the action moments break through. Hearing Alita’s theme played throughout made one resounding moment even bigger than what was on-screen. Together, Rodriguez and Junkie accomplished a visceral sound to match its stunning visuals. The describe the score in one word: Triumphant.
Alita is a breath of fresh air in today’s climate of Cinema. Watching this film, I felt love, loss, excitement, and hope, everywhere in the film. For my daughter, she was watching a powerful female character NOT involved with popular comics. That, for me, was the most rewarding thing to witness. There weren’t 20 films before Alita to finally get the go ahead. She wasn’t part of a team-up film either. She was her own film. She was her own franchise. And both Avery and I were very pleased with the outcome.
Robert Rodriguez truly delivered a great film in an Era where studios only want a cinematic universe. This film takes its time developing the character of Alita and when the film ends, it leaves you wanting more. From the score to its themes of redemption, Alita deserves to continue in more films. And with redemption and success introduced within Alita, it makes sense that her story isn’t truly over when the film ends. The only question left: Will we continue to see her journey of self-discovery?