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Flicks With Nicki – ‘Alita: Battle Angel’

D'ish Editor's Pick Flicks With Nicki

Flicks With Nicki – ‘Alita: Battle Angel’

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Nicki Salcedo


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First, let’s clear up some terms.

I’m a “human,” born and raised on Earth. Vulcans and E.T. are aliens, lifeforms from other planets. Androids are robots. Think R2D2, and remember that androids are 100 percent machine. Cyborgs are part human, part machine. The original Terminator T-800 played by Arnold Schwarzenegger is a cyborg.

Alita (Rosa Salazar) is an abandoned cyborg with no memory. She must discover who she was and who she is destined to become. The movie is based on a manga series by Yukito Kishiro.

One last definition: Manga is a style of graphic novel or comic book from Japan. There are more definitions regarding manga, but what matters is that manga stories are usually quite complex.

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I wanted to trust this adaptation because it was produced by James Cameron (The Terminator) who created my first favorite cyborg, the T-800. The director, Robert Rodriquez, is best known for “Sin City,” an adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel series. I also like Rodriquez because I’ve seen “The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl” and the “Spy Kids” movies a hundred times.

I wanted to love this movie.

Ido (Christoph Waltz) finds a cyborg head in a trash heap, and it’s actually quite beautiful. He brings Alita to life using a recycled body in a montage worthy Victor Frankenstein and Pinocchio’s father Geppetto. Alita wants to remember where she came from, but Ido wants to keep Alita hidden. Of course, he immediately takes her out into the world. She falls for Hugo (Keean Johnson). Her neuro-processors aren’t in alignment yet, but she’s got a boy crush on the most resourceful kid on the block. He has doe-like human eyes, but there’s no chemistry. Hugo shows her around Iron City. Naturally, she will sacrifice everything for him. Alita stares awkwardly and fawns over him because men wrote her character. I waited patiently for the battle scenes.

Even though she has no memories, she compensates with great fighting instincts. In this future, sports are extra exciting. Imagine the X-Games, roller derby, rugby, and basketball have a steampunk baby and called it Motorball.

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Alita learns that she’s a 300-year-old soldier, and her new goal is to get Hugo to the floating city called Zalem and not to find out why she was thrown out with the trash. WTH? The film forgets that the audience still wants to know where she came from, are there more of her, why was she destroyed? Instead we get a dystopian Hallmark movie. The visuals are fine, but not innovative. It’s cyberpunk with mechanical gears that create a steampunk flair. Unfortunately, like the Tin Man in “The Wizard of Oz,” the story lacks heart. Actually, it has an important mechanical heart and a human brain, but the story does not question whose brain and why Alita has the most amazing heart ever.

I almost wanted Thanos to appear, crush her heart and turn it into an infinity stone. That did not happen. But it should have.

Jennifer Connelly plays Ido’s ex-wife whose existence is shaped by tragedy years before. She’s in cahoots with pseudo-villain Mahershala Ali. I say pseudo because I adore him so much, and this film has 10 villains.

The story should’ve delved into the man versus machine theme. What makes us human? What makes us become machines? Alita has a human brain and is never allowed to use it. Being a great fighter actually made her less human.

Though I liked the fighting scenes, I spend much of the movie distracted by her face. I get that the creative team behind the movie was trying to capture the stylize art from the source material, but why are her cyborg eyes that big? The alien from Area 51 called and wants her eyes back.

Should you see “Alita: Battle Angel?” I’m always going to tell you to see movies. Movies are fun even when I don’t 100 percent love them. Do you enjoy action and fighting? I do.

There are about 30 minutes in the middle when you can take a quick nap. The movie was much too long, and the ending might make you throw your popcorn at the screen. Some viewers called it a cliffhanger, but by the time Alita raises her sword for the final time, I’ve forgotten who I was cheering for.

Grade C. Interesting and weird futuristic world. Good action. Next time, they should double the money spent on the script and half the money on the CGI. By the end of the movie, I learned something about myself. I think it’s ridiculous for a woman in stilettos to walk across Piedmont Park, but I find it believable when a man finds a cyborg head in a trash heap. Because cyborgs should be fun. Alita just wasn’t fun enough.

Did you see this movie? Loved it? Hated it? Have complicated thoughts about it? Let us know in the comments.

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