Cybernetics, a dystopian future, and cyberpunk themes—while not new in cinema, the current trends in technology make them more real than they’ve ever been. James Cameron has brought something that will redefine Hollywood animation movies, as well as leave the audience a powerful message through Alita: Battle Angel.
From manga to film
Based on Yukito Kishiro’s Gunnm, a Japanese cyberpunk manga series published in the 90s, Alita: Battle Angel follows its eponymous female cyborg who lost her memories and was found in a junkyard by cybernetics doctor Dyson Ido. Cameron was enamored with its unique plot, leading him to acquire the rights for a film adaptation. It stayed true to its source, doing the manga and its anime series justice. The critically acclaimed director behind Avatar and Titanic, along with Twentieth Century Fox, picked the franchise up over 15 years ago, but the title took a backseat to an Avatar sequel. Originally titled Battle Angel, co-producer Jon Lan wanted to put the heroine’s name for audience recall. Completing the high-caliber production team is director Robert Rodriguez and writer Laeta Kalogridis.
Facts about Alita
Voiced and portrayed by American Horror Story actress Rosa Salazar, Alita is a robot with mechanical parts but convincingly acts according to human behavior. Adopting the body structure of an adolescent girl patterned from Dr. Dyson Ido’s daughter, Alita has an antimatter heart which serves as her main power source. Unlike any mechanical robots that we’re used to seeing in pop culture, she is equipped with a fully intact human brain, can feel emotions, learn skills, and make decisions like a human. She can even eat food and break it down into nutrients that her cyborg body needs.
In terms of character, Alita displays grit, principles, and resilience, balanced by compassion and love (spoiler alert: she has a super handsome love interest Hugo played by Keean Johnson). The movie has strong themes of equality, and is against oppression of innocent people which is timely and relevant. Displaying a wisdom beyond her childlike features, the 300-year-old cyborg has a hidden talent in motorball and becomes a bounty hunter in her pursuit of self-identity.
As a former warrior trained to combat enemies in Mars, she has an exceptional knowledge in the Panzer Kunst, a martial art used by cyborgs. It is also considered as the most efficient form of combat in eliminating larger opponents. However, practitioners of Panzer Kunst are now extinct which clues in viewers to the truth about Alita’s past.
When tech meets filmmaking
James Cameron has time and again created work that leaves the audience awestruck. The movie’s futuristic setting is brilliantly created, combining the beauty of computer-generated imagery (CGI) and live-action. Symbolism is abundant, as the contrast of the desolate outlands and futuristic metropolis is played up thanks to carefully chosen colors.
Creating the visual spectacle that is this movie required the right technology. This explains the long production time from casting, shooting, mapping out actions from actors to their characters, and rendering all the animation. It’s immersive and hyperrealistic, with human imperfections such as pores, blemishes, and messy strands of hair. To fully enjoy its unique innovations and add more immersion, Cameron suggests the audience to watch the film in
Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE March 2019 Issue.
Words by Jewel Sta. Ana
Photos and Poster courtesy of 20th Century Fox