When Alita (Rosa Salazar) awakens with no memory of who she is in a future world she does not recognize, she is taken in by Ido (Christoph Waltz), a compassionate doctor who realizes that somewhere in this abandoned cyborg shell is the heart and soul of a young woman with an extraordinary past. As Alita learns to navigate her new life and the treacherous streets of Iron City, Ido tries to shield her from her mysterious history while her street-smart new friend Hugo (Keean Johnson) offers instead to help trigger her memories. But it is only when the deadly and corrupt forces that run the city come after Alita that she discovers a clue to her past – she has unique fighting abilities that those in power will stop at nothing to control. If she can stay out of their grasp, she could be the key to saving her friends, her family and the world she’s grown to love. — (Promotional text)
This movie is based on the manga series Battle Angel Alita by Yukito Kishiro (which I recently commented). James Cameron had been interested in the story for a long time (he optioned the titled in 2000 and used it as inspiration for his TV series Dark Angel) but, being too busy with Avatar and its sequels, he passed the directorial torch to Robert Rodriguez. It is a good thing that Cameron and Jon Landau waited to produced Alita because it gave them the time to perfect the motion-capture CGI technology with Avatar. The type of fast action combat scenes needed to adapt the manga would not have been possible otherwise. It also gave them time to work on the script to make it shorter.
It’s an excellent movie, with superb special effects and great storytelling. It is both entertaining and compelling. They succeeded to tell the story within two hours while keeping enough elements of the manga to be faithful. I was afraid at first that they would not be able to adapt the story properly, but all the essential themes are there: the identity quest, the love story, the desire to protect the weak against evil, the dark post-cataclysmic world, the hopeful cyberpunk technology, the fabulous combat scenes, even the social comment about the stupidity of war and social inequity.
The only major changes are that they explain early in the story the cause of the Earth’s destruction (the war between Earth and Mars — in the manga they just mentioned that Earth was hit by a meteorite without saying, at first, that it was intentional) and the nature of Alita (a martian soldier/berserker). Hugo (Yugo in the manga) also appears in the beginning of the movie (while he only appears in chapter eight in the manga). Most of the changes are minor and without consequence: Ido names Alita (Gally) from his dead daughter (instead of from his dead cat), his ex-wife Chiren doesn’t appears in the manga (that character was created for the anime), his assistant is different (she looks more like Myra, the doctor who replaces Yugo’s hand in chap. 10 of the manga), the Berserker replacement body is not found by Alita but by Ido, the speech in the “Kansas” bar to try to get the Hunter-Warriors’ help against Grewishka (Makaku) is made not by Alita but by Ido (who still has his Zalem symbol on the forehead in the manga), etc. The movie also adds the fact that Nova can see and speak through Vector. Despite those few differences, the movie seems quite similar (even more if we compare to the anime version, Battle Angel).
Annoyingly, the movie ends on a sort of cliff-hanger: will Alita succeed to reach Zalem and get her revenge from Nova? That’s what we will know in the sequels — if they are ever produced. It all depends on the success of the first movie. Despite mixed reviews, it seems that it was well received (the sales more than doubled the budget and ratings were good enough on IMDb [7.4] and Rotten Tomatoes [60% for the critics but 93% for the audience]). For my part (but I was already an Alita fan), I think it was an excellent adaptation and I enjoyed it greatly. I warmly recommend it.
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