Alita: Battle Angel

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Alita: Battle Angel

Runtime 130 minutes

Back in the day, when Hollywood was dominated by the moguls, movies were made out of great literature, or at least bestsellers, like Gone with the Wind, Rebecca, From Here to Eternity, and Doctor Zhivago. The movies were intellectually uplifting involving interesting characters and great events.

Maybe two or three decades ago, after the moguls were gone, the people who run Hollywood apparently didn’t have the attention span to work with literature, so they turned to things they understood, comic books, and today that’s where movies come from. Oh, they call some of them “graphic novels,” but they are just comic books without depth. They are bereft of intellect, interesting characters, and great events. This thing is just another in a long list of absurdist rubbish.

… the idea is total codswallop.

One would think that human beings in the future would be smarter than human beings today. Wasn’t that one of the main points of Darwin’s The Origin of the Species? Wasn’t the idea that evolution continued to, well, evolve into better and better specimens?

Alas, this movie has some bad news. The titular (you should pardon the expression) Alita (Rosa Salazar) is a machine (or cyborg) who is human from the neck up but her body is made up of machinery and wires electricity and stuff like that with no female parts.

After Christoph Waltz as Dr. Ido (“I do,” get it?) finds her head in a scrapheap in the dystopian future world and reconfigures a mechanical body to work with her head that was still surviving, she almost immediately meets Hugo (Keean Johnson) who is a red-blooded boy in the future. If there is a dumber human being in this future world you’re going to have to go a long way to find him because Hugo falls in love with Alita. Apparently he never thought about how he would make love to a machine, but it was a question I was asking myself throughout the movie because Hugo loves her so much that he is willing to risk his life for her.

There was another movie about a beautiful cyborg with a female’s face and shape, Ex Machina (2015), in which Alicia Vikander played the cyborg. That’s the only movie about a machine that I really liked (except for this year’s Bumblebee). That movie, however, although it involved a machine that looks like a beautiful woman, did not have its sexual attraction as a key component of the movie. This one does and the idea is total codswallop.

Producer/writer (with director Robert Rodriquez and Laeta Kalogridis) James Cameron has gone off the deep end since his enormous success with Titanic (1997). He has concentrated his talents on movies featuring special effects and CGI. When he’s creating otherworldly creatures, that’s one thing. But when he creates machines and tries to sell the idea of a human being having romantic feelings about a machine, he’s gone way beyond the pale.

This thing is full of the fights that are a trademark of this revolting genre between machines who don’t feel pain and whose demise generally depends on whether they are good machines or bad machines. Some of them die from lethal blows and others just shrug them off and keep on boppin’.

The story is OK (good v. bad) but because the outcome is so obvious there’s not a scintilla of tension. Do you really think that this wisp of a girl-shaped machine isn’t going to be able to subdue six or more huge cyborgs who take her on? If so, this movie is aimed directly at your intellectual level. Next for you? Kindergarten, if you think you can handle it.

Tony Medley is an MPAA-accredited film critic. See more reviews at


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