How Alita: Bat­tle An­gel, the tale of a cy­borg and the doc­tor who adopts her, plans to blow your mind and warm your heart


Agonzo, big-bud­get col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween di­rec­tor Robert Ro­driguez and writer-pro­ducer James Cameron, Alita: Bat­tle An­gel prom­ises to de­liver more cy­ber­net­i­cally pumped-up ac­tion than a dozen Ter­mi­na­tors. There will be hy­per­vi­o­lent bat­tle royales be­tween metal-limbed ad­ver­saries, not to men­tion ‘mo­tor­ball’ se­quences that threaten to make Speed Racer look like ‘Slow Racer’. But at the heart of the story is some­thing much gen­tler: the re­la­tion­ship be­tween cy­borg Alita (Rosa Salazar) and cy­ber­physi­cian Dr Ido (Christoph Waltz), the hu­man who dis­cov­ers her dis­carded rem­nants in a scrap­yard at the start of the movie.

“He’s a wounded per­son him­self, who finds this core as he’s rum­mag­ing through the trash,” says Salazar. “And right away he has this con­nec­tion to this young, an­gelic face due to trau­matic events in his own life, hav­ing lost his daugh­ter. He brings her back to life, maybe think­ing, ‘This will fill the shoes that were left by my daugh­ter.’ And like ev­ery par­ent, finds out it’s not so easy.”

Ido not only teaches Alita about the ways of this fu­ture-earth, where mega-cities hover in the sky above and bounty hunters stalk for­mi­da­ble vil­lains, but uses his ex­per­tise to up­grade her body with in­cred­i­ble mod­i­fi­ca­tions. To give you a flavour of what’s in store, one shell she’ll be fit­ted with is monikered the ‘Berserker’.

Waltz is not ex­actly a tech per­son: “I have a smart­phone but I don’t do the smart things with it.” But he found the movie’s vi­sion of the fu­ture to be both ex­cit­ing and ter­ri­fy­ing. “The real world is be­com­ing more or less the Alita world, where strange ma­chines are tak­ing over,” he says. “I heard Elon Musk sug­gest the pos­si­bil­ity of in­ter­fac­ing hu­mans with ma­chines. He also wants to shoot peo­ple from Los An­ge­les to San Francisco in a tube. It would be fast, but it’s not for me.”

In fact, the world of Alita: Bat­tle An­gel does fea­ture the rem­nants of tubu­lar space el­e­va­tors not too far from Musk’s vi­sion. At first glance, the film’s por­trayal of the fu­ture is a dystopian one. But Ro­driguez and Cameron’s aim is to re­veal beauty amid the ma­chinepacked chaos, by let­ting us see through the eyes of Alita. “She pro­vides this new view into this trashy city, with all these losers and half-peo­ple and pieced­to­gether things,” says Salazar. “She’s this hope­ful ray of light, with a pow­er­ful heart and a love of life.” Plus, of course, Berserker tech. NICK DE SEMLYEN

to life.

Above: Dr Ido (Christoph Waltz) cre­ates Alita (Rosa Salazar), a cy­ber­daugh­ter to call his own. Be­low: Alita comes

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