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