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"Edward and Bella"? Oops just another mediocre love story...

Alita: Battle Angel

The trailer had piqued my interest….ever since Michael Mann’s genius film Manhunter, I have been fascinated with this theme of becoming. Like conscious evolution or perhaps just remembering who you were meant to be all along. Regardless, consciously metamorphosing into what your will and inner being desires is an intriguing topic to explore. I had thought Alita: Battle Angel was going to do this. But I knew there would be a problem when I saw it was rated “PG-13” and not “R”.

The existential paradox of a cyborg and growing transhumanist movement has frightened me at a primitive survival of the fittest level ever since I took a Cyborg Society class during my post graduate studies. The majority of the class were overly enthusiastic nerds, so to speak, that embraced the whole movement unquestioningly and just chalked it all up to the nature of “progress”. It all left me both sad and on edge realizing that these people who surrounding me were heralding in the extermination of their own species. Growing up very much immersed in science fiction and cyber punk era…I sided with the warnings of Skynet and HAL 9000’s. A Neuromancer life where identity was all binary code and lost somewhere in the digital realm upset me greatly, and internally my intuition saw the sadness of a sterile lonely efficient future where machines dictated our daily lives and people had no desire or know how to connect with each other any longer. THX:1138 is not a future I welcome with open arms.

However, there are times where the politics and “human” rights come into the AI conversation with Blade Runner, I, Robot and CHAPPIE where one feels sorry for forms of artificial intelligence when they become self aware and are programmed to be “less than” or virtual slaves. Again, I thought Alita would comment on this conversation and it did not.

During the first half they dabbled in this respect, but then somewhere halfway through it turned into Twilight, but with cyborgs in a pseudo Blade Runner/Elysium world. Borrowing genre conventions from the classics, this script seemed to be written by two different writers and directed by two different people. Instead of furthering the theme of disparity between “Meat Men” and “Metal Men” both being slurs from organic and cyborg beings respectively….it slipped into a very sentimental romance, which is fine, but falls short of any intelligent commentary a true science fiction piece would include.

I was also viewing this film from an auteur aspect and comparing it to Rodriguez’s other works, it just did not have the swag or style one would expect from Rodriguez. Save for one bar room brawl, the viewer would never even recognize him as the director. And if it was for the Roller action the trailer promised, you came for….save your 12 dollars…and re-watch the trailer because there was only one roller derby scene. Seriously….this whole concept of “Motor Ball” painfully rips off Rollerball (the 1975 classic starring James Caan)…if you want seriously amazing mind blowing sci-fi with commentary that is unbelievably more relevant today…watch or re-watch the 1975 original.

Aesthetically, I believe Alita just looked like a spawn of Smeagol with those eyes…not very original and not serving the story all that well. The bug eyes also made her quite juvenile that gave me the willies when she was conversing with her often-inappropriate “pseudo- dad”, (Christoph Waltz).

I am not addressing the original manga, that I am not familiar with, or the basic plot. I am also going to ignore James Cameron’s disappointing producing role….and the supporting cast that was painfully under developed and under-directed. All of which in hindsight are shortcomings of a project that I assume ignores fans of the manga and science fiction fans of James Cameron in hopes of making the most money by marketing it as an action teenage flick.

The above topics are all food for thought leading up to our festival theme and panel on “Constructed Identities” Will we as a species collectively question Ray Kurzweil and his desire to upload his consciousness to digital information? Or just unquestioningly welcome all forms of “progress” and the Singularity with open arms? Computers crash all the time…power goes out….Nature will always triumph over electricity and the wires and metal that hold that digital information. (Re: Transcendance….)

Bottom line, if someone were to ask me if I “liked it” I would reply with shrugged shoulders… “Meh…” (Interestingly, while spell checking…Word does not recognize the word “cyborg”…there may be hope yet!)


Stichting Manifesto Film Festival

Jacques Veltmanstraat 15

1065 EG Amsterdam The Netherlands