There are a few things to note about “Alita: Battle Angel” before getting into a critique. First, prior to movie they show a preview for a new “Men in Black,” which is very exciting. Second, 3D movie technology has apparently progressed quite a bit in the last three years and is now a bit disconcerting.
Now to proceed:
Basically, the movie is about Alita, a cyborg-slash-CGI person who is found unconscious and with no memories in a junkyard by Dr. Dyson Ido, played by Christoph Waltz, who takes her home to rebuild and raise as a replacement for his murdered daughter (Ido got some stuff to work through).
Unfortunately for the good doctor, Alita doesn’t want to be taken care of on account of her being a 300-year-old battle robot built on Mars who is extremely good at fighting and whose mission is to kill Nova, who rules Zalem, a city in the sky. He can control his minions with his mind and just kind of menacingly pulls strings behind the scenes.
There’s a few awkward bits where Ido tries to forbid Alita from one thing or another and she rebels, but eventually things settle down and after a few days Alita joins Ido as a bounty hunter —Ido’s a bounty hunter who goes after criminal cyborgs — and they, along with sweet local hoodlum Hugo, form the core group.
There’s also this sport called Motorball, which seems to just involve a bunch of cyborgs rollerskating around and killing each other, making for some top-notch fight scenes complete with “Matrix”-level dodges. Alita is very good at it.
Through her bounty hunting, Alita catches the eye of Nova (who she can’t remember at first) and a hit is put out on her. She fights, fights some more, finds a new high-tech cyborg body, enters a Motorball tryout, fights some more, becomes a Motorball star — it’s all very busy, in a good way. The only annoying parts come when it slows down so Alita and Hugo can flirt. Part two is coming soon, I’d imagine.
The movie is directed by Robert Rodriguez and, “Spy Kids” aside, it definitely fits in with the whole “Planet Terror,” “Machete” vibe, just more futuristic and with more robots. But he did a good job and there are only a few pairs of steampunk glasses, so that seems like a win.
The thing that throws me off about “Alita: Battle Angel” is the physical appearance of Alita herself. She’s completely CGI, which is fine, but she also looks, like, a lot like Instagram user lilmiquela, which is just weird.
There’s the same skin tone, similar face structure, almost identical hair, even the same oversized brown eyes. It’s just too much.
Lil Miquela, like Alita, is an animated cyborg who came out of nowhere to become a star. The only difference is instead of fighting mean robots, Miquela fires off fit pics on the internet and mingles with celebrities. And also makes songs maybe?
So why would the movie people make Alita look so much like an already established influencer? I guess it could be to attract the youths, but it still doesn’t make sense.
They could have dressed Alita in expensive clothes, but they didn’t. They could have done sponsored posts, but none are to be found. They even could have created a whole alternate reality situation where Alita is another version of Miquela — think a “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse” situation — but of course that didn’t happen either.
And that, to me, is a real missed opportunity. Alita front kicking her way to justice? Cool. Alita front kicking her way to justice in Balenciaga Triple S trainers? Oscar-worthy.
That’s not even mentioning the potential merchandising; Lil Miquela fans are the prime age to spend $85 at a pop-up shop on a long-sleeved Gildan T-shirt with sloppy graphics on it, and I’m sure James Cameron could spare a few grand for a shirt design. Just saying.
But instead, I’m left to watch this movie that’s utterly enjoyable for like 80 percent of its runtime, all while thinking about when Miquela was hacked by a rival cyborg named Bermuda then was forced to publicly come out as non-human, which eventually led to the debut of Ronnie Blawko and it’s really just too much a wormhole it was very distracting from Alita’s martial arts.
The point is, “Alita: Battle Angel” is good, and Lil Miquela is a fascinating examination of influencer culture, the power of social media and whether people actually care about Instagram stars as people or if they just like looking at pictures of pretty things. And the sequel needs to be a crossover.
Rating: Four Prada bags out of five. It was quite exciting.
Noah Ripley is a page designer at The News-Review. Reach him with movie suggestions, questions or anything else at 541-957-4205 or email@example.com.