A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Alita: Battle Angel is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi action movie about a resurrected teen cyborg named Alita (Rosa Salazar). Expect lots of fantasy violence and fighting, including punching, stabbing, slicing, death, and blood (both red human and blue cyborg). Female characters, including Alita, are sexualized and objectified, sometimes in an unsettling way. There's some flirting and kissing between Alita and a young man. Language includes one "f--k" and infrequent use of other words like "crap" and "piss." A secondary character drinks whisky in more than one scene, a young man mentions having had a bit too much, and a secondary character smokes. Co-written by James Cameron, directed by Robert Rodriguez, and based on a manga by Yukito Kishiro, the movie is a guaranteed slam-dunk for fans of the above, but for others, it may feel lifeless and overly reliant on visual effects.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL, it's the 26th century, and the world has been devastated by "The Fall." Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) rummages through a scrapyard and finds a cyborg girl with an intact brain. He brings her back to his lab and gives her a new body, calling her "Alita" (Rosa Salazar). She's instantly drawn to a boy named Hugo (Keean Johnson), as well as to a violent sport called Motorball. Hugo secretly works for shady businessman Vector (Mahershala Ali), helping sabotage the professional Motorball matches; Hugo hopes to earn enough money to get to the utopian sky city of Zalem. As Alita begins to learn more about her past and discovers her fighting abilities, she enters a Motorball tryout. But the evil Nova has ordered her killed. Can Alita avoid an army of attacking cyborgs while saving the day?
Is it any good?
This juggernaut-sized sci-fi movie mechanically rehashes a huge collection of genre clichés while bashing its way through an onslaught of visual effects, bad dialogue, and dull, lifeless characters. Co-written by James Cameron and directed by Robert Rodriguez, Alita: Battle Angel feels lost in a bubble; it's clueless about the real world, about real emotions, or about any other, grindingly similar movies that have come out in the real world (Elysium, Ghost in the Shell, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Ready Player One, Mortal Engines, etc.). It's less like the characters are making decisions than they're being pushed through an automatic computer program. The movie has state-of-the-art visual effects, but they aren't enough to rescue Alita from seeming like a visual effect, rather than a character, all the way through.
The other characters aren't human enough themselves to reflect her supposed humanity. Perhaps worse, she's sexualized in an unsettling way, a little like the famous Maria robot in Fritz Lang's Metropolis, but creepier. Overall, Alita: Battle Angel seems to have practically nothing to say. Not even the post-apocalyptic setting appears to be warning humanity about anything in particular. Rodriguez' direction is competent, of course, and the action scenes are well-executed (except for one too many scenes of actors running through crowds and shoving extras aside), but the project isn't really much more than an empty, noisy, soulless, vaguely unpleasant special effects extravaganza.
Talk to your kids about ...
What's the appeal of the post-apocalyptic genre? What does it try to teach us? Do you think this movie is trying to teach viewers something in particular -- or warn them against something?
What does the movie have to say about social classes? Are classes meant to be different and separate? What keeps people from sharing with each other?
Do you think this movie is a good example of female empowerment? Is there a cost for the main character's power and freedom? Do you think the characters' relationships are healthy? Honest?
- In theaters: February 14, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: July 23, 2019
- Cast: Rosa Salazar, Mahershala Ali, Jennifer Connelly, Christoph Waltz
- Director: Robert Rodriguez
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Robots
- Run time: 122 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language
- Last updated: December 8, 2020
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