There was a time in my life, pretty much before I started practicing my faith, when I used to watch Anime (Japanese cartoons, basically) from time to time. While I have not kept up with the genre, I do sometimes go back and watch Robotech or Cowboy Bebop. The former of those two titles is the result of childhood nostalgia, and the latter is just cool (and the one I am really waiting for someone to make a movie out of). During my Anime days, I vaguely recall seeing the original Alita: Battle Angel but not remembering it well. I do not believe I liked it much, but there I was this past weekend headed to the theater to see the new live-action film version. I will say this about it before moving on: if the success of Alita: Battle Angel (either as a solid piece of cinema or in terms of its box office numbers) is any indication, be prepared for a Japanese invasion. Bring on Cowboy Bebop!
The title character of Alita: Battle Angel, Alita (Rosa Salazar), is a cyborg in the twenty-sixth century, an essentially post-apocalyptic time where (seemingly) the rich people live in a city in the sky and the poor people live on the earth’s surface with the rest of the junk. Alita comes from the sky, though later on you learn she is from Mars, and I naturally made the connection to an actual angel. On the other hand, in the context of the movie, that would make Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) God and that is not a comparison I am comfortable making (and that is nothing against Christoph Waltz). The reason why Dr. Ido would fulfill that role is because he takes the shell of Alita discarded from above and rebuilds her, as he appears to do with many others in his community. He even has several sage words of advice, particularly when admonishing Alita about her body: “It is just a shell. It is not bad or good. That part is up to you.” Well done. I call that Faith.
What particularly drew me to Alita: Battle Angel was Alita herself. In a world where practically everyone either has artificial parts or is seeking them, she is one of the least human people physically, but the most human spiritually. My faith encourages me to be good at all times, no matter what, and to be sacrificial if need be to accomplish that goal. At one point, Alita offers her mechanically beating heart to her erstwhile boyfriend, Hugo (Keean Johnson). She is willing to risk being literally torn limb-from-limb in defense of a small dog, a very Franciscan deed on her part (though St. Francis of Assisi never had to fight a giant cyborg). To be sure, there are many traits to her that make her out to be a rebellious teenager, and keeps the plot moving along. She also kills one of the villains a bit vengefully. Nonetheless, Alita maintains an air of innocence that I found refreshing.
Alita: Battle Angel is not perfect. It muddles through the middle a little bit as you keep waiting for what is pretty obvious is going to happen to occur (I will not spoil the ending, however). I was also a little annoyed with the fact that it seemed to just be a set-up for another movie. A film should be able to stand on its own and not have to rely on another to make complete sense. That seems a bit presumptuous on the part of the producers. In summation, though, Alita: Battle Angel‘s heart shines through and makes it worth a trip to the cinema.