Alita: Battle Angel is a 2019 American cyberpunk action film based on the 1990s Japanese manga series Gunnm (also known as Battle Angel Alita) by Yukito Kishiro. Directed by Robert Rodriguez, the film is written by James Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis, and produced by Cameron and Jon Landau. Rosa Salazar stars as the titular Alita, a cyborg who sets out to learn about her past after she awakens in a new body with no memory of who she is. Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley and Keean Johnson also star in supporting roles.
Originally announced in 2003, production on the release of the film was repeatedly delayed due to Cameron’s work on Avatar and its sequels. After years of the film languishing in development hell, Rodriguez was announced as the film’s director in April 2016, with Salazar being cast the following month. Principal photography began in Austin, Texas, in October 2016, lasting through February 2017.
Alita: Battle Angel had its world premiere at the Odeon Leicester Square on January 31, 2019, and was released in the United States on February 14, 2019, by 20th Century Fox in Real D 3D, Dolby Cinema 3D and IMAX 3D formats. This also marks the first film to be produced by Lightstorm Entertainment in ten years since 2009’s Avatar. The film has grossed over $287 million worldwide. It received mixed reviews from critics, with praise for its visual effects, action sequences and Salazar’s performance while criticism was directed at the “muddled” screenplay and the set-up of sequels. In contrast, the film received a more positive response from audiences.
In 2563, a catastrophic war known as “The Fall” aka “The Great War” has left Earth devastated. While scouting the junkyard metropolis of Iron City, cyborg scientist Dr. Dyson Ido discovers a disembodied female cyborg with a fully intact human brain. Ido builds a temporary cyborg body for the brain, who does not have any recollections of her past, and names her “Alita” after his deceased daughter. Alita meets her new friend Hugo who dreams of moving to the wealthy sky city of Zalem. Hugo introduces her to the competitive sport of Motorball, a battle royale race wherein cyborgs fight to the death.
Alita discovers that Ido is a Hunter-Warrior (bounty hunter) when she follows him one night and they encounter three cyborg assassins led by Grewishka. When Ido is injured, Alita instinctively attacks the cyborgs, killing two of them and severely damaging Grewishka, who retreats underground. Despite Alita rediscovering her skill in the ancient martial art of “Panzer Kunst”, Ido discourages her from becoming a Hunter-Warrior. The next day, Alita finds and brings home a Berserker body from an old downed ship outside the city. Ido refuses to install her in the body, fearing the consequences of her heart’s full compatibility with it.
Fed up with Ido, Alita registers herself as a Hunter-Warrior, then she and Hugo enter the Kansas Bar to ask other Hunter-Warriors in helping her take down Grewishka, but they refuse, as Grewishka is not on the wanted list. Suddenly, an upgraded Grewishka storms into the bar and challenges Alita to a rematch, revealing that he has been sent by his boss, Nova, to destroy her. Despite her courage and combat skills, Alita’s body is sliced up by Grewishka’s bladed fingers before she blinds him with her left arm, forcing him to retreat. Ido transplants Alita in the Berserker body, which automatically interfaces with her system.
Having fallen in love with Hugo, Alita enters a Motorball tryout race as a means to send Hugo to Zalem. Ido discovers that the other contestants are Hunter-Warriors and wanted cyborgs hired by Vector, an entrepreneur working under Nova, to kill her. He warns Alita, and as the race begins, she destroys many of the contestants with her superior skills. Meanwhile, Hugo is being hunted by a Hunter-Warrior named Zapan, after he frames Hugo for murdering a cyborg. Hugo calls Alita for help and she leaves the Motorball race to rescue him. She finds Hugo just as Zapan arrives and reveals to her that Hugo has been attacking cyborgs and stealing their parts for Vector for use in his Motorball games. Knowing that Alita is in love with Hugo, Zapan mortally wounds him and tells Alita that Hunter-Warrior law dictates that she must either kill Hugo or let Zapan finish him off. Dr. Chiren, Ido’s ex-wife and also a master cyborg engineer, manages to save Hugo by attaching his head to Alita’s heart. Zapan attempts to stop Alita from leaving and she slices part of his face off with his prized sword, crafted with the same advanced technology as the Berserker body, which she takes with her.
Ido transplants Hugo’s head onto a cyborg body before telling Alita that Hugo’s actions were based upon the false belief that he would be able to eventually buy his way into Zalem. Ido confides that this was a lie fabricated by Vector, and that citizens of Iron City cannot enter Zalem unless they become Motorball champion. Alita decides to confront Vector, who is being mind-controlled by Nova, a powerful Zalem scientist. Through Vector, Nova reveals to Alita that Chiren has been harvested for her organs and then orders Grewishka to kill her. Alita battles Grewishka again and this time, thanks to her new equipment, finally kills him with ease, then stabs Vector, telling Nova that he made the mistake of underestimating her.
Ido tells Alita that Hugo has fled and is desperately attempting to climb a factory tube towards Zalem. Alita pleads with Hugo to return with her, but a massive spiked defense ring set off by Nova shreds throws him off the tube. Leaping after him, Alita is unable to prevent Hugo from falling to his death, but not before he can thank her for saving him.
Months later, Alita is the star athlete of the Motorball tournament. As the crowd cheers, she points her sword towards Zalem while Nova watches her from above.