Cast: Christoph Waltz, Rosa Salazar, Mahershala Ali, Jennifer Connelly, Keean Johnson, Ed Skrein,Michelle Rodriguez, Jackie Earle Haley
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Rating * * * *
Co-produced and co-written by James Cameron, this sci-fi fantasy sets in the 26th century showcases a female saviour, an amazonian cyborg who is the last of her kind. Based on the Japanese manga and graphic novel Gunnm by Yukito Kishiro, the movie is also Biblically-inspired in as much as it is set in a dystopian world destroyed by a Fall whose survivors try to buy their way out of the Iron City to Zalem hovering in the firmament.
Naturally, the principal antagonist Vector(Mahershala Ali) spouts lines spoken in John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost by the fallen angel Lucifer – “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven”.
Vector preys on the weak, assisted by robots with human faces, bounty hunters and other criminals who emerge from a hellish place located below the city. For the spunky titular heroine,(Rosa Salazar) it is a voyage of self-discovery. Assembled in a lab by Dr Ido (Christoph) Alita is nurtured by the gentle doctor who also has a secret life. The two remind you in a way of the wooden boy Pinocchio and his father except that Ido’s ‘little angel’ is imbued with idealistic zeal when she eventually realises her true nature.
Can a cyborg and a human have a relationship? In Blade Runner, the hero realises the ‘woman’ he loves is an android implanted with false memories. Alita’s memories are hazy but all too real, just like the dreams recalled by ‘Replicas’ in the recently released thriller of the same name.
Cameron’s super-powered Alita has feelings, emotions and physical sensations. She also has a strong sense of justice and swears she “will not stand by in the presence of evil.” Betrayed by the feckless Hugo (Keean Johnson) Alita offers him her heart. Cameron and Co put an ‘Avatar’ like spin to the relationship, apart from great special effects and exciting set action pieces. And yes, Salazar is impressive, ditto Walz. So good to see him as a good man for a change.