(Release Info London schedule; February 6th, 2019, Cineworld, 5-6 Leicester Square, 11:00 AM)
"Alita: Battle Angel"
From filmmaker James Cameron comes "Alita: Battle Angel", an epic adventure of hope and empowerment, based upon 'The Manga Gaphic Novel Series' by Yukito Kishiro. When Alita (Rosa Salazar) awakens with no memory of who she's in a future world she does not recognize, she's taken in by Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz), a compassionate cyberphysician who realizes that somewhere in this abandoned cyborg core is the heart and soul of a young woman with an extraordinary past. As Alita learns to navigate her new life and the treacherous streets of 'Iron City', Ido tries to shield her from her mysterious history while her street-smart new friend Hugo (Keean Johnson) offers instead to help trigger her memories. But it's only when the deadly and corrupt forces that run the city, headed by Vector (Mahershala Ali), come after Ido and Alita that she discovers a clue to her past; she has unique fighting abilities ingrained in her that those in power will stop at nothing to control. If she can stay out of their grasp, she could be the key to saving her friends, her family and the world she’s grown.
'The 23rd Century', Earth underwent 'The Fall', a shattering war that halted all technological progress and left in it's wake a society where every last shred of tech is repurposed and the strong prey on the weak. The story takes place 300 years after a huge war has devastated the planet and a plague weapon left only a tiny percentage of human survivors. The heart of life on Earth beats in 'Iron City', a rich melting pot of survivors; a city full of ordinary people and cybernetically-enhanced humans living side-by-side in the shadow of 'Zalem', the apex of civilization at the time. 'Zalem' is the last of 'The Great Sky Cities'. 'Iron City' may be an oppressed factory town, cranking out goods for the invisible elites who live in the sky, but it has it's own color and energy, it's thrills and it's aspirants. But 'Iron City' remained as essentially a giant refugee camp. It’s full of all these people trying to get to 'Zalem', to get to the land of opportunity and dreams that they can see but always seems just of reach. It's a world in which cybernetic body parts are routinely melded with human bodies and brains to create cyborgs of all shapes, sizes and abilities. And now it's about to get an unlikely hero, a teenage cyborg who emerges from a junkyard to discover her identity and become a source of buoyant hope.
When Alita re-awakens to a brand-new life in 'Iron City', she goes through a series of intense transformations. She begins as a nearly blank-slate, devoid of memories, so that even the sour tang of an orange peel electrifies her taste receptors. With no clear identity, she wonders if she's just an insignificant girl who has no real purpose, no real family, even as she begins to forge fledgling bonds. Then, when she discovers the body that's intended to be hers; the so-called 'Berserker' body that has faculties the likes of which 'Iron City' has never seen, Alita has to contend with a whole different idea of her destiny. Ultimately, Alita realizes she's definitely not going to be an insignificant girl, and she refuses to be just the weapon of destruction that 'The Berserker' body is created for. Instead, she turns herself into a passion-fueled instrument for justice. A massive casting search ensued to find someone who could embody all this; a diminutive person with a mammoth persona, with both high-flying moves and the sheer force of a bright and openhearted spirit. After all, tiny Alita must stand up to 13-foot tall cyborg brutes, so the audience has to trust not only in her battle virtuosity but in her growing confidence and determination to both understand the vastness of her power and use it wisely. It's a sleek, iridescent work of biomechanical art with a complex network of neuronal connections that morphs to her subconsicous. Alita’s body change is a kind of metaphor.
Alita comes to feel deeply grateful to Dr. Ido, the brilliant cyberphysician who uses his medical training to help the needy of 'Iron City', even while prowling the night as a hunter-warrior. The mesmerizing adventure begins as Ido do makes a scrapyard find that will change his life and 'Iron City' forever, the discarded cyber-core of a girl whose body may be broken but her human brain is still barely pulsing with life. Ido cannot abandon her. He begins to restore this mysterious cyborg and discovers a second chance at fatherhood, a chance to watch her learn, grow and taste the wondrous pleasures of life for the first time with wide-eyed excitement. It's Ido who, in trying to assuage his own emotional pain over the loss of his own daughter, gives Alita a warm, loving home where she's free to explore her true self. Ido tries in some ways to control her but also learns to trust her and let her go, believing that she will make the right choices. They go through all of the moments that a father and daughter go through; the struggling, the love, that moment of the bird leaving the nest. Alita replaces a piece of Ido’s broken heart and in return he gives her life. But the sweet, curious girl Ido names Alita hides many secrets. When Alita inadvertently reveals she possesses unique long lost fighting skills, it becomes clear she must carve out her own destiny. For even if the art of the battle was long ago hardwired into her, Alita must discover in her soul the reasons to fight.
Hugo has to be a hustler to survive in this tough, tough world. He could have gone the route his father did as a factory worker, but he’s driven by the hope of getting to 'Zalem', which has led him to do things he isn’t proud of. Even so, there’s a lot of good to Hugo. He’s passionate, open-minded and when he puts his mind to something, he expects to accomplish it. As it turns out, Hugo is also a 'Jacker', an 'Iron City' outlaw who takes cybernetic body parts by force; a dark truth he tries to keep from Alita. Hugo believes jacking is his way to 'Zalem', but when he falls in love with Alita, he's no longer sure if 'Zalem' is worth it to him. Hugo certainly doesn’t expect to fall for a cyborg, but Alita’s exuberance about the world is intoxicating. When he teaches her to play street 'Motorball', only to watch her excel beyond his wildest fantasies, his heart takes off racing. 'Motorball' is Hugo’s game, so when he sees her incredible talent, it blows him away. But he also sees such a pure soul in Alita. Hugo may not have the enhanced physicality of a cyborg, but he has his own skills. He knows every secret alley and shortcut in 'Iron City'. Then there’s Hugo’s gyrobike, an amped-up, aggressive, single-wheeled version of a motorcycle.
The more Alita reveals about who she's, the more she also develops enemies across 'Iron City'. One of the first to recoil in her presence is Dr. Ido’s ex-wife, Chiren (Jennifer Connelly), also a skilled cyberphysician, but one who has turned grief into the pursuit of money and power in the high-stakes world of 'Motorball'. Chiren is aghast to see that the body Ido used to give Alita a new chance at life was the one they designed for their now-deceased daughter. Chiren was born in 'Zalem' so she sees returning there as a kind of magic balm for her life, a way to escape her memories of grief and loss in 'Iron City'. She wants to be transported away with every part of her being and there’s no way she’s going to surrender to existence in 'Iron City'. Her extreme drive is a measure of her desperation and bitterness. In an indelible moment, Chiren’s iced-over heart almost cracks when she first catches sight of Alita. Chiren immediately perceives Alita as a threat because she brings up all this pain she doesn’t want to confront. And she also starts to realize that Alita is going to disrupt 'Iron City' and challenge all the institutions that still exist there. Chiren cannot fully hold at bay the feelings Alita spurs in her. She experiences something like a thaw when she realizes she’s trying to kill someone who looks like her deceased daughter. It’s a moment when Chiren recognize she’s become all that she abhors. And from that moment forward, things move in a different direction.
Chiren has allied herself with one of the darkest forces in 'Iron City'; Vector, who has amassed great influence as the city’s top broker of cyborg parts. Vector, who's 100% human, views himself as an elite and looks down upon the striving masses of 'Iron City'. Vector has fully absorbed that only way to win in 'Iron City' is to prey upon the weak. He’d rather be a king in hell than be at the bottom of the totem pole in heaven. His need to stay on top makes Alita an immediate adversary. Vector will do anything in his power to not lose his status. He craves control, and Alita’s way too much of a wild card. Still, though Vector lives better than most in 'Iron City', the truth is that he’s given up his freedom in exchange, allowing himself to be overtaken by the mysterious Nova (Eiza González), an entity on Zalem with the ability to inhabit Vector’s body. Vector is a villain but it turns out he’s really just following orders. The plans are all being dictated by Nova and Vector is sadly just his pawn. Alita soon learns she is not the only cyborg in 'Iron City'. In fact, large portions of Iron City’s denizens have cyborg parts. But what she does not know is that she will become the target of the city’s most feared cyborg, the colossal Grewishka (Jackie Earle Haley).
A fallen star of the 'Motorball' games, raised in the sewers of 'Iron City', Grewishka has never known anything but darkness and fighting for whatever he can get, which along with his super-charged frame of parts, makes him the ultimate henchman for Vector. His body goes through several iterations; growing larger and larger each time he must be rebuilt, becoming a massive metal gargoyle, but always plastered with his synthetic face, a reminder of the human within. The only way that he actually derives happiness is through having this enormous, powerful body and the only way he can find self-esteem is by abusing others. That psychology runs deep in him. Also posing a grave danger to Alita is the total replacement cyborg Zapan (Ed Skrein), with his sleek, high-tech body replete with synthetic skin. Zapan is most renowned for his 'Damascus Blade', an ancient 'URM'-built sword that can slice through armor like butter. He's an ostentatious, almost theatrical person. Most hunter-warriors are dirty and rusty, but Zapan prides himself on his ornate body. He’s a dangerous mix of ego and insecurity.
From the earliest stages of imagining "Alita", the film puts audiences inside the tumult of 'Iron City', a 26th Century city reeling from war 300 years prior and but also pulsing with life. 'Iron City' is much more a character itself. The film also envisions a deeply layered place of abundant contrasts, at once a cyborg-filled 'Wild West' of rampant crime and bounty hunters, but also a place where Alita experiences the thrill of discovery, love, elation, street life and the inspiration to change the city for the better. No matter how tough times have become in 'Iron City', the human instinct for fun, for art, for achievement and for joy still runs rampant. 'Iron City' is the place that people have come from all over the world to find sanctuary. So it’s an ad hoc kind of slum superimposed on the high-tech world that existed there before the war. It’s dangerous but it also has this amazing, chaotic energy. 'Iron City' also evokes a whole history of evolution and devolution, with hints of sophisticated technology falling into disarray. You can feel the disparity between the technology that's created before the war but is still in use, and the living conditions that people now enjoy. 'Iron City' is presented as an equatorial city, somewhere in 'South America', though more a melting pot than representative of a singular nation.
'Iron City' has a futuristic culture unlike any you’ve seen before.We’ve seen so much rain-slicked, neon-lit sci-fi and the fact is, you can't top 'Blade Runner' in that regard. The film creates a dusty, sundrenched look that suggests that life goes on in this place despite the oppression people are living. If there's one obsession that unites the people of 'Iron City' it's 'Motorball'; the glam and brutal gladiatorial sport whose champions are the heroes of an otherwise desperate city. The game takes place on rocket-propelled wheels, as hulking cyborgs fitted with chains, spikes, blades and armor race at 100-mph through the hairpin turns of a trap-filled track designed to damage cyborg parts. Those who win at 'Motorball' not only attain rock star status in 'Iron City' but a chance to ascend to 'Zalem' forever. Everyone in 'Iron City' watches 'Motorball'. Kids play street 'Motorball', which is how Alita is first introduced to the sport. Later, with her 'Berserker' body, Alita tries out for the 2nd League; the minors of 'Iron City Motorball'. It’s all new to Alita but she eventually becomes the 'LeBron James' of 'Motorball'. 'Motorball' is just a game, but things quickly turn from a game to a hunt sequence as the cyborgs try to annihilate Alita.
Even when a cyborg’s body has been damaged beyond repair, the human brain can live on and be connected to a new body, which is why Dr. Ido is able to save Alita. But Alita has no clue who she's, where she comes from, or what her life story. When Ido rebuilds her, Alita has no memory. She’s completely open and curious about a world that’s new to her. But as she finds out more about herself, she becomes a more complex character, one who's not only looking for who she was but must decide who she wants to be. Alita’s innate fearlessness, programmed into her long ago when she was built on the human space colony known as 'URM' ('United Republic Of Mars'). Alita has no fear for herself. It doesn’t matter how big or menacing an opponent, she just goes right at it. So this is about Alita’s bonds, betrayals and all she learns about human nature. At the center is always Alita’s human journey. And that’s also what Alita realizes. She may have lost much of her memory, but she has found her humanity, which is what counts. At it's core, this is the story of a girl who gets a second chance at life, and decides this time it will be about following her heart.
Based on 'The Graphic Novel Series' by Yukito Kishiro, "Alita: Battle Angel" re-imagines a mythical post-apocalyptical world as a photo-real city full not only of behemoth cyborgs, furiously fast sports spectacles and dark justice but also of compelling human stories. "Alita: Battle Angel" is a result of many combined imaginations synching up, but most of all it's meant to be Alita’s vision of 'Iron City'. You see this story through Alita’s eyes, eyes that have an innocence to them and see the beauty in things. The film creates something that feels very tactile, that’s immersive, that has unexpected moments, all the things you anticipate in a James Cameron movie. The fervor, risk-taking and fusing of mind and machine, that drove the making of Alita echo what Alita discovers about pouring your all into what you do. “Alita: Battle Angel" pushes a character to a place that’s pretty unique in film history. You not only come to believe in Alita as a human being, but you really get to feel like you are part of her experiences in this rich, new world of 'Iron City'. Plunging the audience full-bore into Alita’s deeply felt experiences of beauty and chaos after being reborn in Ido’s clinic is always central to the vision of the film.
It's a fresh vision of the future mixed with thunderous action and themes of exploration, curiosity, self-discovery and a yearning for freedom. The tale of a young amnesiac cyborg, a universal story of discovery and identity and what really matters. The attraction is more the humanity of the story than it's 26th Century setting. The history of 'Iron City', and the gleaming presence of the paradisiacal 'Zalem' looming over it, so close yet ever unattainable, is rich with metaphors. Today, the cutting edge of medical prosthetics research is pioneering new ways for the human brain to both directly control and sense artificial limbs. But what if the fusion of mind and machine make such a quantum leap that it could grant humans the promise not just of restoration but of total reinvention? People have to replace limbs due to the effects of the worldwide plague. Then, it's a normal way of life for people to have replacement parts. There are no bad connotations to being a cyborg, it can even be a sign of wealth. The highest-end cyborgs are what are known a 'Total Replacements'. That’s when all you've left is an organic, human brain but your entire body has been replaced by parts that are stronger, faster, whatever you aspire to.
With "Alita: Battle Angel" comes a total sensorial immersion into a world of unbridled imagination, breathless action and visceral emotion. It's a combination of mutual zeal for world-building and empowered female heroines to push the possibilities of visual story-craft into a new zone. We're already living in an early iteration of a machine-reliant cyborg society. Even before the internet, we couldn’t live without electricity or technology, which makes us similar to cyborgs. We just accept it and try to live our lives, as cyborgs do in 'Iron City'. It only puts the emphasis on how can we be more human. Audiences emerges from theaters with an emotional connection to Alita and the movie rather than wondering how the immediacy of this photo-real world of the imagination was achieved. Times change, but many things stay the same. The film is sets hundreds of years in the future, but if you look back at life 400 years before today, people still sat in a chair to eat breakfast in the morning, just as we do.