Alita: Battle Angel
|Alita: Battle Angel|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Rodriguez|
by Yukito Kishiro
|Music by||Tom Holkenborg|
|Edited by||Stephen E. Rivkin|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$149.3 million|
Alita: Battle Angel is a 2019 American cyberpunk action film based on Yukito Kishiro's manga series Gunnm, also known as Battle Angel Alita. Directed by Robert Rodriguez, the film is written by James Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis 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 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 premiered 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 $149 million worldwide, making it the sixth highest-grossing film of 2019. 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 rebuilds the cyborg, who does not have any recollections of her past, and names her "Alita" after his deceased daughter.
Alita befriends 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 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, and Ido, Hugo, and another Hunter-Warrior force 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. 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, 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 body, 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 Hugo's body and throws him into the air. Leaping after him, Alita is unable to prevent Hugo from falling to his death, but not before he can thank her for changing 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.
- Rosa Salazar as Alita, the titular cyborg heroine, revealed to be three centuries old and last of her kind.
- Christoph Waltz as Dr. Dyson Ido, a renowned scientist, Hunter-Warrior and Alita's caretaker.
- Keean Johnson as Hugo, Alita's love interest who also teaches her to play a gladiator-style game called Motorball.
- Mahershala Ali as Vector, an entrepreneur who rigs Motorball combat matches.
- Jennifer Connelly as Chiren, Ido's ex-wife and also a master cyborg engineer, who was expelled with him and their daughter from the false utopia of Zalem and dreams of returning.
- Ed Skrein as Zapan, a cyborg bounty hunter tasked with tracking down and killing Alita.
- Jackie Earle Haley as Grewishka, a huge cyborg who works for Nova as his personal assassin, based on Grewcica from the Battle Angel OVA.
- Jorge Lendeborg Jr. as Tanji, a friend of Hugo's.
- Lana Condor as Koyomi, a friend of Hugo's.
- Eiza González as Nyssiana, a cyborg assassin with a bounty on her head.
- Idara Victor as Nurse Gerhad, Ido's aide.
- Jeff Fahey as McTeague, a Hunter-Warrior who leads a pack of robotic dogs.
- Rick Yune as Master Clive Lee, a Hunter-Warior who claims a record of over 200 kills.
- Marko Zaror as Ajakutty, a Motorball player.
- Elle LaMont as Screwhead, a female Hunter-Warrior.
- Leonard Wu as Kinuba, a Motorball player.
- Casper Van Dien as Amok
In uncredited roles, Edward Norton appears as Nova, a Zalem scientist who has the ability to transfer his consciousness into other people's bodies; Michelle Rodriguez appears as Gelda, a cyborg warrior from Mars who trained Alita; and Jai Courtney cameos as Jashugan, a Motorball Champion.
Battle Angel Alita, a Japanese cyberpunk manga series written by Yukito Kishiro, was originally brought to James Cameron's attention by filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, and Cameron immediately became enamored with the concept.
The domain name "battleangelalita.com" was registered to James Cameron by 20th Century Fox around June 2000. Fox also registered the "battleangelmovie.com" domain. In April 2003, it was reported by Moviehole that Cameron had confirmed he would direct a Battle Angel film. Cameron confirmed that a script for the film was in production during an interview on the Tokudane! program on Fuji TV on May 4, 2003. It was originally scheduled to be his next production after the TV series Dark Angel, which was influenced by Battle Angel Alita. It was later scheduled to be his next film after Aliens of the Deep in January 2005.
In June 2005, The Hollywood Reporter claimed that the film was being delayed while Cameron developed a film known as Project 880, which would later be renamed Avatar. Entertainment Weekly ran an interview in February 2006 in which Cameron stated that his deal with 20th Century Fox was that he produce both films. The article also claimed that Battle Angel was slated to be released in September 2009. In June 2006, Cameron commented that Battle Angel was the second of two planned film trilogies he was developing, with the first being Avatar.
In May 2008, Cameron indicated he would be working on a film titled The Dive, a biography of freedivers Francisco Ferreras and Audrey Mestre, thus delaying the film again. That July, at the San Diego Comic-Con International, he reiterated that he was still committed to making the film. In December 2009, Cameron commented during an interview with MTV News that a script for Battle Angel had been completed.
In February 2010, producer Jon Landau commented during an interview that he was trying to convince Cameron to change the film's title to Alita: Battle Angel. Landau also revealed that screenwriter Laeta Kalogridis had worked on writing the film. In August 2010, Cameron stated that the film was "still on [his] radar", but he didn't know when he would make it. However, that October, he confirmed that his next films would be two Avatar sequels instead of Battle Angel. He still stated that he did not intend to abandon the film, stating that he loved the project too much to hand it off to another director, but reiterated in June 2011 that it would not be produced until the two Avatar sequels were completed, stating that "Battle Angel is not going to happen for a few years". According to Cameron, his reason for producing Avatar first is because he believes that the film can raise public awareness of the need for environmental protection.
During an interview with Alfonso Cuarón in July 2013, Cameron set 2017 as the date at which production on the film would begin. In October 2015, The Hollywood Reporter reported that director Robert Rodriguez was in negotiations to direct the film, now titled Alita: Battle Angel, and Cameron would be attached as producer alongside Jon Landau. Rodriguez had been brought in by Cameron to condense and combine Cameron's 186-page screenplay and some 600 pages of notes into what could be the shooting script. Satisfied by Rodriguez's work on the shooting script, Cameron offered him the directing job.
In April 2016, The Hollywood Reporter reported that 20th Century Fox had not yet greenlit the film, as they were attempting to reduce the budget to something below $175–$200 million. The article also announced that Rodriguez had been signed as director. In late May 2016, Fox scheduled the film for a July 20, 2018, release date.
With James Cameron as potential director, the film was to be produced with the same mix of live-action and computer-generated imagery that Cameron used in Avatar. Specifically, Cameron intended to render the main character, Alita, completely in CGI. Cameron has stated that he would make use of technologies developed for Avatar to produce the film, such as the Fusion Camera System, facial performance capture, and the Simulcam. In May 2006, Variety reported that Cameron had spent the past ten months developing technology to produce the film.
In a February 2019 interview, Cameron revealed that he set the floating city of Zalem in Panama, specifically Panama City. He explained that the city Zalem is not floating, but hanging from a space elevator, which would only work physically near the equator. As a result of the new location, Iron City was designed with Spanish signage and Latin American architecture.
An April 2016 article in The Hollywood Reporter reported that Maika Monroe, Rosa Salazar and Zendaya were among the final actresses being considered to take the role of Alita in the film, with a decision due within a few weeks. The article reported that Zendaya's former co-star Bella Thorne had also auditioned for the role. Near the end of May 2016, Collider reported that Salazar had been chosen.
In August 2016, it was reported that Christoph Waltz was in negotiations to play Dr. Dyson Ido, the equivalent of Daisuke Ido from the original manga. On September 14, 2016, it was announced that Jackie Earle Haley had been cast as a cyborg villain. On September 21, 2016, Variety reported that Ed Skrein was in talks for a role in the film; The Hollywood Reporter later confirmed that he had been cast as the antagonist Zapan.
On September 30, 2016, Keean Johnson was reported to have been cast in the film to play Hugo, Alita's love interest, who later becomes the reason for her to play a gladiator-style game called Motorball. The studio also considered Avan Jogia, Douglas Booth, Jack Lowden, and Noah Silver for the role, but decided on Johnson because they were looking for someone more "ethnically ambiguous". On October 3, 2016, Mahershala Ali was reportedly in talks for the villainous role of Vector, a man who rigs Motorball combat matches. In an interview following his Best Supporting Actor win at the 89th Academy Awards, Ali revealed that he would play two roles in the film, although he did not elaborate on the nature of the second role.
On October 5, 2016, it was reported that Eiza González had joined the film. González is one of the leads in Rodriguez' television series From Dusk till Dawn: The Series. Jorge Lendeborg Jr. was announced for a role in the film on October 7, 2016. He will play Hugo's friend. Lana Condor was reported to have joined the cast on October 11, 2016, portraying the orphaned teen Koyomi. On October 18, 2016, Leonard Wu was cast as the cyborg Kinuba. Marko Zaror joined the cast as the cyborg Ajakutty in December 2016. On February 7, 2017, Jennifer Connelly joined the film in an unknown villainous role. Michelle Rodriguez was retroactively announced for a role on February 22, 2017, after the film had completed shooting.
The film began shooting at Robert Rodriguez' Troublemaker Studios in Austin, Texas on October 17, 2016, and concluded on February 9, 2017. In late January 2017, a casting call went out looking for rocker, punk, or emo extras to film scenes in Austin on the nights of February 3, 6, and 7, 2017.
On December 17, 2018, it was announced that Dua Lipa would have a song featured on the film's soundtrack titled "Swan Song". The song and official music video were released on January 24, 2019. The official music video is directed by Floria Sigismondi. Tom Holkenborg composed the score for the film as well as "Swan Song" as co-writer. The soundtrack was released on February 15, 2019, at Milan Records.
The first trailer for the film was released on December 8, 2017, with a July 2018 release in mind. The footage received a mixed response, with a majority of the commentary focusing on the appearance of the titular character, Alita. Andrew Liptak of The Verge stated that "The character looks like an anime doll come to life, or like a Disney character that's just a hair off from normal. It's probably a deliberate choice, meant to remind viewers at every moment that Alita isn't human. But after so many years of CGI animators trying to mimic convincing human faces and not entirely succeeding, it's still unsettling to see a character hovering this close to realistic, while staying this far away from it." Adam Chitwood of Collider was intrigued and cautiously optimistic, saying, "This thing looks bonkers, and now it's crystal clear why Cameron was considering directing this in the first place. The choice to make your protagonist a photo-real CG creation interacting with actual human characters is mighty ambitious, and I can say with certainty this doesn't look like anything Robert Rodriguez has done before. I don't know if it'll be good, but it definitely seems like it'll at least be interesting."
A second trailer was shown at SDCC 2018 and made its way online on July 23, 2018, with a December 2018 release in mind. The trailer featured a cover of Linkin Park's "New Divide", covered by composer J2 featuring vocalist Avery. The third trailer was released in November 2018, almost a year after the first trailer was launched.
A tie-in novel was released on November 20, 2018, written by notable sci-fi author Pat Cadigan. Entitled Iron City, the novel's story acted as a prequel focused on some of the residents living in Iron City before the events of the film. An audiobook adaptation of the novel was also released on the same date, narrated by Brian Nishii.
In February 2019, Twentieth Century Fox collaborated with Iam8bit to create "Passport to Iron City", a recreation of the film's setting for fans to tour. "Passport to Iron City" is available in New York City, Los Angeles, and Austin.
The film was released by 20th Century Fox in the United States on February 14, 2019, in standard, 3D and IMAX format. It was originally set to be released on July 20, 2018, but in February 2018, the film was delayed to December 21, before later being pushed back again in late September to its final release date.
The film is set for release in Japan and China on February 22, 2019, after the Chinese New Year holidays. The film was released in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Taiwan on February 5, the Philippines on February 6, and India on February 8.
The film held its world premiere on January 31, 2019, at the Leicester Square Theatre in London. On January 28, 2019, Cameron announced that the film would hold free one-day previews in the United States on January 31, 2019.
As of February 19, 2019[update], Alita: Battle Angel has grossed $45.4 million in the United States and Canada, and $103.9 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $149.3 million, against a production budget of $170 million. Estimates vary for the total worldwide gross the film needs in order to break-even, with 20th Century Fox themselves estimating $350–400 million, while IndieWire estimates the figure is around $500 million and Deadline Hollywood claims it to be as high as $550 million.
In the United States and Canada, the film was initially projected to gross $18–22 million in its opening weekend, and around $25 million from 3,790 theaters over its first four days. After making $8.7 million on its first day (including $2.4 million from Wednesday night previews), five-day projections were increased to $36–40 million. It then made $7.5 million on its second day of release and went on to debut to $28.5 million in the weekend, finishing first at the box office. It also had a four-day gross of $36.5 million and five-day total of $43 million.
Alita opened a week early in 11 international markets (including ten Asian countries as well as the United Kingdom), where it grossed $32 million in its opening weekend. It opened at number two in South Korea with $10.9 million, first in Taiwan with $4.2 million (where it was Fox's fourth biggest opening ever), $4.2 million in the United Kingdom (with a 42% being from 3D shows), and $2.9 million in Malaysia (where it was Fox's second biggest opening ever). In its second international weekend, the film grossed $56.2 million from 86 markets (excluding China and Japan where it had yet to release), bringing its international gross to $94.4 million. The film has outpaced The Maze Runner (2014) and Ready Player One (2018) in these markets by 43% and 5%, respectively. It was the weekend's second highest-grossing film with $84 million worldwide, behind the Chinese film The Wandering Earth.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Alita: Battle Angel holds an approval rating of 59% based on 254 reviews, with an average rating of 6/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Alita: Battle Angel's story struggles to keep up with its special effects, but fans of futuristic sci-fi action may still find themselves more than sufficiently entertained." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 54 out of 100, based on 47 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it an overall positive score of 78% and a 59% "definite recommend".
Michael Nordine of IndieWire gave the film a grade of "B+", saying, "Alita: Battle Angel is [Rodriguez's] best film since he brought Frank Miller's graphic novel to the screen, a sci-fi epic that does something rare in an age of endless adaptations and reboots: lives up to its potential while leaving you wanting more." Writing for Variety, Guy Lodge praised Rodriguez's effort but called the film "muddled" and wrote: "This manga-based cyberpunk origin story is a pretty zappy effects showcase, weighed down by a protracted, soul-challenged Frankenstory that short-circuits every time it gets moving." Monica Castillo from RogerEbert.com wrote that the "visual bonanza cooked up by Rodriguez, cinematographer Bill Pope and editors Stephen E. Rivkin and Ian Silverstein is enough to power through any narrative bumps with quickly paced action and bleak, yet colorful, imagery" and gave film 2.5 out of 4.
On January 30, 2019, Epic Stone Group, a Florida-based multimedia company, sued Twentieth Century Fox for trademark infringement over the "Battle Angel" name. The lawsuit claims that Epic Stone Group had filed the trademark for "Battle Angel" in 2009 for computer games, action figures, and other merchandise, and it had filed a new application in April 2018 to use the name on DVDs, e-books, films, and television programs.
Cameron and Rodriguez have hinted that the film could lead to multiple sequels. On February 6, 2019, they announced that they have plans for Alita: Battle Angel 2 in the future. The casting of Edward Norton in a non-speaking role as Nova in this film was intended to be a setup for the sequel.
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