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Why Alita: Battle Angel is Hell from A to Z

February 16, 2019


It’s only fitting that Alita: Battle Angel opens atop a massive scrap heap: This clanking monstrosity is cobbled together from cast-off parts of better films. Here’s an A to Z guide of the movies it rips off.

The Abyss/Titanic Co-writer/producer James Cameron not only channels his own soggy relics when Rosa Salazar’s titular cyborg dives deep underwater to dredge up her own discarded body, but also through the godawful dialogue. To wit(lessness), Alita tells her creator: “You told me the story of the war when the ground shook and the sky burned. Of the ones that survived who awoke to a differed world, where the powerful can prey on you. But that’s not the way it has to be.” It sure as hell isn’t.

Big Eyes Hat tip to Alvaro Rodriguez, who co-wrote a much better film with Alita director Robert Rodriguez, Machete. He noted that Alita echoes Tim Burton’s biopic of Walter Keane by casting Christoph Waltz as an artist with a fixation for bug-eyed girls.

Blade Runner Ok, pretty much every dystopian sci-fi movie since 1982 owes a debt to the setting of Ridley Scott’s classic, and Alita‘s “Iron City” is no exception.

Ex Machina Alex Garland’s 2014 gem features a cyborg with a pretty human face and a rockin’ robot body who falls in love with a human. What it doesn’t feature is cringe-worthy banter like this: Alita: Does it bother you that I’m not completely human?
Hugo: You are the most human person I have ever met.

Frankenstein/Pinocchio Waltz’s Dr. Dyson Ido stitches together Gepetto and Dr. Victor Frankenstein, as he combines body parts from dead humans and robots to create a “real” girl — who even refers to herself as a “puppet” at one point.

From Hell (and every other Jack the Ripper movie ever made) A psycho is stalking Iron City’s streets, slashing women to pieces, just like Jack. And this film is from hell.

Get Smart Alita gives herself the number “99” when she’s playing Motorball (see below). Maybe it’s a reference to Barbara Feldon’s secret agent in the ’60s spoof, maybe not. But one thing is for sure: Unlike Get Smart‘s Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, Alita‘s creators have no idea how ridiculous their project is.

Gladiator/Harry Potter/Rollerball Alita competes to be the champion of Motorball, a roller-derbyesque sport played in front of a coliseum of bloodthirsty fans. It mashes up Maximus (from yet another Ridley Scott epic), Quidditch and… well, Rollerball.

Hillary Clinton for President After Alita wipes the floor with a bunch of bad guys, Hugo declares, “I’m with her.” A political in-joke?

The Matrix/Replicas Mahershala Ali’s villain Vector evokes Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus, right down to the cool shades. And the slo-mo action sequences that blew our minds 20 years ago when The Matrix came out now just seem passé. Alita is more akin to Keanu Reeves’ recent flop Replicas, as Waltz recreates a cyber version of his dead daughter. But creatively, both Alita and Replicas are strictly DOA.

Memento and every other amnesia movie ever made Alita is trying to recover the lost memory of her earlier life. I wish I could forget ever having seen Alita.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail Several characters lose their limbs and keep on fighting. Sadly, none of them say, a la the Black Knight, “You yellow bastard, come back here and take what’s coming to ya! I’ll bite your legs off!”

Rebel Without a Cause Hugo is a leather-jacketed motorcycle rider who takes Alita up to a Griffith Observatory-like overlook with a stunning view of Iron City. Only Keann Johnson, who plays Hugo, is less James Dean than Paula Deen: a real turn-off.

The Terminator/Terminator 2: Judgment Day Once again, Cameron pays homage to himself, from the kick-ass female protagonist to the killer cyborgs. This wasn’t what we had in mind when Arnold Schwarzenegger first declared, “I’ll be back.”

The Wizard of Oz Alita dreams of reaching a better world up in the sky —somewhere over the rainbow, if you will. While she rips out her heart and offers it to Hugo in the film’s most jaw-droppingly literal metaphor, what Alita, and Alita, really need is a brain.

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