Alita: Battle Angel is one of those movies made with the hope of a sequel. It certainly works on its own, but it’s so packed with history and lore, balancing those elements with the story and characters becomes a bit difficult. That’s why, after seeing the film, we had some lingering questions.
Questions that, we’re sure, could be partially answered somewhere in the original mangas Yukito Kishiro created almost 30 years ago. But you shouldn’t have to read the 30-year-old manga to get answers to simple questions like these, especially since we don’t know if the movie was planning on giving similar answers. So, without further ado, we present our top 10 “What the Fuck?” questions after watching Alita: Battle Angel.
Alita: Battle Angel begins with Dr. Ido finding the head and torso of a highly advanced cyborg in the junkyard of the mysterious sky-city of Zalem. Later we find out this cyborg, whom he names Alita, is a 300-year-old warrior with one of the most advanced bodies and minds ever created. That’s all well and good. But what that doesn’t explain is when Alita got dropped in the junkyard.
It couldn’t have actually been 300 years ago, right? Clearly, if that was the case, in those centuries someone would have found her before Dr. Ido did. So if her trashing was more recent, when did she get dumped, why, and by whom? Was she a citizen of Zalem? A criminal? A slave? Shouldn’t they have melted her instead of just throwing her away? Or was the point for her to be saved and become a hero as she did? Really this is like 10 questions in one.
Dr. Ido explains that Alita’s heart is a very valuable piece of technology, one that can power all of Iron City for a long time. Obviously, that’s not something he created. He must have found it with her. But we very clearly see Ido pull a head and some shoulders out of the junkyard. There’s no dangling heart, we don’t think.
Later, we see Alita pull her heart out of her chest, so it would be roughly located where a human heart is. It makes little sense that it was still attached when Ido found it, especially when you realize so many people scavenge the junkyard and this hugely valuable resource was just sitting there. And if the person who scrapped Alita was really thinking, wouldn’t that have been the first thing they got rid of?
Several centuries ago, Alita was an elite soldier fighting for the United Republic of Mars in a war against the Earth that came to be known on Earth as the Fall—a war that, we assume, Mars won, considering Zalem is the only city that didn’t fall. But, honestly, we don’t know that for sure. Maybe Earth did win and was only left with Zalem. Plus, we don’t know why everyone was fighting. What was the point? Why was Mars so much more advanced than Earth? Who started the conflict and how did Alita get left behind? What did Mars gain from this? Are there Martians on Zalem? Again, this is all pretty fascinating backstory that is left for another time.
This is one of those questions that could be answered in a sequel but it’s still important in this film, too. The film presents Nova, the evil mastermind behind basically everything we see, as a near-immortal who shifts his existence into different beings. He’s a person with unlimited power and resources, someone Alita herself was supposed to kill with her army during the Fall. But he’s also the only Zalem resident we learn much about.
We don’t know how important or powerful he actually is in Zalem. It’s likely he’s both important and powerful, but do other people in Zalem do this kind of thing? Are there other Novas? We really don’t know. It would be odd if the war was to kill just a simple crime boss, right? On the other hand, the things he’s controlling now—like Motorball—don’t seem like enough to start a planetary war over. The distinctions between who Nova is, who the people of Zalem are, and what they all want, are all very unclear.
By the end of the film, Alita is a hero to the citizens of Iron City. She’s about to become the ultimate Motorball champion and earn a trip to Zalem. But, if you connect the dots, isn’t she the last survivor of a war that ruined the lives of basically every single person on the planet? Even if she’s changed and has now found alternate purpose, wouldn’t that make her a target? We get a tiny bit of that in the anti-robot racism of the character Tanji, but it seems like otherwise, the world has forgotten.
If you could change your whole body, upgrade every single piece of you, why is everyone in Alita still so obsessed with their faces? Simple vanity? Maybe, but how pretty do you really look with a piece of skin stretched over a full body of metal? Now, there are the off-screen implications to this question, mainly that you want all those big movie stars to be seen on-screen—but in-universe, this isn’t adequately explained.
Jai Courtney, aka Captain Boomerang, aka Jack McClane, aka the other-other Kyle Reese, is in Alita: Battle Angel for all of five seconds. He plays Jashugan, a soon to be ultimate champion of Motorball who’ll get to become a citizen of Zalem if he wins. We see him mainly as a way to explain this important plot point and then he’s gone. Casting a name actor for that role means that either A) a lot of stuff was cut out or B) he was being set up for a sequel. And, turns out, Robert Rodriguez has confirmed it was the latter.
In Alita’s flashbacks to the Fall, she seems very chummy with a character played by Michelle Rodriguez (called “Gelda” on IMDB). Gelda is another advanced warrior from Mars just like Alita and, like Jai Courtney’s character, it’s odd that she’s not in the film more. You don’t cast a famous actress in that role if she wasn’t going to be important moving ahead. Maybe she’s still around? We’ll see. (Note: We aren’t asking this about Edward Norton playing Nova because that’s very clearly only a set up for another movie.)
Alita isn’t about Motorball, but if a sport is going to be so crucial to your movie, knowing a bit about it helps with the drama. So what do we know? A ball gets spit out. You have to grab it and stuff it in a hole while racing around on skates. But in some games, you can literally kill people. And there seems to be no rhyme or reason to when you score or how the scores count. Do you have to pass a certain player like roller derby? Is it just one lap? The game seems simple but without its rules being explained, some of those scenes lose their impact.
Finally, the most important question of all. One of the first things Alita says is that she’s hungry, so Dr. Ido gives her food. Later, she eats more food. And more food. And yet there’s never an explanation of what her body does with all of that. There has to be some waste product, right? Unless, maybe, cyborg bodies use even the bad parts of food and drink to fuel themselves. If so though, that would have been a cool factoid to include, instead of that lingering thought: “Where does all the food go?”
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