Our 10 Most WTF Questions About Alita: Battle Angel

Some of the stuff in Alita: Battle Angel had us screaming like this.
Some of the stuff in Alita: Battle Angel had us screaming like this.
Photo: All Images: Fox

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.

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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.

Illustration for article titled Our 10 Most WTF Questions About iAlita: Battle Angel/i
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Dr. Ido with his new daughter.
Dr. Ido with his new daughter.

Has Alita been trash for 300 years?

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.

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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.

Look at these hands!
Look at these hands!
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What’s up with Alita’s heart?

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.

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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?

Look up at Zalem, the final floating city on Earth.
Look up at Zalem, the final floating city on Earth.
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What was up with the Fall?

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.

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Everyone just wants to get back to Zalem, and only Nova can help.
Everyone just wants to get back to Zalem, and only Nova can help.

Is Nova the leader of Zalem?

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.

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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.

Alita feels like a hero but, her backstory suggests otherwise.
Alita feels like a hero but, her backstory suggests otherwise.
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Is Alita actually everyone’s enemy?

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.

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All these cyborgs sure hate having robot faces.
All these cyborgs sure hate having robot faces.

Why do the cyborgs always keep their human faces?

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.

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Why is Jai Courtney in the movie?

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.

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Alita’s going to connect to her past, even if the audience doesn’t.
Alita’s going to connect to her past, even if the audience doesn’t.

Why was Michelle Rodriguez in the movie?

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.)

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What are the rules of Motorball?

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.

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Here’s an orange, yes that has to stay in your body forever.
Here’s an orange, yes that has to stay in your body forever.

Do cyborgs shit?

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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Entertainment Reporter for io9/Gizmodo

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DISCUSSION

lochaber
lochaber, guillotine enthusiast

I think I got this....

Has Alita been trash for 300 years?

yup. In the initial manga version, she was in Earth orbit, encased in some protective/preservaation gel, and got ripped apart. Presumably her head remained protected and survived atmospheric reentry.

In the Last Order continuation, some of the last book is retconned, and she infiltrates Zalem’s orbital counterpart as a terrorist, and is eventually captured, tried, and dumped in the trash.

What’s up with Alita’s heart?

Mostly new, but in the Last Order series, she pretty much absorbs a wormhole to a fusion reactor, giving her pretty much unlimited energy.

Also, in the first series, Ido talks about finding the Berserker body, and it was still breathing after centuries of neglect, implying it had impressive energy storage/generational capabilities. (I like that they changed it so that Alita found the Berserker body in this movie)

What was up with the Fall?

In Last Order, Venus and Jupiter are the Solar System superpowers. Mars is a war-torn mess. During the war, Mars basically sent a team of elite fighters as terrorists/Kamikaze to take down Zalem’s orbital counterpart, and they failed. Venus and Jupiter currently have really high level tech, nanotech is banned by treaty, and nobody has anything to do with lower Earth/Zalem, they just deal with Zalem’s orbital counterpart. Downwell earth has been effectively isolated since the war.

Is Alita actually everyone’s enemy?

Yoko kinda was. Yoko (her previous name/identity) was a merciless war criminal/terrorist. As Alita/Gally, she has a pretty strong sense of ethics, morals, and fairness, but she still retains a bit of a cruel streak at times (like slicing off half of Zapan’s face). She’s basically a new person now. And, as Koyomi pointed out, it was 300 years ago. :)

Why do the cyborgs always keep their human faces?

in the manga, quite a few of them have metal faces. I’m guessing a large part has to do with preservation of humanity/identity, and probably because facial expressions are a really important component of communication.

Why is Jai Courtney in the movie?

dunno about his casting in particular, but Jashugan is a pretty important figure in books 3 and 4, and has a sorta non-antagonistic, almost friendly rivalry with Alita/Gally... I’m curious to see how they handle this in the sequel.

Why was Michelle Rodriguez in the movie?

Gelda is a pretty important figure in the flashbacks, she rescued Alita/Gally as a small child, and was pretty important in her training.

What are the rules of Motorball?

It depends? It’s not flat out specified in the Manga, but there are different tracks/games with variant rules. Sometimes it’s the person who carries the ball across the finish line the most times, sometimes it’s the person who carries the ball through the final finish line, and sometimes there are other bits, like penalties for going backwards on the track (Which Alita/Gally did because she “will not stand by in the presence of evil” *Haertza Haeon*)

Do cyborgs shit?

Yes. It’s briefly covered in one of the extra bits in the manga, and also there are several scenes showing her body “opened up” and there is a very clearly bowl-like organ shown.

Anyways, I was really happy with this adaptation.