Alita: Battle Angel (PG-13)
20th Century Studios; Council of Geeks; IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes; Templeton Gate; TV Tropes; Weta FX; Wikia; Wikipedia
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Caution: potential spoilers.
This is based on the manga "Battle Angel Alita" (or "Gunnm" in the original Japanese version), which was previously adapted into a 2-episode anime, which I haven't seen. (I might have read one issue of the manga at some point, I don't really remember.) I wasn't entirely sure where to put my review, but I decided to go with "dystopian & post-apocalyptic", since both terms describe the society in which the movie is set. Three hundred years before the movie (which is set in 2563), there was a war between Earth and the United Republics of Mars (URM), in which almost all of Earth's floating cities were destroyed. The only surviving city in the sky is Zalem, which hovers above Iron City. A scientist named Dr. Dyson Ido discovers the remains of a cyborg girl (not much more than her head) in a scrap yard below Zalem, and takes her home to give her a new body. When the girl wakes up, she has no memories, so Ido names her "Alita", after his deceased daughter. (Alita is a CGI character, and I reckon there's a bunch of other CGI in the movie, but it's mostly live-action. I do think the CGI is pretty impressive, though Alita's eyes are rather big. But that's probably in keeping with how she looked in the manga.) She soon befriends a guy named Hugo. And she takes an interest in a violent sport called Motorball (which reminds me of a cross between Rollerball and Immortal Grand Prix). Hugo works as a scrap dealer, who sells cyborg parts to Vector, who I guess is in charge of Motorball (among other things). Another person who works for Vector is Ido's ex-wife, Dr. Chiren (Jennifer Connelly, who repairs cyborgs. Vector himself works for someone in Valem named Nova, who sometimes takes control of Vector's body to speak through him. He also sometimes speaks through a cyborg named Grewishka (Jackie Earle Haley, whom I completely failed to recognize).
There has been a series of murders in the news, and at one point it looks like Ido could be the killer. Alita follows him one night, and it turns out he was actually hunting the killer, or rather killers. It was Grewishka and a couple of other cyborgs, whom Alita fights and defeats, but Grewishka gets away. It turns out that Ido has been moonlighting as a bounty hunter, aka a Hunter-Warrior, to subsidize his work repairing cyborgs who often can't afford to pay him, as well as to avenge the death of his daughter, and try to keep others from being killed. Alita wants to become a Hunter-Warrior herself, but Ido is against it. Which drives her to spend more time with Hugo and his friends. They take her to see a crashed URM spaceship, which Alita explores and finds an advanced, headless cyborg body, which she brings back to Ido. But he refuses to transfer her head to the body, for reasons I won't get into. In fact I don't want to get into too many more specifics of the plot, except to say that Nova wants Alita dead, and has dr. Chiren upgrade Grewishka to fight her again. And eventually Ido has no choice but to put Alita into the URM cyborg body, which makes her even more badass than she was before (and she was already pretty badass in her old body). Also, I should say that Hugo has been working for Vector for the promise of being sent to live in Zalem someday, though that's a lie. The only way for someone from Iron City to get to Zalem is to become the champion of Motorball, so of course Alita starts playing the sport, herself. (It's a commentator who refers to Alita as a "battle angel".) Actually, there is one other way to get to Zalem, but it's pretty gruesome (and kind of reminds me of a plot point from Akira).
Well, I'm leaving out lots of details, and I don't want to say how it all ends, but it does look like there could be a sequel someday. Anyway, I thought the movie was fairly cool, and I really liked Alita as a character. The story could be a bit convoluted, but it wasn't really bad. I liked the implication that the URM were probably the good guys, in the war, and I'd like to learn more about that society. And I don't know what else to say.