Alita: Battle Angel Parent Guide
Excellent world building, skilled CGI, and less-gory-then-expected violence counterbalance uneven pacing in this teen sci-fi action flick.
Parent Movie Review
When Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz) discovers a robotic head with an intact brain in the scrap pile below the flying city of Zalem, he takes it home and brings it to life. When she awakes, she remembers nothing, and asks Dr. Ido for a name: he calls her “Alita” (Rosa Salazar). Though she learns quickly and adapts well to her new life, Ido is worried about her headstrong nature and tendency to find trouble. However, when Alita helps him track down a fugitive killer, they both realize that there may be something bigger going on in Iron Town. With the help of her friend, junk dealer Hugo (Keean Johnson), Alita and Ido prepare to take on the biggest players in the criminal world. Will Alita be able to handle their cybernetic henchmen and keep herself in one piece? And just as importantly, will she be able to protect her friends?
Alita: Battle Angel feels kind of like a mashup between Mortal Engines and Robocop: It adopts the sprawling dystopian future from the former and replaces its steampunk aspects with the cyberpunk and cybernetic ideas from the latter. It’s not a terrible combination, and the world-building in the movie is one of its strongest points. This is partially because it doesn’t attempt Mortal Engine’s large-scale setting and keeps its focus on one city, which helps the movie feel grounded in one fully realized location. The film scores another big success with Alita, its computer enhanced protagonist. Although I went in to the theatre fearing two hours of the “uncanny valley”, I adjusted to her appearance within minutes. This is probably helped by the fact that Alita’s rogue’s gallery all look much weirder than her, and this context rebalances the non-human aspects of her design.
That said, Alita:Battle Angel isn’t without its own problems. Foremost among these, the pacing is very strange. For the first two-thirds of the movie, things move along at a consistent pace, with a sense of an impending dramatic climax. By the middle of the third act, however, it becomes abundantly clear that the film is going somewhere else altogether. I hate to recommend sequels, but this movie would be better with a tighter script and a planned sequel. Ending the movie in the middle of the third act would give the movie a much more stable structure.
Moviegoers may or may not object to these technical problems, but they will be relieved with the minimal content issues in this film. Despite its “C” grade for violence, Alita:Battle Angel is surprisingly not a gory film. The violence, while it sounds graphic, is almost entirely between cyborgs. This makes a difference because they can sustain the loss of basically every part of their body, and have it replaced by a mechanic. Indeed, one character has his entire head and spine removed and relocated into a new body. This resistance to serious damage really takes the edge off the violence, and injuries that would be horrifying and life-altering in human characters are usually just a minor inconvenience. Other than the violence, the movie contains five profanities, minor background drinking, and no sexual content.
Alita: Battle Angel isn’t anything genre-bending or groundbreaking, and it can be a little “paint-by-the-numbers” at times, but its still a fun movie for older kids and teens, and it offers all this with a surprisingly small list of content concerns. I’m not sure that makes it “angelic”, but it’s a lot better than the alternative.Directed by Robert Rodriguez. Starring Rosa Salazar, Eiza González, and Jennifer Connelly. Running time: 122 minutes. Theatrical release February 14, 2019. Updated April 29, 2019
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Alita: Battle Angel
Rating & Content Info
Why is Alita: Battle Angel rated PG-13? Alita: Battle Angel is rated PG-13 by the MPAA
Violence: There are no fewer than nine instances of characters having limbs removed or being dismembered, but in all of those instances, the individuals are cyborgs and are simply losing the robotic parts of their bodies, and do not seem to feel pain. An individual’s arm is cut and is shown bleeding. Two cyborgs are beaten to death in self-defense. An individual is murdered off-screen. An ancient and decayed skeleton is shown briefly. A bar fight breaks out but is limited to a large fistfight. An individual is impaled through their (robotic) torso, and some blue fluid is shown around the wound. A dog is murdered off-screen and a character uses its blood as an improvised face-paint. An individual has a giant rock dropped on them, but they seem uninjured. An individual’s leg is cut with some of that blue fluid shown around the injury. A fistfight breaks out on the street. A cyborg is decapitated. A cyborg character grips another character’s shoulder hard enough to crush it, with blood shown oozing from the damaged joint. An individual is nearly bisected with a sword. An individual is crushed to death by a giant grinder. An individual is stabbed in the abdomen and blood is shown around the wound. An individual is decapitated in a medical procedure designed to save his life by turning him into a cyborg.A cyborg’s face is cut off, and though he is enraged at the loss of such an expensive component, he does not appear to be in pain. An individual is surgically taken apart off-screen, but the eyes, brain, and several organs are shown alive and connected in a medical device intended to preserve these organs. An individual is cut in half along the vertical axis. An individual is fatally stabbed in the chest.
Sexual Content: None. A couple kisses.
Profanity: There are 5 “moderate” profanities, and one sexual expletive.
Alcohol / Drug Use: No primary character is shown drinking, but there are shots of background characters having drinks in a bar.
Page last updated April 29, 2019
Alita: Battle Angel Parents' Guide
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Cyborgs are also featured in a number of family friendly films. Disney’s Treasure Planet updates the classic novel by setting it in space and making Long John Silver a cyborg. The Star Trek franchise created the Borg, cyborgs who absorb all biological life into their hives. Captain Jean Luc Picard and the USS Enterprise go back in time with the Borg to the time of humanity’s meeting with the Vulcans in Star Trek: First Contact.