Often in life, we are unable to explain our obsessions. They hit us like a ton of bricks and make little sense. This is what happened to The Ringer’s Mose Bergmann when he first laid normal-sized eyes on the oversize eyes of Alita, the battle angel from Alita: Battle Angel. He couldn’t stop thinking about her, and those eyes. At this website we encourage passion, even if it’s somewhat concerning. And so we wrote this exit survey specifically for Mose, so that he could continue his Alita-filled journey. His answers are below.
1. What is your tweet-length review of Alita: Battle Angel?
2. What was the best moment of the movie?
Bergmann: A little past midway through the movie, Alita—fed up with the overbearing rules of Christoph Waltz’s Dr. Ido—registers to become a vigilante “hunter warrior,” in hopes that getting into more fights will trigger the lost memories of her past life. So she puts on a dope leather duster (do not ask me where she got it) and heads to the local watering hole, Kansas, to stir up some trouble. She picks a fight with Zapan—Ed Skrein’s human head on a cyborg body—then calls out the rest of the scumbags in the bar, which leads to her taking on about two dozen cyborg unsavories all at once. It’s a great action scene in general, but what I really appreciate about it is it embraces Alita being the strongest, best fighter we see in the movie. She’s clearly much more powerful than anyone else in the bar and in the movie—O.P., as the kids say. Not enough movies let their badass leads have the best action moments in their own movies.
3. What was your least favorite part of the film?
Bergmann: I absolutely despise Hugo, Alita’s hunky teenage love interest. I hate his stupid bandana and his dumb sideburns. All due respect to actor Keean Johnson, but retire, bitch. It’s a remarkable feat that in a movie that features dozens of robotic characters and a warrior cyborg protagonist, the dullest and least-lifelike acting came from a human man.
There’s a specific moment when Hugo jokes with Alita that she’s “strong enough to tear his arm off and beat him with the wet end.” I, a foolish optimist, thought that this was some clever, subtle foreshadowing by James Cameron and Co., and was relishing the possibility that Hugo would die in this grotesque manner. Alas, ’twas but a tease.
4. Who was the MVP of Alita: Battle Angel?
Bergmann: The MVP has to go to Rosa Salazar—the movie would not work at all without her impressive mo-cap performance. In addition to the fact that she’s playing a character digitally enhanced to have peepers the size of Big Macs, Alita herself is a very weird character. Salazar imbues her with a sense of childlike wonder and optimism, but at the same time adds tones of the rage, confidence, and empowerment that have manifested from the fact that she’s, well, an ancient superpowered warrior robot.
5. Please give an honest assessment of Alita’s giant CGI eyes. Were they cute or off-putting? Did they veer into the uncanny valley? Feel free to take as much time as you need to answer this.
Bergmann: I love the eyes. The eyes were perfect. Alita has the platonic eye. I’m absolutely exhausted looking at normal-sized, human eyes; kudos to director Robert Rodriguez for having the guts to really stir it up. But now I ask you, why stop there? Give me bigger eyes. Give Alita goddamn awooga eyes. Give her the eyes of a certain cherished Italian American actor. Give her a million tiny eyes all on the side of her head, like a big bug. That’d be nice.
6. If Motorball really existed, would you be a fan?
Bergmann: OK, before I can decide where I stand on it, let’s get a few simple questions out of the way. Would Motorball—as presented in Alita— possibly exist in our present year without cybernetic enhancements or weapons? Wouldn’t that just be Slamball on rollerblades with added hints of murder? If that’s the case, then no, I would not be a fan, because murder is illegal, people. I believe Motorball can only exist in its intended, purest form, in the future steampunk universe of Alita. Now that leads me to ask, where am I in the hierarchy of Iron City? Do I have robotic limbs? What are my priorities? Do I have the time to enjoy in such frivolities, or are things too dire for me and my robot dog, Jeremy, to engage in leisurely sport watching? It’s a lot to think about.
I’d like to think I’d be doing OK, making a living as a food vendor of some kind. Alita was munching on some kind of burrito at one point—I could probably sell those. I’d hang out every so often with my friend, that busker playing a triple-necked guitar with his three robot hands. I’d play Sudoku for fun; it’d be a struggle sometimes because I replaced my writing hand with a vintage Mickey Mouse–type glove for a hand, like an idiot, and the feel just isn’t the same. As for Motorball, you know what? It’s just not my thing. Tried it out a few times, and I get why other people like it, but it’s just not for me. And that’s OK.
7. Which element of Alita was the most upsetting: all the cyborg dismemberments, a scene showing the aftermath of organ harvesting, or Giant Robot Jackie Earle Haley killing a tiny dog?
Bergmann: Definitely the dismemberments. The organ harvesting was a totally rad, unnecessary detail, and that little dog had it coming. (Be a robot dog instead, my guy. It’s 2563, come on.) This movie should have been rated R—it’s outright upsetting at points. Alita is responsible for at least one beheading and one de-facing (?). The latter I’ll allow, however, because Alita slicing off the front of pretty-boy Ed Skrein’s mug is karma for his evil, totally nasty turn as that cop in If Beale Street Could Talk.
8. Provide your thoughts on the washed, white-wigged Edward Norton cameo.
Bergmann: Early on, we get a glimpse of Nova, the big baddie revealed at the end to be played by Norton, and it’s really hard to make out who it is behind some thick glasses and a goofy white wig. Not knowing who played this big character got my mind racing, and before it was fully revealed I was 100 percent convinced that the man behind the glasses was none other than James Cameron. Imagine the world’s most successful director getting stuck in development hell trying to direct Alita, only to years later pass it on to Robert Rodriguez, and then cast himself as the omniscient, all-powerful, stays-accurate-to-the-manga-outfit bad guy. It would’ve been an all-time flex.
Alas, who we got was actually Norton, who I will argue was doing his best to look a lot like James Cameron. Like, if you were casting a biopic of Cameron, Norton would definitely be a top-five pick for that role.
9. With the Norton cameo at the end, Alita: Battle Angel is clearly setting up a sequel. What is its plot?
Bergmann: Alita 2: Space Angel takes our intrepid hero to the depths of space as she continues to discover her past. After ascending to Zalem, Alita suffers a loss at the hands of Nova, escaping to Mars before he can finish her off. On Mars, she discovers the remnants of her berserker cyborg people, with their big eyes. She tries to convince them to join her cause and defeat Nova, but young and impressionable as she is, she succumbs to their now pacifist, totally chilled-out ways. Alita and a group of young cyborgs then head out on an American Honey–style road trip across Mars filled with partying, young love, and plenty of big, big eyes, where they learn a little bit about themselves, and a lot about the big, big world.