James Cameron’s Alita: Battle Angel is a huge hit… outside the United States. It’s kind of ironic, actually. The original OAV of Battle Angel wasn’t a success in Japan but gained a strong cult following in Western markets. Now, it looks like the film’s ultimate success will depend on the Asian territories. From what I’ve seen here in the Philippines, it’s doing fairly respectable business here. Some of that business comes from me because I did watch it a second time.
But even after watching Alita: Battle Angel twice now, I still have some questions about it. Nothing really big or anything. These questions are ultimately inconsequential to the plot.
Since a lot of these questions do deal with the story, I will be giving out the obligatory SPOILER WARNING here. I also have to mention that I’m not the most knowledgeable person when it comes to Alita. Most of my history comes from the OAV that was dumped on YouTube so maybe some of these questions were answers in the official manga. But I’m still asking these inconsequential questions as they were never answered in both the OAV and the live-action film.
What are the rules of Motorball?
Probably one of my favorite scenes of Alita: Battle Angel is when Alita tries out for the professional Motorball league at the suggestion of her boyfriend, Hugo. Now, Motorball is the biggest and most popular sport in the film’s world. I really want to get into it a little more but, really, can anyone really explain to me how you actually play Motorball?
I ask this because there doesn’t seem to be any concrete rules. During the Sandlot Motorball scene, you clearly see them going after a ball and trying to shoot it into a pipe in the wall. It also seems like it’s a team based game where you try to score the most points for your team. Seems pretty straightforward.
But when Alita tries out for the Professional Motorball League, it becomes more individualistic. No one even comments on how everyone, and I mean everyone, is trying to take out Alita! If there were teams, it would seem weird if her own teammates were trying to kill her, wouldn’t it? Even when they cut to that brief scene of the Pro Motorball League, no one seems to be concerned about scoring points with the ball. So, do both leagues have different rules?
Who’s running the Factory and the Motorball League now that Vector is dead?
You may say that the primary antagonist in Alita: Battle Angel is Nova, the man pulling the strings way up in the floating city of Zalem, that’s not entirely true. Sure, he’s the guy giving the orders but you never see him until the very, very, very end of the film. Throughout Alita: Battle Angel’s runtime, it’s actually Grewishka, the brutish cyborg (who doesn’t really have any motivation besides “Grewishka. SMASH!”) and Vector. In my opinion, the main villain is actually Vector.
Yes, he’s just following orders from Nova, which is why he’s out to kill Alita. But he also just stands by while Grewishka goes ahead and continuously maims the citizens of Iron City for no good reason. He also tricks Hugo into thinking he can get to Zalem by paying his way though but this isn’t true in the least. He even kills Chiren and packs up her body parts to be sold in Zalem!
These actions do catch up with Vector in the end. After Alita dispatches Grewishka in a quick battle, she goes after Vector and stabs him with her new plasma-like sword. Vector is “possessed” by Nova one last time and Alita informs Nova that he’s next. One thing that’s glossed over though is how important Vector to Iron City. He runs a lot of stuff, including the Factory, which employs a lot of people, like the hunter-killers, and the Pro Motorball League. Wouldn’t his death cause a lot of chaos since he essentially runs the town?
Shouldn’t Alita be hunted down for murdering an innocent man?
While we’re on the topic of Vector’s death at the hands of Alita, shouldn’t that make her a fugitive for, you know, the act of murder? You may say that it isn’t murder since she did kill the big bad guy of the film but hear me out…
Vector wasn’t a good guy, I’ll grant you that. But he wasn’t deemed a criminal and there was no bounty on his head. To a lot of people in Iron City, he’d be some kind of savior or, at the very least, some kind of inspirational story that they should look up to. Not only does he run the Factory, he’s also the head of the Pro Motorball League, the city’s primary source of entertainment!
So, let’s say you’re a citizen of Iron City and hear about his cold-blooded murder. Wouldn’t you want his killer to be hunted down by the hunter-killers? Shouldn’t Nova put out a bounty on Alita’s head for the legitimate cause of her being an actual murderer? If he did, then problem solved! There’s no way Alita could ever get to him with all the hunter-killers going after her for the bounty, let alone playing in the Professional Motorball League?
Speaking of which…
Is Alita still a hunter-killer by the end of the film?
At the very end of the film, we see Alita a crowd favorite of the Professional Motorball League. I guess the main reason why she even joined was because the best player will get to go to Zalem and live there. She probably thinks it’s the best way for her to get to Nova, even though it’s totally possible that it’s all a lie and the winner will be dismembered much like Chiren was. But that’s not the question I have (although it is an interesting to ask if it’s true or not).
My question is regarding Alita’s employment. As a former cyborg soldier, she’s incredibly familiar with killing and well versed in Panzer Kunst, the fictional martial art that’s extremely effective against cyborgs (and also humans, I would assume). So the violent sport of Motorball would suit her.
However, since she is a professional Motorball champion, does that mean she had to stop being a hunter-killer? Are there any specific rules or standards and practices that state a Motorball player can’t be a hunter-killer? Yes, there were more than a few hunter-killers trying to destroy Alita during the tryout but that just means they weren’t professional Motorball players, right? Also, is the pay of a Motorball player much higher than one can collect from hunter-killer bounties? I mean, they’re both extremely dangerous professions, you know.
Is Nova really a bad guy?
It may seem weird for me to ask if Nova, the guy that’s caused Alita so much misery ever since she was reactivated, a bad guy. But is he really? Or is he just a victim of Alita’s perspective?
Throughout the film, we’re treated to a few of Alita’s memories as a soldier for the Mars army. They’ve been told that they have to take out Earth and, in effect, Nova. Now, we’re never explicitly told which side of the war won or lost; it just could be a ceasefire or Earth lost and Zalem is under the control of Mars. We just don’t know.
Anyway, one of the reasons why Alita hates Nova is because she was told that Zalem was bad and, as a soldier from Mars, they had to invade and take over Earth. But is what she was told the truth? We don’t really know what caused the war between the space colonies in the first place so, who knows? Maybe Mars was actually trying to invade Earth in a tyrannical bid to take over the whole solar system?
In fact, there’s one scene where one of Hugo’s friends states that he doesn’t trust Alita because she came from Mars. To that guy, anything that comes from Mars represents something evil and that’s kind of understandable. The scars from that war are still visible, with crashed ships littering the outskirts of the city. So, who knows? Maybe Nova is just a noble guy who was defending Earth long ago and now, he sees Alita, a soldier from Mars, still trying to kill him? Does that make him a bad guy?
BONUS: Why is Jennifer Connelly still hot?
When I was young, a little film called Labyrinth came out. While the main selling points were the fantastical story, the puppets created by the Jim Henson Company and David Bowie, young boys such as myself were also attracted to Sarah, the main character who’s in search for her brother in a magical world.
Unamazingly, a lot of boys at my age immediately had a crush on Jennifer Connelly, the girl who played Sarah. She was cute and beautiful and had that “girl next door” look that was just perfect. A whole 36 years later after Labyrinth came out, Jennifer Connelly was cast as Chiren, the former wife of Dr. Ido in Alita: Battle Angel. I was kind of skeptical with the casting choice as Chiren is supposed to be a femme fatale and extremely sexy. How could the now 48 year old Jennifer Connelly pull that off?
She did. She truly did. I mean, that one scene in Alita where she was in bed only wearing sexy lingerie was… wow. How has she stayed so amazingly beautiful after all these years?
Maybe all of the previous questions have been answered in the manga or will be answered in a sequel. But the mystery of Jennifer Connelly’s perpetual beauty will always be a mystery to me.
Have any inconsequential questions after watching Alita: Battle Angel? Tell me what they are in the comments section below!