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REVIEW: ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ is a fun ride with a good message, but …

Dr. Dyson Ido is a brilliant man who holds the keys to life and death.

The year is 2563, and Ido, as a cyborg scientist, is the city’s go-to man for missing body parts. As long as you have a living and intact brain, Ido can keep you alive even after your heart stops. This advancement in science has resulted in thousands of robotic humans — “cyborgs,” they’re called — walking the streets. Some have robotic arms. Some have artificial legs. Some even have an entire robotic body (and heart!), with a human head on top.

Ido’s genius, though, couldn’t keep his wheelchair-bound daughter alive. A violent drug addict murdered her, just as Ido was set to perform the cyborg operation to give her a new body. He was devastated.

That was years ago. But now Ido may have a chance to bring her back to life … sort of. While digging through a city junkyard he discovers the head of a young female cyborg with a functioning brain. Although it appears dead, Ido believes it can be attached to a cyborg body — yes, the one he made for his daughter — and brought back to life. He’ll even name it after his daughter: Alita.

Alita: Battle Angel (PG-13) opens this weekend, telling the story of a cyborg who initially has no memory of her past but soon discovers that she was a powerful warrior some 300 years ago. That war — known as The Fall — destroyed much of Earth and turned Ido’s home (known as Iron City) into a dystopian metropolis where people struggle each day for survival. Police don’t exist. In their place are so-called “hunter warriors” — bounty hunters — who enforce the few laws and kill accused murderers on the spot. Grace and mercy (and courts, for that matter) are foreign concepts.

The plot thickens when Alita discovers her warrior-like powers and begins fighting evil in Iron City. She also learns the sport of Motorball, which is a combination of roller derby and handball and is so dangerous that only cyborgs compete. Thousands attend the matches, which are televised.  

Of course, Alita’s talents make her a target of those in power, including the leader of Zalem, the high-class “sky city” that hovers above Iron City. And when Alita learns that she once lived in Zalem, she develops a desire to return — and perhaps even destroy this crazy class system and make things right.

Alita: Battle Angel is a visually stunning film — it was made by the writers and producers of Avatar — and it gives us plenty of positive messages and lessons, too. Such as: Be courageous. Oppose evil. Do good. Display mercy. In many ways, Alita herself is a marvelous role model.

“Do not stand by in the presence of evil,” she says.

The film raises questions about life, death and immortality that have been debated for ages. For example: If you could live forever on this sin-filled Earth, would you want to do so? Or would you rather pass on to the next life and be in the presence of Christ? (Sign me up for the latter, which is promised in Scripture anyway. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:53 that the Christian’s soul already has immortality!)  

Although the film is beautiful, it has problematic content for young viewers. Alita drops an f-bomb midway through the film that is odd and out of place. (It’s the only time she cursed in the entire movie. Did they place it there just to avoid a PG rating?) The movie has wall-to-wall violence that is beyond what a normal superhero film has. Cyborgs are decapitated and sliced in two. Arms and legs are cut off in battles. Sure, they “bleed” blue and not red, but it’s still likely disturbing for young viewers.   

Still, if you can overlook a ton of violence and a bit of coarse language, Alita: Battle Angel is a fun ride.  

Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.     

Alita: Battle Angel is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language.

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