Alita: strong but not too overpowered

Alita_Battle_Angel_(2019_poster)Star Wars TrailerWonder_Woman_(2017_film)

This is a follow-up to my earlier post: Strong doesn’t mean overpowered: female characters

I watched the Alita: Battle Angel live-action / CG movie earlier this month, and though it’s not perfect, it works well as a sci-fi action movie in terms of entertainment value.

For this post, I’m going to focus more on Alita’s “power level” as portrayed in the movie. I haven’t read the manga, so this is just based solely on the movie. I know that it’s not a particularly faithful adaptation: >10 years of manga compressed into a 2-hour movie, characters cut / added / changed, etc. But this post is more about how the movie stands on its own.

WARNING: Possible spoilers ahead.

“Alita finding out who she is” actually doesn’t remain a mystery for very long. Dr. Ido already has a good idea who she is, based on her hi-tech heart, and his inference is confirmed very quickly.

Plus points about Alita being shown as strong but not overpowered:

  • Motorball tryout in the streets: Initially, she falls flat on her face. She only wins the game after some practice.
  • Saving Ido: Combat skills explained by her backstory. The 3 opponents were underestimating her from the start.
  • Underground fight with Grewishka: Overconfidence leads to dismemberment. For the final blow, she does very well for someone who was just dismembered! But it’s made very clear that blinding one eye isn’t enough to stop Grewishka. Alita is moments away from being crushed to fragments, and is only saved by the intervention of others.
  • Rest of the movie: Improved combat performance explained by Martian supertech cyborg chassis and sword.

Overall, a considerable improvement over “invincible heroines” of The Force Awakens and Wonder Woman. Alita is shown to need time and practice to acquire her Motorball skill, and suffers at least one major injury rather than sailing through all her battles without a scratch.

Writers who intend to create “strong female characters”, please take note!

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