Alita: Battle Angel - Notes from James Cameron Edit
Everyone in the story is yearning for something they can´t have.
-- Hugo is yearning for a life in the sky city - curiosity, imagination, the dream of a better life
-- Chiren has a bitter yearning for her lost status as Citizen of Zalem… luxury and power
-- Ido yearns for order, for release from guilt, and for the lost daughter he can´t get back.
-- Alita doesn´t even know what to want - she has no identity, so she has no yearning. She yearns to be loved, to be accepted, which gets focused on Hugo. Ultimately, her quest is for the truth, for her identity.
These films should be an indictment of war, not a celebration of it.
Both sides had become evil… and the soldiers were pawns. Alita cannot feel guilt for a war she didn´t create. But she does, once she realizes her role in the destruction of civilization.
There have always been wars, there will always be wars, unless human nature or indeed the natural rules of competition and selection are altered.
There will always be warriors, in some ages reviled, in others celebrated as heroes.
But this story is told in a world shattered to it’s depths by war. People live in the wreckage of a war which ended two great civilizations and caused immeasurable suffering. That war is not celebrated, or even remembered. Everything about that war seems to be part of a time of darkness best forgotten, even though it was a time of technical wonders beyond what can be achieved now.
No one really remembers or cares who started the war, if such a thing could even be objectively known. History is both forgotten and surpressed. There are no historians in Iron City, and the history in Zalem is highly redacted to suit their own fantasy of empire and nobility of purpose.
Alita represents many things which make her an enemy of Zalem - a literal enemy, a warrior of the URM. But also someone from that time, who may remember the truths that Zalem seeks to surpress. And she embodies technologies which are forbidden, because they could again unravel their fragile civilisation.
Each in Iron City, amongst the survivors of her past attack, would be a curse if not for her loss of memory.
Her memory wipe is truly a fresh start, without the burden of guilt. And that her search for identity leads her into darkness… but like a moth to a flame she is drawn deeper, until the final reveal.
As she progresses, as she closes in on the truth in the later films, then her nightmares come, and her sleep is tortured. Her brain is slowly rebuilding and reconnecting the atomized fragments of her memory.
Each level lies to the one below it.
Goverments lie, and distract, and do what they were going to do anyway, with the people understanding, or even caring that they do not understand. The people find themselves in wars without knowing why. What led to it? What were the root causes?
Who attacked first?
This question should never be answered. It doesn´t matter who started it. Humanity´s failure is that it started.
Once it starts there is always a wrong which needs to be righted, always an attack which needs to be avenged. Memory is short, hatred is long… and truth is the first casualty.
Few wars are just wars. And the Great Interplanetary War not just a war. There were many off ramps, but neither side had the wisdom to take them.
The fall of all things, of all that had been created and accomplished throughout history… cannot be justified. But world leaders had played on the brink of that abyss since the 20th century, and didn´t think about it anymore. By the 23rd century, it was background noise to their decision making process.
All wars are a failure of leadership.
When you are at one level, you can´t know what´s at a higher level.
The world… understanding… truth… consciousness… they are all like a big video game.
You have to move up to the next level to see what what´s there. Then you have to learn the rules of that level, in order to progress.
An upward spiral of revelation.
The world of the 26th century is a metaphor for that principle.
There is the Underworld (the ruins below the
... then the Lower World (Iron City, the Ag region, the Badlands)...
... then above that Zalem…
... and above that Centerpoint (midway up the Ladder, 30,000 miles in space - the zero g hub and space docks)
... and above that the nearly mythical Ketheres Eylon, the Star City… gateway to interplanetary and interstellar space.
In between the worlds runs the Ladder.
This world architecture is a metaphor for government, for power, for wealth, for spiritual evolution.
It is a metaphor for growing up. As a child, you can´t imagine the level above you… teenager. As a teenager you can´t imagine the world of the adult. As a young single, you can´t imagine the world of the parent. And yet all of these worlds must co-exist, and find a way to cooperate. Each level rules the one below it, through superior information, through greater truth, and greater physical power.
Fate has a terrible power. You cannot escape it by wealth of war. Sophocles
Oh God! That one might read the book of Fate.
-- Alita doesn´t know what food she likes, or what music. She doesn´t know what she believes. God, no God? Muslim, Christian? Democrat, Republican? Smoking, non-smoking? Glass half full, glass half empty? Can´t answer the simplest questions. This feels strange, and is a constant reminder that she is a blank slate. Much of what makes up our identity are the choices we made. Like an Alzheimer’s victim who feels they know the answer… it always seems to be right on the tip of her tongue… but it´s just not there.
But this is also cool. She gets to discover everything all over again, without prejudice. She is a blank slate, free of guilt and regret.
She is reborn, but not as a baby… as a fully conscious entity. This, combined with her innate animus… her enthusiasm for life, makes this a magical time for her.
This makes her feel young, new. As a result she seems younger than her real years to Ido and the others, especially since has reconceived her physical form as immature.
Slowly, it dawns on her that she is older than she looks… and certainly older than Ido thinks of her.
Note: Ido may have a general idea of her biological age by tests of her brain or blood tissue, or by some standard metrics which he can scan from outside. She is biologically about 18, and when she gets the Berserker body, it responds to her subconcous self-image by taking on the body of a girl of 18. But probably Ido´s tests should only give him a range - say 14 to 18, and he (for psychological reasons) assumes the low side, when in fact she is the high side.
What all this does is set up a conflict between her and Ido over her own ability to take responsibility for herself… and his lack of ability to trust her decisions and choices.
No matter how old she is, she will always be stubborn, headstrong and impulsive… behaviour which he would view as immature even if she proved to be 70. So part it is personally, part of it is body image, and part of it is his projection of his own need for her to be a child.
This is all a metaphor for the classic parent-child dissonance. The child, with the reference point, always assumes he/she is more grown-up than they are, and certainly more than the parent perceives them to be. The parent projects their own experiences the child has not had yet. The remembers how ill-equipped they were to deal with these situations, and the protective reflex is to limit the child’s premature exposure to these environments and situations. The child, meanwhile, hungers for these new experiences instinctively. Children are natural explorers, and hungry for the truth regarding the mysteries of the world.
They also naturally evolve toward a rejection of the parents… a cutting of the psychological umbilical cord, which is part of the process of independence and individuation. This is all natural, but it is painful for the parent, who is unwilling to let go of the child’s dependence, because it has become part of the parent’s self-definition and purpose. The hardest and most important act of parenting is the “letting go”... the empowerment of the child as an independent, decision making individual.
The strength of the story, as with all as with all stories, will be in the universal human dynamics, even in unfamiliar settings, and even with extraordinary people.
The film will only work if the emotional dynamics are readily recognizable… especially because the world is strange and eoxtic, and the characters unusual.
This works well with Ido and Alita, and Alita and Hugo, Ido/Chiren.
But Nova is opaque and enigmatic, and so are Chaos and den. This is a problem.
--- Kaos is not a character, he is a metaphor. He is man’s consciousness divided:
the angry, warlike, brutal, stubborn aspect seperated from the compassionate, poetic and wise aspect.
The is that we need both. Much of our strength, our will to live, to be free… resides in the savage aspect. The illogical animal which cannot accept death, defeat, or a cage. But the strong man, without compassion, is a monster. And the wise, compassionate man, without the strong man, is weak and indecisive, and cannot lead. Freedom is not given, it is earned… often taken. All of life is a battle, and we need the warrior within us to survive. But the warrior must be held in balance. When the (...) doesn’t work.
Alita could learn this from Kaos. Kaos theory. She has suppressed her human side, become a blade of purest steel, a machine thing without feeling. A creature of rage. From Kaos she learns balance.
So Den cannot be a hero. Den must die to make Kaos whole (or free him from the curse, so he can lead). Kaos must absorb Den.
This could be the reason she seeks to destroy Den.
-- when the Barjack “liberate” a village or farm, they pass out guns and enlist new troops to overthrow Zalem.
-- a turning point for Alita is seeing them handing out guns to little kids, like toys.
-- she doesn´t know where it comes from, but deep inside her she has a powerful reaction to seeing children turned into warriors. She knows that no end justifies that as a means.
--the epic cycle of this story could be about the inevitability and the folly of war - a world ravaged by war, slowly rebuilds… only to have war again.
--Alita is a warrior, but she fights as an individual, for what she believes in, for justice… and to protect the weak.
--organized armies doing the bidding of others scare her… she does not want to join the Barjack, even to bring down Zalem, the oppressor.
Alita’s motivations should always be personal, not political or ideological, She is not a revolutionary. She is a loner, a maverick… a random number, a variable, an unstable particle … the algorithm which cannot be predicted. She is a catalyst for change.
She follows her heart, always. And we know that her heart is pure.
She is a fearless spirit, a person of principle. A protector of the weak. A seeker of justice. And capable of the most fearsome vengeance imaginable. She will kill you in the blink of an eye if you harm someone she loves. She is never selfish. She doesn´t care about wealth or power. But she admires strength and principle. She loves Ido, and respects him as a healer, as a man of good hear. She does not fear death, but she fears her own nature. She knows there is a demon insider and (…) can be awesome.
Source of the notes: Alita: Battle Angel - Limited Edition Bluray - 4th disc - Conversation between James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez