WHY WE CARE


Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."

YOUR STORIES


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"

SUPPORT THE WORK OF PLUGGED IN

Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.

PLUGGED IN RATING

    No Rating Available

Watch This Review

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Movie Review

Blink.

She wakes up in a strange bed, in a strange place. She has no memory of who she is.

Oh, she’s a cyborg, of course. She knows that much. Her body is clearly the delicate work of a master builder, but her mind … her mind’s all her own.

If only she knew more of it.

She comes downstairs and meets Dr. Dyson Ido, her new father, surgeon and savior. He rescued her core—her brain, her head, her heart—from a literal scrap heap: The good doctor specializes in patching up and rebuilding cyborgs in Iron City. He gets most of his spare parts from the massive trash dump beneath Zalem—the beautiful metropolis that hovers high above Iron City’s squalor. As he was picking up an arm here and an eye there, he came across the girl’s core, still remarkably alive and functional after plunging into the garbage heap from above. So Ido took her home and gave her a new body, one originally built for his own daughter.

But the doctor's daughter is dead now, killed by one of Ido’s very own creations. He had planned to destroy her synthetic body, too, but he just couldn’t. It was too precious to Ido, too painful to scrap. So he kept it around. And now, he finds use for it.

It’s a strong body, imbued with all of Ido’s brilliant skill and deep love. So when he gives the body to its new tenant and discovers she has, for the moment, no memories of her past life, Ido gives her a name, too.

Alita. Just like his daughter.

But as much as Ido might want to resurrect his little girl in this cyborg being, Alita’s no blank slate. She might not remember who she was or what she did, but it’s locked in her brain somewhere.

And slowly, it’s beginning to leak out.

Positive Elements

It turns out, Ido’s not just a doctor: He’s something called a hunter-warrior—essentially a bounty hunter who tracks down criminal cyborgs (and, potentially, humans too) and, ahem, neutralizes them, bringing whatever’s left to a central operations hub for cold, hard cash.

It’s a pretty brutal gig, but the cybernetic criminals Ido chases are pretty brutal, too. The tough work that he (and others like him) does keeps Iron City a little bit safer. Moreover, his underlying rationale is pretty honorable, too. Ido moonlights as a hunter-warrior for two reasons: One, it’s a sort of penance for what he sees as his past misdeeds. Two, he needs money for his woefully underfunded clinic. So Ido’s sometimes brutal second job pays for his much-more laudatory first one.

Ido’s perhaps the movie’s most sympathetic character, given his work as a doctor, his firm refusal to go against his own personal ethics and his love for Alita. But obviously, Alita’s the movie’s real hero. She’s a killer, as we eventually learn—literally built for the bloodiest work imaginable. But she's driven by her own strong moral core, too: "I do not stand by in the presence of evil," she tells her evil opponents. And it’s pretty clear (as we’ll see below) that she means it.

Spiritual Content

We could explore tons of interesting spiritual rabbit trails if we had the space, from Alita’s literal “salvation” from the scrap heap to the heaven/earth/hell relationship between the floating city of Zalem and Iron City below. (Interestingly, Zalem, pronounced Zolum in the movie, is in the original manga works called Salem, and a powerful facility at the very top of the city is called “Jeru.” Also, Salem’s head computer was named Melchizedek, a reference to the Abrahamic-era king of Salem from Genesis 14.) That said, the movie's clearly religious references are fairly minimal.

A guy named Hugo takes Alita to an old husk of a church, where the two of them gaze up at Zalem, and Hugo discusses his desire to get there some day—by any means necessary, he suggests. (The same church later serves as a sanctuary for a seriously injured character.) Hugo thinks Vector, a character who serves as Iron City's shady commissioner of Motorball (which is a rough-'n'-tumble mashup between roller derby, rugby and basketball), may be his ticket up to Zalem. But Vector encourages Hugo to stay put, paraphrasing Milton’s Paradise Lost: “Better to rule in hell than to serve in heaven,” he says.

We also hear a couple of metaphorical references to people's "demons." One hunter-warrior uses several cyber-dogs called "hellhounds."

Zalem’s powerful, mysterious ruler is a mostly unseen guy named Nova, who has the power to temporarily infiltrate the minds and bodies of his minions. Many of those minions treat him with the awe typically reserved for either royalty or divinity, bowing and groveling in his presence.

A war hundreds of years ago, resulting in this dystopian environment, is repeatedly called “the Fall.” Someone bears what looks like a rendition of a ritualistic Aztec calendar on the back of his jacket.

Sexual Content

Alita’s body may be mechanical, but her mind and heart are all teenage girl. She develops a pretty serious emotional attachment to Hugo—at one point literally offering her heart to him. (It’s a pretty advanced mechanical one. She tells him he could sell it to finance his trip to Zalem, then suggests they could get a cheap knock-off heart elsewhere.) That scene also feels oddly intimate because Alita has to unzip her shirt to get to her chest compartment where the heart is located. Alita wants to run off with Hugo, and he tells her that he loves her, too. The two kiss a few times, but things don't go any further (given Alita's cyborg physiology). We see Hugo lounge around without a shirt.

Alita’s first body resembles that of, say, a 14-year-old girl. It’s clearly mechanical and robot-like—less realistic than the body of a Barbie doll. Still, we do see her “naked,” as it were—though apart from some feminine curves, there's nothing else here that one might consider "anatomically correct." Her second body—very metallic and in shades of blue and purple—is even less “human”-looking than her old one, but it is curvier. We’re told that the body automatically conforms to Alita’s own internal impressions of herself: Ido’s nurse tells him that Alita was clearly older than they thought.

We see what initially appears to be a human woman in fishnet stockings and a trench coat in a dark alley. (She is later revealed as a cyborg.) We also see another human woman in a man's bed wearing underwear, lingerie-like stockings and a garter belt, though her shirt is less revealing. The intimacy of the scene perhaps implies that the two are lovers, though we never see anything else that would confirm that relationship.

Violent Content

The violence in Alita: Battle Angel is unremitting and oddly brutal—but a bit hard to parse in this space, given that most of the carnage is perpetrated on cyborgs (who seem to feel significantly less pain than we would if we were dismembered). Even the “blood” we see tends to be blue or green. And yet, these characters—most of whom have faces that are far more realistic than Alita’s anime-inspired visage—still feel quite human.

We do see one actual human sliced in half, though the scene is brief and in shadow. (No blood or gore is shown.) A couple of guys get stabbed, and their wounds are clearly terminal. Another human is apparently “disassembled.” Only the victim’s brain, eyes and hands are deemed worthy of keeping, apparently to be reassembled as a cyborg down the road.

Cyborgs are sliced up as a matter of course. In fact, some criminals go around “jacking” cyborgs, stripping them of parts like thieves might do with cars. Arms and legs (and sometimes accompanying built-in weapons) get hacked off and go flying. At other times, most of their bodies are diced up like ham. One scene features a violently dismembered cyborg with just one arm attached—still doing its best to fight. (“Just a flesh wound,” I half expected the victim to say.)

Tearing off a cyborg’s head is a pretty effective way to actually kill one, and we see at least one such head get pinned to a wall after it’s separated from its body. Another head is removed from its useless husk, but the thing is kept alive via a strange blood infusion. Other heads roll about at times. Part of a cyborg’s face is sliced off from the rest of it—which causes its owner a great deal of exasperation (but seemingly very little pain).

Motorball is a particularly bloody contest involving cyborgs. We see these man/machine hybrids race around the arena, crash, get sliced apart and, in one case, explode. In a more playground version of the sport (in which most of the participants seem to be human, except Alita), people get knocked to the ground and, in one case, sent flying head over heels.

Alita instigates a massive fight at a bar catering to hunter-warriors. We see limbs chopped off, bodies breaking tables and faces smashed in.

In flashback, we see what happened to Ido’s wheelchair-bound daughter (though her death takes place off-camera and is only suggested). In another flashback, we witness a massive battle where several people/cyborgs are clearly killed. Someone falls from a tremendous height, apparently to his death. A dog is apparently stepped on and killed. Alita dips her finger in blood and uses it as war paint. We see a human skeleton in an old spacecraft.

We hear rumors of a murderer on the loose in Iron City: He’s killed nine women so far, we’re told. And we see him attack one victim, mostly in the shadows, with something that looks a little like a huge scythe.

Crude or Profane Language

One f-bomb is dropped (which even some secular reviewers found a little off-putting), and we hear one use of it's milder stand-in, "freaking." We also hear an s-word and other profanities, including "b--ch," “h---," "d--n," "pr--k" and "p-ss" and "crap." Cyborgs are prone to call humans “meat bags” and the like.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Plenty of folks drink at a hunter-warrior bar. Ido sips wine with dinner. Someone pours a couple of glasses of whiskey.

Other Negative Elements

We hear about tension between Iron City’s fully human residents and its cyborg citizens. Hugo’s friend, Tanji, has a serious problem with Hugo’s budding relationship with Alita, for instance, because she’s a cyborg.

Alita increasingly acts like a rebellious teen in some ways, rejecting Ido's instructions to keep her safe. At one point, she complains to Hugo about Ido's overprotective stance, telling him, "I'm just tired of it. He just wants me to be his perfect little girl." Hugo encourages her rebellious attitude, saying, "So you gonna live by his rules or yours?"

[Spoiler Warning] Lots of people/cyborgs lie or keep secrets here. But perhaps the most jarring among them is the one that Hugo keeps. He’s part of an underground “jacking” crew that attacks cyborgs and strips them of useful motorized parts. Though he insists that he’s never killed anyone, it’s clearly a troubling occupation when your girlfriend is, y’know, a cyborg.

Conclusion

Alita: Battle Angel is visually spectacular, often ridiculous and sometimes kinda fun. Based on a 1990 manga series called Gunnm written by Yukito Kishiro, the film offers a dizzying, if overly long, scamper through a well-realized dystopia. A passion project of Titanic/Avatar impresario James Cameron (who co-wrote the screenplay), Alita was directed by Sin City’s Robert Rodriguez and features no fewer than three Oscar winners: Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly and Mahershala Ali.

Alas, the completely CGI-rendered star, Alita (voiced by Rosa Salazar), with her anime eyes and all-too-showy skin pores, lands squarely in uncanny valley for some, giving the film a rather off-putting heroine at its core.

But Alita’s not the only off-putting element here.

The movie's violence is at times laughably extreme, with some of the main players trying to do double-duty as relatable characters and tomatoes from late-night knife infomercials. (“It slices! It dices! It hacks off heads!”) Again, the fact that most of this violence is perpetrated on not-fully-human characters may mitigate it a bit; but the sheer volume of this flick's carnage surely desensitizes us.

In one intense Motorball sequence, the sport’s over-the-top announcer neatly explains the movie title: “She’s got the face of an angel but a body built for battle!” But everyone in the audience—both those at the arena and those in the theater—knows that body could be hacked apart at any time. And whatever else the movie has going for it, that seems like an issue.

Overall, Alita feels both more adult and, in some ways, less mature than your typical PG-13 actioner—a strange combination of the Blade Runner and Twilight movies.

Focus on the Family has also decided to go to battle for those whom some consider disposable. We can’t stand by in the presence of evil. Consider talking to your family about the value of life and joining us in this fight.

Three Actions You Can Take to Advance a Pro-Life Culture

A Declaration of Life for Kids

Valuing Life From the Start

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Rosa Salazar as Alita; Christoph Waltz as Dr. Dyson Ido; Jennifer Connelly as Chiren; Mahershala Ali as Vector; Ed Skrein as Zapan; Jackie Earle Haley as Grewishka; Keean Johnson as Hugo; Jorge Lendeborg Jr. as Tanji; Lana Condor as Koyomi; Idara Victor as Nurse Gerhad

Director

Robert Rodriguez ( )

Distributor

20th Century Fox

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

February 14, 2019

On Video

July 23, 2019

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!