With Latinxs ruling the film industry, Robert Rodríguez’s new Cyberpunk movie brings a badass homage to his Latin roots.
Written and produced by James Cameron and Jon Landau, Robert Rodríguez’s new film Alita: Battle Angel (2019) is the kind of high-tech/emotional film we were all waiting for. With great performances by Oscar winners Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, and Mahershala Ali who join rising stars like Rosa Salazar, Ed Skrein, and Keaan Johnson, this movie might become a blueprint for future Sci-Fi productions.
Beyond the amazing production and visual effects (supervised by none other than James Cameron) and the heartwarming and empowering narrative, the film is beautiful in Rodríguez’s exploration of his own Mexican and Latin American roots and heritage. Despite him claiming in interviews that he's just the carrier of Cameron’s script, there’s no doubt that his style is present. Proof of this is his homage to his heritage. So, in case you missed it, here are some Latino easter eggs in Alita: Battle Angel that you might’ve missed:
Latinxs represent an important part of the population
The movie is set in a dystopian world 300 years after a terrible war devastated the world. This new society is divided in two, those who rule Zalem (an elevated city almost no one can reach) and those living in the Iron City. Dyson Ido, a cyborg surgeon, discovers in the city dumps the head and torso of a cyborg girl who's still alive. After restoring her, he gives her all the information about the city including the fact that people speak in many languages since people all over the world migrated there to survive. And it’s safe to say that Latinxs represent the majority of the population.
It’s supposed to be set in South America
The original manga is set in what used to be Kansas City, however, according to Rodríguez himself, they decided to set the film somewhere in South America. They did this because, in Cameron’s logic, the elevator that connects Zalem with Iron City would be scientifically possible if it were closer to the equator. With that in mind, it makes sense that most of the population is Latinx and that many visual and sound references come from different Latin American cultures.
Language also plays an important role in the film. Throughout the movie we can hear and even "see" Spanish, as it happens with the background sound, the ads in Iron City, places like “Cantinas” and even Dr. Ido’s “Clínica.” Not only that, the only way a person from Iron City can go to Zalem is by becoming a champion at this crazy gladiator-like cyborg sport called Motorball. In some of the huge Motorball matches, we can see so fans with banners written in glorious Spanish slang.
Iron City is basically a mix of Latin American Colonial towns
According to Caylah Eddleblute, co-production designer of the movie, her team traveled to Mexico and Panama with Robert Rodriguez to get a glimpse of the architecture and lifestyle of these cities to make Iron City credibly Latinx. She explains how she was inspired by Latin American Colonial towns and archaeological ruins to give the set a vibe of a timeless place.
Zapan’s majestic cyborg design
Game of Thrones actor Ed Skrein plays Zapan, a bounty hunter with a stunning cyborg design and a pretty face that makes everyone in Iron City feel both enticed and menaced. He wears a metallic gear which has a not-so-subtle yet impressive hint to Mexican culture in the film: a majestic and really badass representation of the Aztec Calendar carved on his back.
Rosa Salazar, Eiza Gonzalez, and Michelle Rodríguez
Besides all the visual effects and characters in the film, it's Latina actresses the ones who steal the show. Michelle Rodriguez plays Gelda, a cyborg warrior who trained Alita before the war and made her the strong and powerful warrior she discovers she is after being restored. Eiza González takes the role of Nyssiana, an assassin cyborg who attempts to kill Alita and Dr. Ido, Alita's father. And, last but definitely not least, Alita is portrayed by Peruvian-American actress Rosa Salazar who gives a fresh and heartwarming performance.
With this great Latinx cast and production, as a Latina myself, I can’t help but feel proud and empowered with Rodriguez's new production. The fact that he makes these subtle references to Latin American culture shows how film creators don’t need to rub ethnicity agendas to our faces. They only need to show how diverse our world is.
Here's the trailer so you can see what I mean:
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