WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Alita: Battle Angel, in theaters now.
Alita: Battle Angel introduces a number of Hunter-Warriors, or bounty hunters, who police the futuristic Iron City. Alita (Rosa Salazar) herself becomes one, and goes to the bar Kansas to try and recruit more of them to help her fight off Grewishka (Jackie Earle Haley).
But while Zapan (Ed Skrein) and Master Clive Lee (Rick Yune) are memorable in their own ways, neither compares to who should be the breakout character of the adaptation: McTeague (Jeff Fahey), the cowboy with a pack of robotic dogs at his beck and call. He's the best thing about Alita, and he should have been in more of the movie.
The cyberpunk world of Steel City is defined by a futuristic grunge aesthetic. People walk around with robotic limbs, and the most popular sport utilizes actual rocket skates. That's what makes McTeague so immediately compelling. In a world of robotic parts, he's evocative of a completely different setting.
The Hunter-Warriors are limited by a lack of access to firearms. No one can use a gun without incurring the wrath of the Factory, the bounty hunter governing body. McTeague doesn't use any of the flashy blades that Zapan does, or the mechanical weaponry that Grewishka utilizes. Instead, he employs a pack of cyborg dogs called the Hell Hounds to capture his targets.
But he doesn't treat the dogs as mindless drones. Instead, he's established as a genuine dog lover. When a bar brawl breaks out, he sits out the fight and pets the puppy Alita brought with her into the bar. And when that puppy is killed by Grewishka, McTeague gets mad. That's what motivates him to help Ido (Christoph Waltz) save Alita from Grewishka. His Hell Hounds even force Grewishka away from the wounded Alita, leaving their wrangler to call him out for not being a dog lover.
And then he's gone for the rest of the film! We get plenty more of Zapan, the sneering swordsman, and even endure unnecessary amounts of time spent on potential sequel setup about Nova. But there's nothing else from McTeqgue or his Hell Hounds. The idea of a straight-up cowboy in the future with his pack of cybernetic dogs immediately stands out, even against the rest of the impressive imagery present in the film. If any character from Alita: Battle Angel deserves to be the focus of any future films in the franchise, it's McTeague.
Directed by Robert Rodriguez, Alita: Battle Angel adapts Yukito Kishiro's popular manga Battle Angel Alita. The film stars Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Keean Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Lana Condor, and Eiza González.