ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL | When Robert Rodriguez met James Cameron…
When James Cameron bought the rights to Yukito Kishiro’s manga Battle Angel Alita, the plan was for it to be his next production after TV series Dark Angel. That was back in 2000. But then Cameron got lost in Avatar’s universe and Alita became an unmade Cameron script – until Robert Rodriguez stepped in. Asked by Cameron and his producer Jon Landau to take the helm, the director undertook a daunting prospect.
Wading through “a thousand pages of notes, a 200-page script and a tonne of artwork”, it’s been a “huge production”, says Rodriguez, dwarfing every movie he’s done, from Sin City to Spy Kids. Even now, some two years after the shoot, his team are still finessing the extensive visual effects. “I’m surprised it didn’t go longer,” he adds. “I’m just astonished on a daily basis when I get new effects shots in that just are mind-blowing.”
Based in the metropolis of Iron City (built extensively at Rodriguez’s Troublemaker Studios in Austin), Alita is a broken cyborg discovered by Christoph Waltz’s kindly doctor. Played by Rosa Salazar, via performance capture, Alita gradually comes to realise things about her past life.
Or, as Rodriguez puts it, “It’s about a warrior finding their heart.”
With Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment behind the $200 million project, Rodriguez has remained faithful not only to the manga but to the spirit of Cameron. When he first came on board, he made a promise to his screenwriter. “I said, ‘Hey man, I’m not going turn it into a Robert Rodriguez movie. I’m going shoot it as a missing Jim Cameron movie! I want to see that film!’” Don’t we all.
ETA | 5 FEBRUARY / ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL OPENS NEXT YEAR.
‘I’M JUST ASTONISHED ON A DAILY BASIS WHEN I GET NEW EFFECTS SHOTS THAT ARE MIND-BLOWING’ ROBERT RODRIGUEZ