ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL
James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez join forces for Alita: Battle Angel, potentially the most faithful manga movie ever
James Cameron produces. Robert Rodriguez directs. Audiences win.
THERE HAVE BEEN manga-inspired live-action movies before (including last year’s Ghost In The Shell and Death Note). But they have largely been timid affairs, dialling down the often outrageous visuals of their source material. There seems to be little timidity, on the other hand, about Alita: Battle Angel, the incoming Robert Rodriguez/james Cameron sci-fi collaboration whose mission statement becomes clear with one look at its hugeeyed female cyborg hero, the titular Alita. “It was always Jim’s intention to create a photo-realistic version of the manga eyes that we’re so accustomed to seeing,” says Rodriguez. “If the eyes are the windows to the soul, we have some pretty big windows.”
So wild is the cyberpunk world of the movie, based on graphic novels by Yukito Kishiro, that Cameron spent a decade- and-a-half (on and off ) working on a possible adaptation, before hiring Rodriguez to helm it in 2015 — a gig that came with 1,000 pages of painstaking notes from the now producer. Set 700 years in the future, there are floating cities, cybernetically enhanced bounty hunters, cyborgs facing off against each other in a bone-crunchingly brutal sport called motorball, and in the middle of it all Alita (played via performance capture by Rosa Salazar), an amnesiac machinegirl raised by friendly doctor Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz). “It’s the missing Jim Cameron movie we always wanted to see,” Rodriguez promises. “There is so much wild stuff going on. It’s design candy.”
Of course, with candy there’s always the risk of a headache, and there has been some griping online about the look of the ocularly enhanced lead character. Then again, the triumphant blue folk of Avatar proved it’s unwise to bet against Cameron, and Rodriguez is a filmmaker with style to burn. Salazar, for one, is confident Alita will be a sci-fi creation for the ages. “She’s not like anything you’ve seen before,” she says. “It has the essence of me, but it isn’t me. But it is me. The technology being used is incredible.” Two cutting-edge directors have teamed up for Alita: Battle Angel — a match, we hope, made in manga heaven.
ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL IS IN CINEMAS FROM 26 DECEMBER
Empire spoke to Robert Rodriguez in-between takes on the Austin, Texas set of Alita on 17 January 2017.