5 Things to Know About ‘Alita: Battle Angel’

Lawrence Yee
Movies Comic-Con
Movies Comic-Con Sci-Fi Anime

James Cameron is known for his epic projects, and the trailer for his latest — Alita: Battle Angel — just dropped. Cameron serves as writer and producer on the cyberpunk film, but Robert Rodriguez takes over the directing reins while Cameron works on the Avatar sequels.

The film is centered around Alita (newcomer Rosa Salazar), a cyborg girl. Her core (brain) is salvaged from a junkyard by Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz), a scientist who specializes in cyborg technology. He places Alita’s core into a mechanical body that he developed for his paraplegic daughter before her untimely death. Alita must learn to use this new body, as well as uncover a past she has no memory of.

“At first glance, it’s seemed like a very powerful female character like a Sarah Connor or Ellen Ripley but with a big twist. Those were very human characters with big hearts [who] discovered their warrior spirits. But this is someone who is already a warrior and unstoppable and discovers her heart,” explained Rodriguez during a private San Diego Comic-Con preview.

“The film is about discovery and being vulnerable enough to do that,” added Salazar during today’s worldwide trailer reveal.

Here’s what FANDOM gleaned from today’s event and Comic-Con.

It’s an Adaptation

Alita playing a harmonica

Alita began as a manga created by Yukito Kishiro. Cameron and longtime producing partner Jon Landau went to Japan to acquire the rights and Kishiro’s blessing. Landau revealed that Kishiro is constantly provided updates on the project, and even visited the set.

Cameron wanted to stay true to the manga style (more on that below), and some of its most-beloved elements, like Motorball, will make their way into the film (even though they’re not in the trailer).

It’s Had a Long Journey to the Big Screen

Alita in cyborg body - Alita - Battle Angel

Cameron started working on Alita over fifteen years ago but delayed the project to work on a little movie called Avatar. He brought on Rodriguez to condense his 180+ page original screenplay (plus 600 pages of notes) into a shooting script. Rodriguez was able to pare the story down while still maintaining the core scenes, which pleased Cameron. Production began in 2017, and the release date is scheduled for holiday 2018.

Motion Capture Mastery

Alita Battle Angel - Alita looking around

It was actually the technological advances in Avatar that made Alita possible. The character of Alita is a computer generated, motion-capture creation, just like Neytiri from Avatar or Caesar from Planet of the Apes. Salazar admitted the motion-capture was a challenge at first.

“It’s just a process like any other. You get to know it. In the beginning, it’s all kind of foreign: the suit, the batteries, the cords that are on your body, the helmet with the boom [mic] that comes out … which made some kissing scenes a little challenging [laughs]. But it elevates the performance because you’re otherworldly. You have this idea that you are even more capable of your physical body,” Salazar explained.

Two of the big sequences shown in the trailer — the underwater scene and the underground battle — were captured by Salazar during her first two days in the suit.

The Eyes Have It

Alita Battle Angel
Alita has manga-esque eyes.

There’s much discussion about Alita’s large eyes, something Cameron preserved in his earliest character design from Kishiro.

“We’ve seen manga and anime, but we’ve never seen it photorealistic,” Rodriguez explained. “Jim [Cameron] knows eyes better than anyone. We learned so much from Avatar.”

Less Guns, More Swords

Alita Battle Angel - Cyborg

Cameron called Terminator a “guns movie,” but he sees Alita as a “swords movie.”

We know Alita’s cybernetic body is a weapon in itself — super strong, super agile, and durable (but not invincible). However, her cybernetic pursuers have blades for limbs, boasting sickle-like arms. There is even a massive cyborg whose fingers become bladed hooks he can cast out as tendrils.

Alita: Battle Angel opens December 21, 2018.

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Lawrence Yee
Lawrence is Editor in Chief of FANDOM. He grew up loving X-Men, Transformers, and Japanese-style role playing games like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. First-person shooters make him incredibly nauseous.
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