On Friday, press and a few lucky fans and influencers crowded into the Regal Theater in Horton Plaza in San Diego and were treated to a special screening of the new trailer of Alita, Battle Angel. The film takes place in the ficitonal future of Iron City and is an adaptation of a Japanese manga (Gunnm in Japan) about a cyborg girl with amnesia who is given a new mech body that was intended for the deceased daughter of it’s creator. In addition, attendees were also treated to 18 minutes of film footage from the movie’s director and producer respectively, Robert Rodriguez and Jon Landau who were also on hand for the event. After the screening stars Rosa Salazar who plays Alita and Keean Johnson who plays her love interest Hugo, joined them on stage to talk about their experience on the film.
James Cameron, who served as executive director on the film and who actually originally bought the rights to Alita back in 1999 was not present at the event, but Landau and Rodriguez spoke about his involvement extensively. Explaining that Cameron actually was considering creating Alita before Avatar, (it’s widely known that Cameron stated he was going to commence shooting the film as early as 2004) but decided against it because at the time, he felt that some of the tech invented to create Avatar could eventually be used to enhance the visuals of Battle Angel. Cameron’s prediction was correct, because MASSIVE, a program created by Peter Jackson’s company WETA, that was modified for Avatar, was used widely in this film.
Attendees saw a demonstration of WETA in action during several mind blowing scenes that were shown. Including a pivotal scene in the movie where Alita’s true powers and her knowledge of Panzer Kunst, a fictional fighting style long forgotten by humans in Iron City, is revealed in a fight. Although we were treated to several incredible fight scenes, what was most fascinating was how well WETA captured Salazar’s minute facial expressions and eye motions and even tears. Rodriguez also shared that it was Cameron’s idea to translate Alita’s manga style features into a Hollywood film, (which is why only her face features enlarged eyes).
Although Alita and her cyborg body are a huge part of the story, so is her humanity and the relationships that she has. This was demonstrated in scenes where she has typical teenage disagreements with her adopted father Dr. Dyson Ido (played by Christoph Waltz), and her attraction to Hugo. Both Rodriguez and Landau credit Salazar as truly embodying the role of Alita despite all of the CGI. “Her audition tape made me cry. It made Jim cry. Rosa is really dedicated to the part.”
Rodriguez is clearly a huge fan of Cameron’s work and enjoyed his collaboration with him. He also pointed out that the Avatar director had envisioned most of the story before he took it on. “He showed me his artwork and his script, he was ready to go shoot this. He was really in love with this story. To take his script and hone it down, it was about 180 pages, and to make it manageable...I didn’t know if I could. I stayed very true to what he had written because it was so clearly written by writer/director Jim Cameron. You don’t rewrite Cameron you only edit him.”
True Alita fans will be pleased to know that Landau made it very clear that they actually involved Alita’s creator, magaka Yukito Kishiro from very early on. The creators took several trips to Japan to show Kishiro their progress and get his approval during the development process, and brought him to visit the set while they were shooting. The event also featured a subtitled video of Kishiro basically verifying this and giving his virtual blessing on the film adaptation. The creators also shared that the movie is going to be a combination of the manga and the OVA with elements of the "motorball" storyline.
The film also stars Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrien, Michelle Rodriguez, Jackie Earle Haley and Lana Condor.
Stay tuned, the Alita Battle Angel trailer drops Monday July 23 at 8AMPST/11amEST followed by a live chat with Robert Rodriguez, John Landau and Rosa Salazar.
Tune in Monday, July 23 at 8am PT for the #Alita: Battle Angel trailer debut and Live Q&A with @JimCameron, Robert @Rodriguez, Jon Landau & Rosa Salazar. Ask your questions using #AlitaLive! pic.twitter.com/SbqgpjMOoT— Alita: Battle Angel (@AlitaMovie) July 20, 2018
The film will premiere on December 21 of this year.