How James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez decided on Alita’s giant eyes

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Dec 13, 2017

When the trailer for the live-action adaptation of Alita: Battle Angel was released last week, fans noticed one particularly conspicuous detail about its heroine: her larger-than-life eyes. However, as it turns out, the creative team behind the film went in a very deliberate direction with just how closely to follow the template of expressive anime characters.

Speaking to Empire, director Robert Rodriguez (who co-wrote the script with James Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis) said the decision to make Alita so wide-eyed had always been Cameron's idea.

"It was always Jim's intention to create a photo-realistic version of the manga eyes that we're so accustomed to seeing. We really wanted to honour that tradition and see that look standing next to any human character," Rodriguez said. "To have the right person to emote behind it was really essential. Her origins are in the film, and you understand why she looks that way. If the eyes are the windows to the soul, we have some pretty big windows. You can see a lot going on in there! When it gets to the emotional scenes it's really uncanny and striking. And captivating!"

Reactions to Alita's substantial ocular region are mixed so far; there are some who point out that her eyes cross over more into "uncanny valley" territory than merely "uncanny," as Rodriguez suggests. However, considering that Alita is technically intended to be a cyborg rather than fully human, Cameron's original decision to approach the character in a different way may just pay off yet.

Rodriguez also spoke about taking over the project from Cameron, who handed it off to him when another project took precedent. "When Avatar becomes the biggest movie of all time, he told me that he's going to spend the rest of his career making Avatars, so I said, 'What happens to Battle Angel then?' -- because as a fan I was just interested!" Rodriguez said. "And he said, 'I don't think I'll ever get to do that. Hey, if you can figure out the script, you can shoot it!' So I took it home, spent all summer working on it, cut it down to 130, 125 pages, without cutting anything that he missed. It was a great gift."

You can read the trailer breakdown with Rodriguez in full here. Do you think Cameron made the right move in regard to Alita's big eyes? Let us know in the comments!