James Cameron's fix for Alita: Battle Angel's strange eyes? Make 'em titanic

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Dec 20, 2018, 10:57 AM EST

As we've pretty much come to expect, James Cameron is a go big or go home kind of guy.

The Avatar filmmaker, whose executive producing Robert Rodriguez's upcoming mocap cyberpunk actioner, Alita: Battle Angel, had a novel suggestion when, after the first trailer's release last summer, the titular cyborg character's oversized manga eyes caused a stir among Netizens who debated whether they needed to be scaled down because they were too creepy and distracting.

Cameron's answer: make 'em even larger!

At a sneak peek of the highly anticipated film, the Spy Kids helmer opened up about his mentor's unconventional note, saying it was just the trick to helping Alita avoid the typical problems associated with the "uncanny valley" – a phenomenon in which viewers find themselves unsettled upon seeing a photo-real CGI version of a human being that's almost an exact replica, but not quite.

"So we put out [the trailer] and… I remember people reacting at first to Avatar the same way. Like not understanding what it was until they get used to it. It's something very new," Rodriguez said in a Q&A, adding that he wondered whether executive producer Jon Landau and Cameron would get wind of the bad buzz and make him shrink the eyes (below is the first trailer, released in July, which threw fans for a loop).

Cameron was initially slated to direct Alita: Battle Angel and had been developing it for years as a franchise before handing the reigns to Rodriguez while he went off to make his four Avatar sequels. But much to Rodriguez's surprise, he didn't hear anything at first from the self-proclaimed King of the World, assuming that Cameron had a vision. He was half-right.

Continued Rodriguez: "Then I got a call from Jim. He did want to work on the eyes more. 'You know, there is something about them that's not quite right. We actually have to make them bigger. And I went, 'bigger, really?!' And he said, 'yeah, yeah. I went through this on Avatar. If you compare the two trailers you'll see. And people have made notes saying, 'hey, look, we made the eyes smaller. No, we actually made them bigger. The eyes are actually the exact same size. But he said, the irises have to get bigger. They actually have to be bigger to be more in proportion."

According to Rodriguez, that one small tweak, which increased the size of her irises by 30 percent, made all the difference, which you can see below with these before and after photos and in the second trailer issued in November.

Here's before:

Alita Battle Angel Eyes trailer 1

And here's after:

Alita Battle Angel Eyes trailer 2-2


Alita Battle Angel Alternate Eyes Trailer 1


Alita Battle Angel Eyes Alternate Trailer 2

"I said, 'wow!' And that's the thing with Jim. Always just follow Jim. Look at his track record. He can see around a corner when no one else can. And whenever I've just followed him, you end up in the promised land," noted Rodriguez. "So we went and sure enough it does look more real that way even though it's far from being a human eye. But that's the genius in Jim. Trust in Jim. But that's fact, we actually made them bigger."

Alita: Battle Angel, a live-action adaptation of Yukito Kishiro's post-apocalyptic manga, follows the adventures of a cyborg who is rebuilt by a cybernetics doctor after losing her memory and becomes a bounty hunter while trying to rediscover her past.

The film hits theaters on Feb. 14, 2019.