Alita: Battle Angel centers — no surprise here — on Alita, a cyborg who awakens with no memory of who she is or where she comes from, and finds herself thrust into a battle for survival while attempting to uncover the truth behind her existence.
“It’s a story of discovering your true inner power,” explains director and co-writer Robert Rodriguez. “It shows how even if we feel we are not as important as someone else, that we can find and tap into an inner strength and purpose and be heroic. Alita wakes up in a world she doesn’t know, in a body that isn’t hers, and feels out of place and feels insignificant. As she grows to discover love, family, and friendship, those who consider her a threat make her realize her true importance and her true identity, and it turns her new world upside down.”
Realizing the part of the title character is actress Rosa Salazar, whose previous credits include the TV series Parenthood and American Horror Story: Murder House, as well as the Maze Runner films. “She’s a wonder,” he enthuses. “She so fully embodied the spirit of Alita, while at the same time creating and revealing what that spirit was. She has the uncanny ability to tap into the pure emotion and power of the character. She nailed it from the very first audition to the last take of the shoot. Finding her was one of the greatest gifts of the movie.”
Based on the Manga Battle Angel Alita, this film was a long-held dream of producer and co-writer James Cameron, but one that he never quite managed to finish bringing together before he found himself consumed with the various sequels to Avatar (not to mention the continuation of the Terminator franchise) that he’s mounting. Which is where Rodriguez steps in.
“Jim had written a lot on Alita,” he says, “but never got to finish the script before starting Avatar. He wasn’t going to be able to direct the project himself, so what I pitched to him after reading his script — which was over 180 pages along with 600 pages of notes — was that I felt I had studied his work and his storytelling so much that I could make the adjustments needed to bring it down to 120 pages. Without losing the character and story that made it so appealing to us, to begin with. I wanted to make the film in the style of a Jim Cameron film. The way I made the Sin City films in the style of Frank Miller, I wanted this to be a Jim Cameron film through and through. More grounded in its reality than what I usually tend to do on my own, and yet with the spectacle and high emotional stakes we expect in his films. I knew I could also bring my own techniques of shooting in Austin at my studios to keep the film at the level of quality that Jim’s films demand, but at a price that would be attractive to the studio.”
The audience will decide if Alita: Battle Angel is attractive to them on December 21st.
Look for part two of our interview with Robert Rodriguez later this week in which he shares the nature of collaborating with James Cameron, and the importance of empowered female characters in the aftermath of the #MeToo moment.
Images: 20th Century Fox