James Cameron’s passion project Alita: Battle Angel, for which he is serving as producer and screenwriter, has so far been met with a rather indifferent reception. Another big-budget dystopian adapted from Yukito Kishiro’s popular Japanese manga, and so soon after the release of Mortal Engines and slightly earlier Ghost in the Shell, leaves something to be desired. The Digital Fix, however, was lucky enough to be invited for an exclusive sneak peek at Alita and it seems good things are to come, despite its rocky release schedule.
Beginning with an introduction to the event from producer Jon Landau (Titanic, Avatar) and director Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Spy Kids), as well as a recorded message from James Cameron himself talking about how much he wanted to bring Alita’s story to the big screen, the event swiftly moved on to show a number of specifically chosen scenes from Alita: Battle Angel. Ranging from the very beginning of the film to very near the end, the scenes introduced us to Rosa Salazar’s Alita and the relationships that the film intends to explore between her and Christoph Waltz’s Dr. Ido as well as her and Keean Johnson’s Hugo (the typical bad-boy love interest).
From what we saw, there is a sincere gentleness at the heart of both of these couplings that we can only hope will be at the heart of this film. The nuances within these scenes are, of course, made all the more impressive by the film’s phenomenal performance capture and CGI work — a key aspect of the film that both Landau and Rodriguez talked about passionately. The two heaped praise on Framestore and, especially, WETA Digital: “There is more human-CG interaction going on here than ever before”, said Landau when asked about working with such intense visuals. Alita herself has, by far, the closest resemblance to a real person for a human CG character than any other film, and it is only heightened by what looks to be a fantastic performance from Salazar.
Sticking true to the manga series, and specifically, its cyberpunk style, was another goal touched upon by Rodriguez and Landau, “specifically the motorball sequences”. Finally teased at in the new trailer, motorball is the popular, and deathly violent, spectator sport in the city of Scrapyard that Alita finds a sense of freedom playing and on the IMAX screen it looks as brutally brilliant as you might hope. Two scenes featured the sport, one in which Alita plays for the first time and one where she is competing professionally; both give us a great look at the rich world building that is to be expected of anything Cameron puts his name to. There is so much detail in the bright Scrapyard streets and its shady underbelly, the world of Alita already feels fleshed out leaving us with a lot of excitement for the full thing.
This sneak peek shows off so much great stuff that is to be on offer from Alita: Battle Angel when it is released on February 6th. The film, also starring Mahershala Ali, Jennifer Connelly, Michelle Rodriguez, and Jackie Earle Haley, has officially set itself up as a film to keep an eye out for in the new year. Can Rodriguez bring to life this vision of Cameron’s? We will see, all I know is that for the first time in my cinephile life, I am advocating seeing Alita on the biggest screen you can, just for that sweet 3D.