Alita: Battle Angel Poster

My time spent at the Alita: Battle Angel preview event proved to be very valuable as any worries or doubts I may have had before the preview screening were swiftly washed away as the particular scenes displayed gave an insight into this dystopian future that showcased its action, romance and story elements. I could see the influence of producer James Cameron’s ideas touched upon throughout each sequence whilst still giving off director Robert Rodriguez’s gritty tone.

As I entered the venue with many other select press members we could take part in a photo shoot and be entered into a prize draw for the premiere of the London screening. I’m also almost positive I saw a woman enter the screening with the symbolic Alita face paint of smeared blood under her eye which, I believe, may have been on offer too! Either that or she’s a very dedicated fan of the original Manga.

Everyone was ushered into their seats as the lights began to dim and the enormous screen lit intensely. We were among the first to view it in IMAX and we were told how the highest piece of technology on set were the multiple 3D cameras used to capture every moment and the ability to display it in it’s greatest form on an IMAX screens. One of the most prolific companies they used for the digital effects were Weta Digital and the film-makers were very pleased they had such a great team of incredible artists and talent able to work on the film. Along the front row were an abundance of cameras and lighting equipment at the ready for director Robert Rodriguez and producer Jon Landau to enter.

First on stage was the head of Empire Magazine, Terri White, who revealed the cover spread of Alita: Battle Angel for the magazine’s January issue. She then warmly welcomed and introduced the film-makers who revealed a short video message from none other then James Cameron who wasn’t able to make it due to working on the up-coming Avatar sequels. He thanked us for being there and spoke about how happy he was that after obtaining the rights to Alita: Battle Angel almost 20 years ago that he was now finally happy to find his replacement to direct the project in the form of Robert Rodriguez.

Producer Jon Landau mentioned that he and Rob found out specifically about the project from Guillermo Del Toro and that James Cameron wanted to make this film for so long but couldn’t quite choose between this or Avatar. He eventually chose to continue with the highly demanded back to back Avatar sequels, but always searched for another to take directing duties on Alita: Battle Angel, Guillermo was the bridge for the magic to happen.

Alita Battle Angel Movie Still

Robert Rodriguez nervously mentioned to the audience that if he could crack the screenplay then James Cameron would be more than happy for him to take on the project. Being an admirer of his work for so long, Rob had numerous back and forth emails with James who saw the potential and the direction he was going with into the film off of his ideas and gave over the project. Robert became overwhelmed by the news and started immediately.

After James’ message we were shown around 30 minutes of selected scenes from across the film which ranged from how Alita was cybernetically arranged, the new world she walks in, a handful of action scenes between the main protagonist and antagonists, romantic endeavours, and more whilst also keeping the story intriguing but also learning how it’s more about coming to terms with her new life and the trials that she, like everyone, have faced coming of age in their own unique journey.

The director also spoke of how James Cameron likes to know how everything works in his films. For example, how he would likely design a giant gun that shoots a bolt of lightning, giving little care to the fact of how it could do that – James would look at that and think ‘Well that’s not very clever, how is this happening? Why does it do that? What’s inside the mechanism making it trigger this ability etc’, he always worked to know every aspect of his film-making which is what makes him so great.

The film has a heavy reliance on CGI, after watching the Manga and knowing how cyborgs, the city landscape and the amount of robotics that features it was no surprise that this would be the only way they could sufficiently do all of that justice to Yukito Kishiro’s original work.

Alita: Battle Angel Movie Still

Yukito-san from time to time had visited the studio and the producers went over to Japan to constantly gain inspiration and stay true to his original work by showing concepts, ideas, screenplay and scenes from the film to get his opinion. Yukito-san was very pleased with the work they had done and gave him his blessing for them to continue their work whilst Cameron signed off on the concepts, art, and every piece of work shown.

They mentioned wanting heavy use of performance capture rather than motion capture to really enhance the emotion and detail used in the scenes. Landau spoke highly of the digital artists getting everything just right and that they really went far using these new methods, to the point of mentioning that there is more detail in one single eye of Alita than there had ever been on all of the CGI used on Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films. Impressive indeed!

It has to be the most impressive digital work I’ve seen in a while, I even became confused in moments where I could not divide reality from digitally altered parts of her cybernetic body! It worked perfectly throughout all scenes in the film and didn’t at all hinder the experience. An extreme case of photo-realism throughout the whole film but not in a negative way at all, it’s actually quite a spectacle.

After watching all the scenes, to much applause from the audience, there was a final question given to Robert Rodriguez from an excited fan, after his name flying about the project and being rumored for it, will he direct the remake of Escape From New York? His response was “A classic film that many love, including myself. I like to edit, compose and direct all my films as I’m a very hands-on director with all parts of the project. I’ve heard the rumors myself.” A very teased but coy answer at the same time, I guess we’ll have to wait for any official confirmation soon!

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Overall I was left intrigued more by the story and impressed by the CGI on show. Alita: Battle Angel blends elements of romance, fast-paced action scenes, and impressive CGI and is truly a sight to behold. I’m interested to see how movie-goers will react to the film if they don’t know the source material, but I hope it proves successful for the film-makers and a step in the right direction for anime adaptations to the big screen.

Alita: Battle Angel will release in theaters on February 14, 2019 in the US.

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