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High stakes as 'Alita: Battle Angel' hits screens

High stakes as 'Alita: Battle Angel' hits screens
February 7, 2019
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Manga-inspired action epic “Alita: Battle Angel” begins its worldwide cinema roll out this week but with a hefty budget and years in the making, producer James Cameron and director Robert Rodriguez acknowledge the stakes are high at the box office. The CGI-heavy action adventure about a cyborg heroine in a post-apocalyptic world is reported to have been made with a budget of around $200 million, according to the Hollywood press. “Avatar” director Cameron first wrote a script in 2004 for the film, but eventually passed on the project to “Sin City” director Rodriguez. “It’s in that battle-cruiser class of budgets, there’s no question about it so, yeah, the stakes are high,” Cameron said at the film’s premiere in Los Angeles on Tuesday. “If people show up we’re definitely going to do at least one more if not two. It’s mapped out for three in total.” Critics have given lukewarm reviews to the movie, whose release date has been postponed twice. “There’s a lot riding on it but you never know if it does really well, people come out to see it and people want more, you’ve want to make sure you’ve got your bases covered,” Rodriguez said. The film stars Rosa Salazar in the title role with Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly and Mahershala Ali in supporting roles.
Alita: Battle Angel is the first great live-action manga adaptation

By all accounts, adapting an anime or manga into a live-action blockbuster is a Sisyphean task, at least when it comes to Western media. Death Note, Ghost in the Shell, Dragonball Evolution — the list of flops goes on.

A part of that failure to launch could be attributed to the fact that there’s no way to smoothly translate the anime/manga aesthetic from page (or animation) to screen. The first footage from Alita: Battle Angel, Robert Rodriguez’s adaptation of Yukito Kishiro’s manga Battle Angel Alita, seemed to suggest that Rodriguez and writer-producer James Cameron tried to solve the problem by being as literal as possible. Actress Rosa Salazar’s eyes were enlarged to the size of dinner plates, looking a little more Gollum-like than presumably intended.

I’ll settle the big questions about Alita: Battle Angel first: Yes, the big eyes are not easy on the, er, eyes (in fact, they are now even bigger). No, they did not need to be that big. But yes, I still love them.

Absolutely everything about Alita: Battle Angel is unapologetically outsized — there is interplanetary war, there is a sport called “motorball” that’s basically jai alai with robots, there are slo-mo shots of objects of varying degrees of deadliness flying out of the screen — and it’s delightful.