The Austin Chronicle

Alita: Battle Angel Trailer Arrives

By Richard Whittaker, July 23, 2018, 3:00pm, Picture in Picture

Robert Rodriguez was up bright and early today for what he said was "something I've been waiting to show all morning" – the first full trailer for his upcoming manga adaptation Alita: Battle Angel.

We got our first glimpse of what may be the biggest-budget film ever shot in Austin last December (that's when the first teaser dropped). At that point, Alita was scheduled for a July 20 release, but in this jam-packed summer, 20th Century Fox held fire, and pushed it back to December 21, making it their big contender for Christmas dollars.

But even if we didn't get the full film this weekend, at least we got the first full trailer, including a better glimpse of Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) as Vector.

In a Facebook Q&A this morning, producer James Cameron explained that he'd originally been introduced to the world of Alita by Guillermo del Toro, who showed him the 1993 anime adaptation Battle Angel. From there he found Yukito Kishiro's epic nine-volume manga Battle Angel Alita, and started working on a script to direct himself. And working. And working. And working.

Cameron explained that he was actually developing the script "neck and neck" with Avatar, but that his original science-fiction saga got to screens first; then he became increasingly engaged in the upcoming sequels, and Alita started to fall into second place.

It was pure luck that Rodriguez came on board, and reignited the project. Cameron said, "Robert and I were hanging out. We'd just been hanging out for three hours just gossiping and being pals. He's getting in his car, and the car door's about to close, and he goes, 'So you got anything?' Like a total afterthought. In a split second I thought, I'm not going to get to do Battle Angel for a long time, because I'm doing all these Avatar sequels, so I handed him the baton."

Rather than going back to Kishiro's original work, Rodriguez built from Cameron's unfilmed adaptation to make the shooting script, which he filmed right here in Austin at his Troublemaker Studios. He described the central character of Alita (Rosa Salazar, Parenthood) as very much being in the tradition of Cameron's other iconic female leads, like Ripley from Aliens, and Sarah Connor in the Terminator films. However, he said, "Instead of a heartfelt character finding their warrior spirit, this had the reverse twist, which is someone who had a warrior spirit already, and had to find her heart."

Cameron described Alita as “a story that takes place in a future of a future,” after an event called the Fall. Humanity reached a technical peak that was wiped out, leaving – as Jackie Earle Haley’s character explains it – “worlds above worlds above worlds.” There’s an underworld, the Iron City, and the sky city of Zalem, “and above Zalem there are other worlds above that as well,” said Cameron, which will be explored in future films.

“That’s what I love about Jim,” said Rodriguez. “He’ll be like, ‘Did I ever tell you about this other trilogy I had for the other planet?’”

Here's the first full trailer for what Rodriguez calls "an epic story about a very unique character in an incredible world."

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