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Anime fan or not, if you saw the first trailer for the flick, you were probably surprised by the first look at Rosa Salazar's Alita in the long-awaited adaptation of Alita: Battle Angel. The shock was likely because of Alita's huge, anime-style eyes being conveyed in a live-action setting. So obviously, the $200 million dollar question is: Why would director Robert Rodriguez go for such a style that starkly contrasts Salazar's appearance in comparison to her co-stars? Well, as Rodriguez describes below, he did it to stay true to the character and her manga origins:
It was always Jim [Cameron's] intention to create a photo-realistic version of the manga eyes that we're so accustomed to seeing. We really wanted to honor that tradition and see that look standing next to any human character. To have the right person to emote behind it was really essential. Her origins are in the film and you understand why she looks that way. If the eyes are the windows to the soul, we have some pretty big windows. You can see a lot going on in there! When it gets to the emotional scenes it's really uncanny and striking. And captivating!
So not only is Alita: Battle Angel committing to the look of Alita's origins, it's doing so for a pretty awesome reason. On top of Rodriguez being a fan of the original manga, bringing Alita to living, breathing life in her visually unique style was in the cards thanks to James Cameron's early intentions while developing the project, per what he told Empire. It's a good thing too, because the character of the central "Battle Angel" has a very particular look to her. Going full anime for the flick is an interesting idea, and one that could work. We've seen the results of films that don't go full anime, like Ghost In The Shell, which came out to lukewarm reception. That doesn't seem to be the case with Robert Rodriguez's feature film though. Alita looks like an anime in all the right places, creating beautiful manga-esque visuals, and Rodriguez's decision to keep that look tracks with the man's past filmmaking resume.
In particular, Rodriguez's work with his Spy Kids franchise is a good frame of reference to keep in mind, as his visual sensibilities mixed some interesting creature work with normal human actors. But even in his more reality grounded films, like Planet Terror or even Machete, Robert Rodriguez has been known to fudge the laws of physics and the normal world to tell a rip-roaring story. Keeping that in mind, the justification that Alita: Battle Angel's director gave is pretty convincing as to why this was a good idea.
Published between 1990 and 1995, Battle Angel Alita told its story of a young cyborg with a lost memory, and a kindly caretaker, through several, action packed years. With the wreckage of the 26th century United States as its backdrop, Alita's story sees her eventually become a bounty hunter who takes on jobs for the elites in the floating city of Tiphares. While the first trailer for the film only hints to how Robert Rodriguez's handling of this story, it's a good indicator that his fandom for the series shines through in Alita: Battle Angel. Give it a watch.