Robert Rodriguez Treated Alita: Battle Angel As The Lost James Cameron Movie While Filming

Rosa Salazar in motion capture as female cyborg in Alita: Battle Angel
(Image credit: (20th Century Fox))

The long-awaited sequel to James Cameron's Avatar may be almost two years away, but there is one upcoming film with the epic filmmaker's touch coming soon: Alita: Battle Angel. Cameron has been developing his live-action adaptation of the manga/anime for over 15 years. While the Avatar films ultimately kept him from directing the project, Alita's director Robert Rodriguez recognized Cameron's longtime work before he took over. Here's what he said of Cameron's influence:

I wanted it to feel as much like a James Cameron film as possible. Because it was the missing Jim Cameron movie I was never going to get to see unless I came and helped make it come to life! [Laughs] I wanted to see it ever since I saw it announced back in 2000 or whenever I first saw the announcement of it. And I knew it'd be a chance to learn how he builds his worlds and crafts the story out of so much story that is available and hones in on it. I knew it would be a master class, and he's very generous in that way. He would keep saying that he wanted me to make it my film. And I would keep going, 'I want to make it your film!' [Laughs] I see my movies all the time. It's the Jim Cameron movies that are finite. There's not that many of those.

It looks like Robert Rodriguez is a huge James Cameron fan first and foremost, and wanted to make the film he started. Rodriguez and Cameron collaborated on the final screenplay for Alita: Battle Angel, along with Cameron producing the project as well.

Rodriguez also told AMC Theatres that Alita: Battle Angel feels like a James Cameron movie because it's a visual experience and character's journey that pulls you in from beginning to end. Just like Avatar was a 3D spectacle important to the popularization of the medium back in 2009, Alita will be known for its incredible motion-capture visuals, world-building and how it was filmed in 3D.

Robert Rodriguez has some roots in revolutionizing the medium, as his 2003 film Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over was the first digital 3D movie. The 3D movie was influenced by his visit to James Cameron's set of Terminator 2: 3D, the Universal Studios ride. Most movies you see in 3D these days aren't actually shot in 3D; they are modified for the format in post-production, something James Cameron has been vocally opposed to concerning the medium.

Alita: Battle Angel is about a female cyborg, played by Rosa Salazar, who is found in the ScrapYard by Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) and reassembled. Despite Dr. Ido's efforts to protect Alita from the post-apocalyptic future they live in, she falls in love and has run-ins with two villains: hunter-warrior Zapan (Ed Skrein) and ScrapYard Businessman Vector (Mahershala Ali) in an action-packed sci-fi epic.

While audiences aren't exactly getting the James Cameron project announced back in 2003, per Robert Rodriguez's recent comments, it certainly seems like he shared Cameron's vision and sought to finish the movie Cameron started, implementing his original story concepts and pre-visual work he initially started with.

Robert Rodriguez has a unique visual style and has adapted Frank Miller's comic book Sin City in the past, in addition to his cutting-edge 3D work on Spy Kids 3. Alita: Battle Angel comes to theaters on February 14.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.