How much does Alita weigh? It’s probably not a question you should ask Rosa Salazar’s doe-eyed cyborg from this year’s Alita: Battle Angel, but is a point of particular interest to some fans. It’s also something that the filmmakers took into consideration when making this year’s cyberpunk film, which is coming back into the conversation as we enter awards season, with its sights set on an Oscar for Best Visual Effects. In an exclusive interview with CinemaBlend’s own Sean O’Connell, producer Jon Landau revealed that yes, Alita: Battle Angel spent a lot of time figuring out the lead character’s complicated weight. He said:
We play the two bodies that she's in in the movie as having a different weight -- each one having a different weight. For the first body, which I refer to as ‘the doll body,’ which is a body that Ido, her father, had built for his daughter who had been paraplegic. She was a human. So he needed to build that at a light enough weight where she could move, and move naturally. And that's what he did. And that's what Alita enters our story with. When she goes to the Berserker Body, that's a much heavier body. And, Alita and her strength, she's able to carry it and carry that weight, but it's something that was more important for Rosa Salazar to understand and come to terms with as an actress. How was she performing that? And I think that's what she did an exceptional job at.
After producer James Cameron worked on Alita: Battle Angel for years before handing off to director Robert Rodriguez, along with hundreds of pages of notes, Alita’s weight is something that they accounted for and something that informed the film and the performances. As Jon Landau told Sean, Alita’s two bodies in Alita: Battle Angel are played as each having a different weight.
The first body we see Alita get in the film is a bone-colored body that looks like porcelain covered in filigree. This body, given to Alita by Doc Ido and originally designed for his daughter, is meant to be lighter. And while Alita has no difficulty powering this body, it is also not meant to her and that’s why we later see her drawn to another body. Rosa Salazar knew all of this and took it into her performance when moving around as the character.
The second body is the sleek metal Berserker Body, which is much heavier and requires more energy to power. While being heavier, it’s also meant for Alita and when she gets this body there’s a confidence in her movement that is different than what we see in the ‘doll body.’ She is heavy but she can still do a handstand on one finger thanks to her heart. Alita’s heart is ultra-powerful and before it was a V12 in the body of a practical passenger car, but when you put it in a Lamborghini the result is something else entirely.
So although the visual effects in Alita: Battle Angel are just pixels and have no physical weight, through the way they are both animated and inhabited by Rosa Salazar onscreen, they are given a sense of weight. Jon Landau didn’t offer up specific figures as to what number reads out when Alita steps on a scale, but it is clearly something that they paid attention to when making Alita: Battle Angel.
The question of Alita’s weight is something of a mystery because of how heavy she is in both the manga and film. In Alita: Battle Angel, there are moments that make her seem extraordinarily heavy and others that seemingly contradict that. For example, while in the doll body, she sinks easily to the bottom of the lake where the URM ship is crashed. But we also see Doc Ido lift her, both from the scrap yard and after her fight with Grewishka.
I sort of take this as a combination of Doc Ido being strong and Alita’s sinking having something to do with her being less buoyant. But some might see it as an inconsistency. Whatever the case, no matter how much she weighs, Alita looks awesome onscreen. Alita: Battle Angel is hoping to get the attention of Academy voters for a VFX nod and all you have to do is watch the film to see why it’s worthy.
Alita: Battle Angel takes a character that should have been firmly in uncanny valley territory and makes her one of the most endearing characters we’ve seen all year, fully realized and deeply human. She’s a character we’re hoping to see more of and according to Jon Landau, the Alita Army just needs to keep up the fight and not stand by in the absence of an Alita sequel.