New Zealand

From Rubble to Rumble, ‘Alita: Battle Angel' Shows Us the Humanity in Cyborgs

The cast of "Alita: Battle Angel" tells us about the human side of cyborgs.

What to Know

  • Rosa Salazar trained for 5 months to play Alita.
  • Robert Rodriguez directed the film.
  • "Alita: Battle Angel" opens Feb. 14th.

Filmmakers James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez are bringing a popular Manga graphic novel to the big screen in "Alita: Battle Angel." The story begins in a futuristic dystopian society called Iron City where cyborgs walk openly among men, and humans do whatever it takes to survive.

Alita (Rosa Salazar) is found in a junkyard by a cyberphysician named Ido (Christoph Waltz) who pieces her back together with parts he's collected. The pair develop a father/daughter relationship while Alita goes on a journey to find out who she really is, and why she has such incredible fighting powers and instincts.

We spoke with Salazar and Waltz at a press event in Wellington, New Zealand, the birthplace of Weta Digital. The Weta Digital team worked on this film for more than 3 years using motion capture and performance capture technology to bring this graphic novel to life.

"For me it was very exciting to actually bring another person to life," Salazar said. "It's great to tell a story to young girls who are forming their own identities and tell them a story about a very capable young girl who is trying to find her own identity."

Salazar trained for several hours a day over the course of 5 months to nail the action scenes in "Alita." She says she and her trainer used several different forms of martial arts including Wushu, Muay Thai and Kung Fu to get just the right feel for Alita's fighting style.

"The training almost killed me. I had to get my endurance way up," Salazar admits.

We interviewed producer Jon Landau live on Facebook where he told us one of the biggest challenges with a film like this is to make it look and feel like the graphic novel. Landau said luckily the Weta Digital team had time to work on each shot, frame by frame, to perfect the technology that gives Alita that human look.

Waltz said that despite all the technology, there is a real human connection between the characters, one he hopes will resonate with girls and boys, men and women of all ages.

"There is an aspect of humanity that unites us. Even if you are a boy or a man the quest for identification is still a very important one," Waltz said.

There is also a bit of a YA romance element that teens will enjoy in this film. Grown ups will enjoy "Alita" for the sheer magnitude of special effects and a fast-paced game called "motorball." The entire world of Iron City is a visual feast and Alita's journey a fascinating tale.

"Alita: Battle Angel" stars Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Ed Skrein, Jennifer Connelly, and Mahershala Ali. It was directed by Robert Rodriguez and will be released in theaters on February 14th.

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