After a lengthy development process, the film “Alita: Battle Angel” is set to be released on Valentine’s Day. The film is an adaptation of the “Battle Angel Alita” manga series by Yukito Kishiro, and has been proposed since the original publication of the story in the 1990s.
The film, which was originally going to be made by James Cameron; has instead been given to Robert Rodriguez (“Sin City,” “El Mariachi” trilogy) to direct after Cameron became occupied with “Avatar” and its planned sequels. Cameron also co-wrote the script alongside Laeta Kalogridis (Netflix’s “Altered Carbon”) and co-produced the film with Jon Landau. The story follows the title character (Rosa Salazar) as she tries to find her place in the world while fighting hostile androids in a post-apocalyptic landscape.
However, the film has faced an uphill battle leading up to release. The film has been delayed twice so far, first intended for release on July 20, 2018 before being initially delayed to December 21, 2018. Critical reception has also been mixed as of this writing, and many fans of the original source material haven’t been pleased with the liberties taken. Least of all, several dark moments from the original manga have been toned down to suit a PG-13 rating when the source was better suited for an R rating.
Beyond all this, however; is the risk involved with the project. The film has a massive $200 million production budget; but audience interest has been relatively muted. The film is currently on track to make $25 million over President’s Day weekend and $45-$50 million domestically in its entire run. The film will need to break even internationally, with it slated to open in China and Japan on Feb. 22.
As Fox’s merger with Walt Disney Pictures is set to be finalized in March, it’s clear that “Alita: Battle Angel” is the latest anime and manga adaptation to face challenges prior to release. Despite the best efforts of Rodriguez and Cameron, the film brings to mind the much-maligned 2017 “Ghost in the Shell” remake. Even with all the talent in front of and behind the camera as well as the blessing of original author Yukito Kishiro, the film faces a potentially costly battle at the box office.
Column by Steven Pryor
At a Glance:
Starring Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Jackie Earle Haley, Ed Skrein, Mahershala Ali and Keean Johnson
Directed by Robert Rodriguez
Based on the manga “Battle Angel Alita” by Yukito Kishiro
Release Date: February 14 (US), February 22 (China and Japan)