While Super Bowl Sunday is usually reserved for Bud Lights, hot wings, and of course, football, mine was spent in a quaint little movie theater in the Florida Keys to see Alita: Battle Angel.
A decade after reinventing the medium and raising the bar with Avatar, James Cameron has somehow re-raised the bar with his latest effort, Alita: Battle Angel, and we were lucky enough to be invited to an early-showing.
Before the latest and greatest in action filmmaking hits theaters on February 14, executive producer Jon Landau hosted COED for an exclusive screening at the B&B Theater in the quiet Florida town of Tavernier.
And not only was Landau in attendance, but director Robert Rodriguez and series star, Rosa Salazar — Alita herself — were also in the house.
In an effort to bring this international mega-hit in the making to his local Florida Keys community, Landau hosted us, friends, family, and about 40 kids in the theater club from nearby Coral Shores High School for both a screening and a Q&A session.
This movie is a thrill ride from start to finish. For those new to Alita: Battle Angel, you’re in for action with CGI that you won’t believe. The movie will sweep you into Alita’s life as she discovers what it means to be alive. For longtime fans of this action series, don’t worry. There are plenty of elements from the manga that are brought to life in the film. The opening scene alone is reminiscent to how fans are first introduced to Alita, in suspended animation in a garbage dump rescued by Daisuke Ido. While the more mature elements are toned down that doesn’t take away from who Alita is in both the movie and the manga.
Afterward, the session was jam-packed with interesting stories and fun facts about the production of the film. The moment that will stick with us most is when Salazar was asked by the CSHS theater teacher about the importance of education and the role it played in her life. The inquiry roused Salazar to tell a powerful story about how she came from the foster care system and the impact that her high school drama teacher had on her, as it was him who pushed Salazar. He challenged her and demanded her to push herself and that ultimately led to her pursuing a career as an actress.
Another memorable moment was when Salazar discussed her training, as she committed to at least three hours of martial arts training a day for over five months in order to be properly in shape for the role. And trust us, with the amount of ass kicking she hands out, it’s clear in every single action sequence that said training was put to good use.
As for the movie itself, it should come as no surprise that our favorite aspect of the film was the mind-bending CGI, by far raising the bar to new levels. The scenes with the human cast and CGI are beyond any film ever produced to date. The team managed to seamlessly integrate both in every frame. In attendance for the Q&A was photographer Stephen Frink, who is the most published underwater photographer in the world. He praised the underwater scene; hailed it as ultra-realistic and even noted the detail in how Alita’s hair movement was captured as she moved beneath the surface.
The effects and CGI were so carefully put into every scene. When asked about the most difficult scene to shoot, we were surprised when they told us it was when Alita took her first bite of milk chocolate. Salazar provided all of the motion-capture for her character and there had to be several takes of her eating the delicious candy. Alita’s mouth is smaller than Salazar’s, so they needed multiple takes in order for it to be as realistic as possible.
A scene as simple as eating candy turned out to be the most difficult.
Unsurprisingly, the CGI was done by Peter Jackson’s digital visual effects company Weta Digital, a world-renowned special effects studio known for their prior work on seminal films such as The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, District 9, Avatar, King Kong, X-Men: First Class, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Avengers, The Jungle Book and many more.
Whether it be the complex action sequences, the previously mentioned underwater moments, or the seamless blending of human actors and CGI, Alita: Battle Angel was a two-hour thrill ride that changed my perspective on the future of movies.
And for that reason, we suggest you go see it as soon as you can so it can change your perspective, too.