How The Team Behind 'Alita: Battle Angel' Brought The Popular Manga To Life

BET traveled half way around the globe to find out how the designers behind "Alita: Battle Angel" made movie magic.

In 1990 Yukito Kihsara’s cyberpunk manga, Alita: Battle Angel, was first published in a Japanese magazine called Business Jump. The story centers around a cyborg named Alita, who is found in a garbage heap by a cyber medic named Dr. Daisuke Ido. After rebuilding Alita from what is left of her body and brain, the young girl goes on a journey of self-discovery trying to remember who she was and what her purpose in life was.

The manga (known as Gunnm in Japan) ran for five years and laid the groundwork for many spin-offs, video games, an animated movie and now a live-action film directed by Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Predators, Machete), produced by James Cameron (Terminator, Aliens Avatar) and Jon Landau (Titanic, Avatar) with starring roles by Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly and Mahershala Ali.


“At the heart of Alita is a young girl’s story of self-discovery,” Landau tells “A young girl who thinks of herself as someone who is insignificant, who can’t make a difference, but discovers that in her she has the ability to become a hero.”

“I wanted to tell this story. I felt like it was sort of my story to tell,” says Salazar. “She comes from very little when she’s found in the scrapyard. She discovers that she isn’t insignificant... that she is capable of extraordinary things and that she can change her circumstances. I identified with that. I’m from a suburb of D.C., and I felt insignificant. [But] I decided to change my mind and go on that journey.”


In addition to being story of love and redemption, Alita: Battle Angel is a technical marvel that is the result of years of work by the special effects team at Weta Digital in New Zealand. But rather than simply show us how they integrated the live-action performances of Waltz and Ali with the performance-capture of Rosa, BET was invited to fly halfway across the globe to not only screen Alita: Battle Angel for an exclusive audience, but to suit up and go through the process of becoming a cyborg and showing off our own “Panzer Kunst” fighting skills!

Watch as the team behind Alita: Battle Angel shares why they feel this story was ideal for big-screen adaptation and how they poured all of the special effects knowledge learned from films like Avatar to create a one-of-a-kind cinematic experience.


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