Though ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ may only be receiving middling reviews at the moment, it should be noted that regardless of reviews, the film is pushing the boundaries of film in terms of visual effects, as producer James Cameron and director Robert Rodriguez used some new, extraordinary performance capture techniques to bring the titular character to life. Much of their work is spoken about in a new featurette that has been released about the movie, where they talk about the work done to bring actress Rosa Salazar’s performance onto the character of Alita.
First of all, unlike regular motion capture effects, they are calling their work “performance” capture because it is not simply about capturing Salazar’s motions, it is about capturing everything she is doing, which is why they are not only tracking her movements with a high-tech suit with little white balls the computer can track, but they also have 2 little HD cameras pointed at her face at all times to capture every nuance of her performance. On top of that, unlike older movies where she would be doing all of her work on a green-screen sound-stage where they would set up special cameras to record her movements to track in a computer, for ‘Alita’ they built all of the special cameras on the sets, meaning that Salazar could do all of her work on set with the other actors, interacting in real time with the props and her co-stars, making the whole thing feel much more realistic.
In the featurette, they also talk about how this was a level up from even ‘Avatar,’ where they were not necessarily going for a “photo-realistic” look since Pandora was such a fantastic and otherworldly place, and they felt things could look a little surreal. For ‘Alita’ though, which takes place on Earth, they were very intent on making every shot look photo-real, except for the moments (like certain action scenes) where they were attempting to merge that photo-realism with the artistic stylings of ‘Alita’s source manga comics, effects that I personally am not 100 percent sure work in the context of the movie but appreciate the effort that went into the attempt.
Check out the featurette for yourself in the video below, and feel free to share your thoughts on the visuals of the film, and whether you thought the filmmakers succeeded in the photorealism they were going for, in the comments section below the jump!
And of course, here’s the film’s synopsis:
From visionary filmmakers James Cameron (AVATAR) and Robert Rodriguez (SIN CITY), comes ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL, an epic adventure of hope and empowerment. When Alita (Rosa Salazar) awakens with no memory of who she is in a future world she does not recognize, she is taken in by Ido (Christoph Waltz), a compassionate doctor who realizes that somewhere in this abandoned cyborg shell is the heart and soul of a young woman with an extraordinary past. As Alita learns to navigate her new life and the treacherous streets of Iron City, Ido tries to shield her from her mysterious history while her street-smart new friend Hugo (Keean Johnson) offers instead to help trigger her memories. But it is only when the deadly and corrupt forces that run the city come after Alita that she discovers a clue to her past – she has unique fighting abilities that those in power will stop at nothing to control. If she can stay out of their grasp, she could be the key to saving her friends, her family and the world she’s grown to love.