James Cameron's feature film adaptation of the cyberpunk manga Battle Angel Alita has been the movie equivalent of vaporware for more than a decade, and after all of the reshuffling and delays it turns out he's not even going to direct it at all. In a statement today, he announced that Sin City and Spy Kids director Robert Rodriguez will be helming the film — titled Alita: Battle Angel — with Cameron producing. Written by Yukito Kishiro, the Alita graphic novel is set in the dystopian 26th century, and follows a female cyborg that is rescued from a junk heap and restored by a doctor. She remembers nothing but a deadly martial art, and begins hunting down wrong-doers as she tries to discover her real identity.
Word first started circulating that Cameron was working on adapting the property around the year 2000, with the filmmaker eventually writing a script with Shutter Island's Laeta Kalogridis. But ongoing tests and technological limitations — Cameron saw the project as one that would require the same kind of motion capture and digital cinematography techniques that he would eventually use on Avatar — continued to delay it. After the latter film was completed, he had intended to tackle Alita as his follow-up, but those plans eventually fell by the wayside as Cameron instead chose to focus on numerous Avatar sequels. Now it appears he's letting go of the project just to ensure that it actually gets made.
Cameron meets his budget-minded match
In a certain sense, the two are actually a good match; while Cameron has opened new technological doors in blockbuster filmmaking, Rodriguez has done the same for smaller, more frugal movies. Not only does he run his own studio out of Texas, but he made the move to digital sets and shooting on video with Sin City well before many major filmmakers wanted to make the leap. "Robert and I have been looking for a film to do together for years, so I was pumped when he said he wanted to do Battle Angel," the filmmaker said in a statement released to press. "This project is near and dear to me, and there's nobody I trust more than Robert, with his technical virtuosity and rebel style, to take over the directing reins. We're looking forward to learning a lot from each other while we make a kick-ass epic."