What once seemed a shot in the dark is now becoming a reality, with Alita: Battle Angel packing its cast full of heavy-hitters. Based on the 1990 Battle Angel Alita manga by Yukito Kishiro, the original series and subsequent anime have long been sought after by Hollywood as a potential sci-fi franchise. The story centers around a cyborg abandoned in a garbage dump called the Scrapyard that’s discovered by a scientist named Dr. Dyson Ido. He fixes her up and she soon trains to become an elite Hunter Warrior by studying the Panzer Kunst (‘tank art’) style of fighting.
The upcoming film will be produced by James Cameron (Avatar) and Jon Landau, with Robert Rodriguez (Machete) directing. So far, it’s gathered together an all-star cast including Rosa Salazar (The Maze Runner) in the titular role and Christoph Waltz (Spectre) as Dr. Ido, plus Lana Condor (X-Men: Apocalypse), Mahershala Ali (Luke Cage), Ed Skrein (Deadpool), and Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen) in various roles. The film’s largely non-Asian American and/or Asian cast is no doubt an issue for many fans of the original manga – and as it stands, the latest addition to the cast doesn’t break away from that trend.
THR is reporting that Jennifer Connelly (American Pastoral) is joining the film as a villain. Previous reports have pegged Skrein and Haley as playing similarly-nefarious roles, so there’s a reasonable chance a performer of Connelly’s caliber will be playing the lead villain. If that’s true, it will help the film’s representation in some ways. Action films have long suffered from a dearth of not just female protagonists, but antagonists as well. Upcoming 2017 films like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Thor: Ragnarok and The Fate of the Furious are helping to change that, so Alita will certainly be welcomed into the fold, in that respect.
Still, Alita will also join the upcoming Ghost in the Shell adaptation in whitewashing its Japanese source material. While arguments over these sorts of moves by Hollywood have raged for years, it’s not helping the case that so many examples keep popping up. There are certainly plenty of high-profile and talented Asian actors working today that could be added to any of these films, so hopefully that will come to fruition before the release of the movie next year.
Either way, Alita looks to be well on its way to cinemas and certainly has the pedigree to be an exciting action/sci-fi film with plenty of gravitas and nuance mixed into its fight scenes. As the movie gets closer to starting production, we should get a lot more casting announcements as well as character and plot details. Stay tuned for more news as it emerges.
Alita: Battle Angel hits theaters July 20th, 2018.