James Cameron to Develop ‘Battle Angel’ in 2017, After ‘Avatar 3′

Published 2 years ago by , Updated September 26th, 2013 at 7:28 am,

In the not-so-distant past – before James Cameron’s Avatar shattered box office records and displaced his own Titanic to become the all-time money-making champion – Cameron had plans to make Battle Angel, based on the beloved Japanese manga series. Unfortunately, momentum on that project has stalled for a decade as Cameron has focused his energy on the Avatar trilogy. 

Despite numerous promises that the movie will happen, fans have understandably had their doubts. However, during the technology forum TAG DF in Mexico City, Cameron shared a talk with Gravity director Alfonso Cuarón and offered up a surprising timeline for his next three projects – he plans to tackle Battle Angel in 2017 after Avatar 2 and 3 have been finished.

Cameron dropped the comments in the midst of a discussion about, among other things, the role of technology in films and the collaborative nature of filmmaking versus the myth of the auteur – interesting words coming from the famously demanding director (watch the video above).

battle angel concept art cropped James Cameron to Develop Battle Angel in 2017, After Avatar 3

For those unfamiliar with Battle Angel, Cameron’s version is supposedly based on a sci-fi anime adaptation of a nine-volume manga called Battle Angel Alita. The manga follows an amnesiac female cyborg who becomes a bounty hunter after certain suppressed memories begin to surface. Here is one of the more detailed (if semi-official) synopses:

When Doc Ido, a talented cyberphysician, finds Alita’s head in a junk heap, she has lost all memory of her past life. But when he reconstructs her, she discovers her body still instinctively remembers the Panzer Kunst, the most powerful cyborg fighting technique ever known. In the postapocalyptic world of the Scrapyard, as the secrets of Alita’s past unfold, each day is a struggle for survival.

The truncated timeline of the Avatar sequels appears to confirm that Cameron is working on both films concurrently, leading us to the assumption that he’d begin “development” on Battle Angel while Avatar 3 is in post-production. This raises the question of what’s to become of his possible third sequel/prequel, Avatar 4. Given that producer Jon Landau has bluntly stated that there will be no third sequel, fans shouldn’t get their hopes up for some kind of visit to Pandora prior to the human invasion.

One of the more interesting things Cameron alluded to in the interview above was his intention to focus on characters and story – two aspects of the original Avatar that were pretty justifiably criticized at the time (Dances With Wolves meets FernGully could be a concise summary of the plot). Now that Cameron seems to have the technology necessary to tell his ever-ambitious stories, let’s hope he follows through and manages to marry his deeply immersive visuals with a more mature and compelling storyline.

James Cameron Jon Landau James Cameron to Develop Battle Angel in 2017, After Avatar 3

Avatar Director James Cameron with Producer Jon Landau

Avatar is arguably responsible for the premium ticket 3D blockbuster trend, and while Cameron has in the past been a vocal proponent of the technology and format, the director’s criticism of shoving almost every major tent-pole release through 3D conversion might be heartening for some moviegoers (such as yours truly) who have never really been sold on the extra dimension. Cameron suggested that movies like Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel:

“[S]hould not necessarily be in 3D. If you spend $150 million on visual effects, the film is already going to [look] spectacular [and] perfect.”

This leads to the question of whether or not Cameron really believes that adding the Z-axis to the experience lends itself to “perfection.” But what he really seems to be getting at is urging studios and filmmakers to question whether or not a substandard product is worth the added cost of post-production conversion. (If the studios are convinced they can make more money, then the answer will always be “yes,” of course.)

Despite their flaws, James Cameron’s films have proven to be massively successful and have become cultural touchstones. He is indeed one of our precious few real innovators in the film world, and while Avatar was entertaining, it was also derivative and perhaps not as memorable as some initially believed. His approach to Battle Angel, however, is something to truly look forward to, as a chance to take his trans-human themes into far darker territory.


Avatar 2 is due in theaters sometime in 2015.

Expect Avatar 3 in 2016, with Battle Angel to begin development in 2017.

Source: JoBlo

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  1. James Cameron’s contention if you spend $150 million on visual effects
    the film will look spectacular and perfect without 3D is correct which
    the most recent Man Of Steel 2D presentation proved convincingly.

    And this is an excellent argument against 3D in general.
    Why spend even more to shoot in 3D or convert to 3D
    of you can have spectacular and perfect with 2D.

    • +1

      There are very few movies that actually look good in 3D, yet the majority of movies today are in 3D. From what I’ve been told about Man of Steel’s 3D, the sound effects were great, the visuals also great but the 3D didn’t really enhance the experience the way it should have.

    • I’ve got a novel idea. How about James Cameron pays his Visual Effects crew Over-Time which he failed to do on Avatar 1? He worked them 100 plus hours and due to a technicality in labor laws said they were salaried employees aka non-union.

      • No Unions! The dues go the Democratic coffers.

    • It’s a piracy thing. It’s got nothing to do with the viewing experience. Piracy, and getting more of your cash out of your wallet.

    • I would have to disagree about this being an effective arguement against using 3D at all. If a filmmaker shoots in 3D AND is mindful of what he is doing and why he is shooting it, it can be amazing (Hugo, Life Of Pi, and The Great Gatsby come to mind, three movies which are NOT special effects driven films.)

      I think this was most driven home by the movie Dredd. I watched this a month ago on some cable channel. I am not a Judge Dredd fan, but I heard this movie was far better than the awful Stallone film from a couple of decades ago. Overall, I thought it was pretty good. I wouldn’t run out and highly recommend it, but it had some good scenes and I didn’t regret watching it. Last weekend, I saw it in 3D…

      This is a movie that didn’t have a hugh budget, and they actually thought about what they wanted the 3D to DO in the movie. It had a purpose! They created a new smaller 3D camera just to do these close ups of the actors’ faces. I was completely blown away! Suddenly the movie was MUCH more gory, there were scenes which became more disturbing, more beautiful, or more disturbing because they were beautiful. The point is that filmmakers knew what they wanted to convey with the 3D, and it showed.

      Conversly, I rewatched The Hobbit this past weekend in 3D as well. It was shot in 3D, not post converted, and it was a MAJOR distraction.

      • Your example using Dredd 3D is the key, PURPOSE! That’s all it’s about, if they just shooting a movie to make profit you can tell, But what the director did in Dredd had a purpose and stood out. Although not in the box office. I loved Life of Pi and that was another that made sense in 3D.

        • Amen, brother! *GRIN!*

  2. Cameron is correct that good effects are essential in a lot of Scifi and fantasy movies but if anyone can screw up a great story like Battle Angel Altia it will be him.

    • “ameron is correct that good effects are essential in a lot of Scifi and fantasy movies”

      No they’re really not.

      Go watch Dark Star, or Metropolis, The Day he Earth Stood Still (original), Planet of the Apes and especially Silent Running.

      All of which have, by today’s standards poor or no real visual effects.

      Heck the effects on Star Wars (original release) and Alien look a little dated compared to all the crap we get now. But they’re all great films.

      If you just want the visuals, go look at a great picture.

      A movie is more about things poking out the screen or sound so loud your earwax drips into your popcorn.

      • I have seen them all, heck I stood in line for 2 hours to see the original Star Wars in 1977. But remember that all of those movies were considered hi-tech when they first came out, except Dark Star which was a pet project of the director and his buddies and relied on the camp aspect and comparison to 2001 to be successful. Its a matter of perspective and today the bar has been set high for scifi movies. You dont have to spend half your budget on FX but what FX they do have needs to be effective and realistic. Writing and plot is where many fail, look at the Transformer movies, Hi-tec and bad writing and dialogue.

      • Such an assertion is idiotic; those films all had amazing special effects in their time and context, Dark Star notwithstanding (and even then, were the effects “bad” considering the comedic purpose?).
        Metropolis even today is still amazing.

  3. I feel like if it wasn’t for the effects Avatar wouldn’t have done so good because half way through the movie I was getting bored nothing really happened in the middle of the movie

    • I felt the same. The tech was brilliant but the story I find was simply good, nothing to gloat about I guess. I really enjoyed the world they created though, let’s hope the sequel takes full advantage of it.

    • I switched it off after the bit where the tribe didn’t kill their enemy’s best warrior. If they’re going to be that dumb, I didn’t a flip about what happened to them.

      Also I was incredibly, incredibly bored of watching things float along the bottom of my 2D screen.

      • Thats fair, i for one find it to be a film that why may copy most of its plot from say dances with wolves or pocohontas, is beautifully made and strong storytelling throughout

  4. Exciting news

  5. Avatar was Dances With Wolves with blue cat people.

  6. avatar was bad. FX and visually good though. Enjoyed the world they created. Story n plot and scenes between characters were boring. Old formula for romance in that movie.

  7. Dances with Wolves in Spaaaaaace! I’ve been saying that for the longest.

    • You and everyone else. That notion is less original than Avatar.

  8. Although I also saw the similarities with Avatar and Dances With Wolves (as well as The Last Samurai and Tarzan, among others), I always considered the original John Carter stories to be closest comparison. I read later that Cameron admitted John Carter as being very influential.

    • If by “admitting” you mean, pointed it out in the press, ahead of the release, also mentioning Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King (although that was to a lesser extent).

  9. My big problem with Avatar was the hypocritical nature of it all.

    The film has a very blatant and obvious anti-corporate and anti-technology message with the primitive aliens defeating the big, mighty company.

    Yet, without the evolution of special effects technology and the funding of 20th Century Fox, this film wouldn’t be possible. It all seemed kind of silly to me.

  10. I wish he would just do the Battle Angle movie already and quit screwing around with the “Save the Trees” b******* called Avatar, we saw Fern Gully, Dances with Wolves and everything else he ripped off, we get it already! We sure as hell don’t need 2 more.

    • I really hope he is gonna do something good with the universe he had created. Technically, Cameron is free to steer away from the heavy handed environmental message yet still be able to write engaging story. After all, why spend a decade creating an interesting world such a Pandora and stop taking advantage of it?

  11. We have to acknowledge the professionality of Avatar’s script. Everything fits, makes sense, is connected. Has the story been told before (Dances With Wolves)? Yes. But Avatar’s screenplay is the best one to teach young script writers how a story must be constructed.
    Its originality lies in the special effects. And even though James Cameron wrote Terminator 2, with basically the same story as the first one, it’s still one of the best action movies ever made. This man knows what he’s doing. Avatar 2 and 3 might have a lot of air/filler (see Back To The Future 2 & 3, the two Matrix sequels), but they’re gonna be great.

    • Can we also acknowledge how butt achingly boring the plot and dialogue are?

      He should have made a music video from it.

    • @R.M i thought i was the only one who thought this

  12. I’m loving that people are comparing Avatar to Dances With Wolves… which was derivative of the 1950′s movie “Broken Arrow” with James Stewart which was derivative of numerous Louis L’Amour novels… so end it already with the complaints. All movies are just retellings of other stories already told in a new way with different technology. Was Avatar a “great” film? No. Was it entertaining? Sure. That’s all it needed to be.

    • Yeah, I also love how no one accuses all the films which Avatar supposedly ripped off of copying each other. No one says Fern Gully was Dances with Wolves in the jungle, but their plots are also pretty similar. Or thrown in Pocahontas or Atlantis the Lost Empire or whatever. It’s obvious that story has been told many times already, just like many other stories in films today.

      I guess people just hate it when something they don’t like is really successful and have to attack it every chance they get.

      • Avatar was more heavily pushed as some great cinematic event, Fern Gully was never labelled as the future of film.

        If you’re gonna say your film is this that and the other, then you best have a damn good film.

        They didn’t, they had a curiosity.

        • It was from a technical standpoint, and the story was entertaining enough. If it really sucked, word of mouth would have kept it from doing as well as it did.
          I’m not going to pretend it was the greatest film of all time, but it did have some stunning shots and was a decent enough story to keep me interested.

          My point was that people keep saying that it was unoriginal, but those other films had the same basic story line and people didn’t accuse them of the same thing. There are only so many stories out there being told over and over. Heck, look at Oz the Great and Powerful. It was basically Army of Darkness for kids, but I didn’t hear a great outcry that it sucked and was unoriginal. That same story has been told many times, but it all depends on how it’s told that ultimately leads to how good it is.

      • Not to mention Cameron going around telling everyone that it was an original idea and a brand new concept even though several people contested his story and characters as their concepts. It was his hubris that turned so many against the film and his holier than thou attitude.

        • Citation needed

  13. I’d rather see the Battle Angel movie to be honest.

    I avoided Avatar until it was on TV a year after release and found it boring and way too long and it just looked like one big Halo 3 cutscene. That’s why I’m not excited at all for sequels because the first one left a bad impression on me.

    The success and hype that Avatar received reminded me of the videogame industry where the games with the most hype and success tend to be those with flashy graphics but no substance and is probably the only James Cameron movie I haven’t liked in any way so far.

  14. I’m happy someone prominent in the industry is speaking up against 3D post conversions being shoved down people’s throats just to make more money. If the film maker wants to present the film in 3D then he or she will actually try to use it effectively.

    That’s a totally different scenario than the studio execs deciding to tack on 3D just to make more money, regardless of how it fits the film. I’m really glad Justin Lin refused to let them do that with F&F6.

  15. Am I right in thinking Nolan refused to convert TDKR?

    • You are correct

  16. A live-action Alita could do quite well in Cameron’s hands. He’ll have some really good options for casting the lead (Chloe Moretz, Hailee Steinfeld and Saoirse Ronan will all be around the right age for it by then). I just hope he’ll ask someone else to write the script… and that someone isn’t Damon Lindelof.

    • He should go for some (unknown) young japanese actress.

      • That would only make sense with a mostly Japanese cast. And BAA isn’t set in Japan anyway.

  17. Glad to see Cameron admitting to Avatar’s faliures and focusing more on storytelling in the sequels. Interested to see what he does with and Battle Angel and hope he returns to Terminator sometime in the future.

  18. What’s the betting Screenrant did not contact Hyung Tae Kim to ask for his permission to publish his art here.