Alita: Battle Angel director Robert Rodriguez has been discussing the development of the project - and how it could lead to multiple sequels. Alita: Battle Angel has been a pet project for producer James Cameron for nearly two decades, and he originally developed it for himself to direct. Just like Avatar, he sat on the concept for years until technology caught up with his vision, but he ultimately passed the movie onto Rodriguez when it became clear he'd be too busy on the upcoming Avatar sequels.
Alita: Battle Angel is based on the cult manga of the same name and takes place several centuries into the future. A cyborg named Alita (Roza Salazar) is found on a scrap heap and nursed back to health by a doctor, who tries to help her remember her past. The impressive cast is rounded out by Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, and Mahershala Ali. Although the first Alita trailer debuted in December, the movie was pushed back from its planned summer release date to December 2018. But that hasn't stopped the studio from marketing the film at industry events.
Footage from Alita: Battle Angel recently debuted at CinemaCon, and Robert Rodriguez and producer Jon Landau discussed the development process with Yahoo! Movies. Specifically, Rodriguez was tasked with condensing hundreds of pages of notes from James Cameron into a manageable, feature-length screenplay:
"Only 600 pages of notes that he gave me, there were probably 400 more! It helped me crack the script. He said, ‘Here’s the rest of it.’ Because he thinks in saga. He thinks in long-term arcs. That’s what gives the characters such richness. That what gives Alita such richness."
The filmmaker also discussed how Alita: Battle Angel could evolve into a franchise if the audiences want it:
“It was fun, to get into the mind of Jim and how he crafts a story. It was a real lesson in creating a character that could go on [for multiple movies]. Whether you have a franchise or not, you have a character that’s so rich that the audience can imagine more movies with, those are the kinds of characters that I like.”
After years of developing the Avatar sequels, James Cameron is suddenly having a very busy year. He's started filming Avatar 2 & 3 while producing Alita: Battle Angel and the upcoming Terminator 6 with director Tim Miller; if that entry proves successful, there are two further sequels planned. He's also hosting the six-part series AMC Visionaries: James Cameron's Story Of Science Fiction, where he discusses the origins and impact of the genre with filmmakers like Ridley Scott, Guillermo del Toro, and George Lucas.
Given the amount of development Cameron put into Alita: Battle Angel over the years, its no surprise there are plans to make a saga out of it, should everything go according to plan. It all depends on the willingness of audiences, but at the moment, it doesn't feel like there's much excitement for the project, at least not yet. The movie is still quite a ways out, so perception surrounding the project and its series potential should change as its release date approaches.