Imagine spending years developing and creating characters and the world behind a massive production like Robert Rodriguez's Alita: Battle Angel and so much time refining and bringing to live the title character played by Rosa Salazar. How do you pick a scene or moment, when it may finally be completed, to say is your favorite?
Screen Rant had the opportunity to visit Weta Digital last year and experience first hand how movie magic really happens when it comes to a technologically-advanced and special effects heavy such as Alita: Battle Angel, and while there spoke with Joe Letteri (Senior Visual Effects Supervisor), Eric Saindon (Visual Effects Supervisor), and Mike Cozens (Animation Supervisor) to ask this exact question.
Their answers may surprise you.
We're nearing the finish line now on post-production for Alita: Battle Angel. Once you start seeing some of these shots finished or near finished, what's your favorite moment or scene that you've seen?
Eric Saindon - Visual Effects Supervisor, Weta Digital
Most people would say one of the big action scenes. But mine is the orange eating scene. And that's because it was an early scene we did. We had Rosa on set and she took a bite of the orange. And she had this great just little reaction with Christoph [Waltz]. And a little bit of back and forth. And like she bit the orange, that type of thing. And her whole body sort of tensed up. And when we translated that into Alita, and we got all the detail in her face and the wrinkling and the squinting of her eyes and the movement of her body, even the little “ehh” when she did it. It translated to Alita. And we put it in and watched the first time and watched it next to Rosa. And it was like, “Wow, it looks like Rosa, but it's not Rosa.” And it really-- I don't know, for some reason that moment clicked in my head and all of a sudden turned it around for me. And made me think, “Okay, I think we can do this.” I watched a couple of scenes with Rosa the other day. First time she’s seen them. And she watched them. And she-- I just watched her, not the scenes. And her face was moving all over the place. And like, “Ah, she didn't like it. She didn't like it.” And it ended. And she gave me a hug. And she's like, “That was me! But not me!” I was like, “Oh, thank God, she liked it.” [LAUGHS] And to get an actor to feel that they are a CG character. I mean, that's an accomplishment, I think.
Mike Cozens - Animation Supervisor, Weta Digital
There's so many great moments. We've got high action scenes and we've got really beautiful drama and little subtle details. I think the thing that I get a kick of is all the stuff that probably breezes by and people don't even notice. When we deal with the interaction, we spend a lot of time making sure it's all working correctly. When Rosa kisses, you go and their lips come apart. Her lips sort of suck and pop off his lips. And it's a small little thing, but it's those little details, you're like, “Oh, yeah, that was worth putting that in,” just because it's like that extra little kiss of beauty and realism that is in that. And the shots are sprinkled with that type, that level of detail. And I think that's the thing that raises the bar on this character.
Joe Letteri - Senior Visual Effects Supervisor, Weta Digital
My favorite moment is the scene inside the spaceship, when she discovers her berserker body. Because that's a turning point. You don't know who she is as a character. She doesn't know who she is as a character. And that's when she first starts to understand that there might be something more there. And so that's always an interesting point for a character in any film.
Official Alita: Battle Angel Plot 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.
- Alita Battle Angel (2019) release date: Feb 14, 2019