When it came to making sci-fi epic Alita: Battle Angel, director Robert Rodriguez, writer/producer James Cameron, and the artists designing the film were determined to stick as closely to the Manga comic as possible, and this included the look of their cyborg protagonist, which was okay for James Cameron, even if it illicited some boos from incoming fans.
In a wonderful callback to the material from which the movie is inspired, the idea from the very beginning was to give Alita eyes that were significantly larger than a normal human's, giving her that quintessential 'Manga' look whilst paying homage to the artwork on which the live-action character is based. Of course, such a choice was sure to have its fair share of critics, but James Cameron knew exactly how to handle them, as explained by WETA Visual Effects Supervisor Eric Saindon.
"Both of them said, 'No, we want to go bigger on the eyes! Jim said, 'Fuck the haters,' right? He said, 'We're going to go bigger on the eyes, and that's how we're going to do it.'"
Clearly Cameron and Rodriguez had a very clear vision for their movie, and unlike many studios and filmmakers nowadays, they were not going to be swayed by a few detractors and their harsh words. The larger-than-life eyes that Alita sports pay wonderful tribute to the Manga, and go a long way in making the character stand-out against the high-concept background.
Saindon directly addresses the negative commentary surrounding the look of Alita that followed after the release of the movie's first trailer, acknowledging that it inspired many conversations behind the scenes.
"We had the original design, right? The designs all the way back to 2005. Once you build that and you put that next to a live-action actor, they do have to always change a little bit, because it does look a little strange. And after the first trailer came out, right, everyone said 'Her eyes are pie-shaped! They're gigantic!' And blah, blah, blah. And we did go to Robert, and we went to Jim, and said, 'Hey, we're getting this feedback. What are your thoughts?'"
After being told in no uncertain terms by Cameron to go bigger with eyes and disregard the haters, Saindon explained that the visual effects artists still did not quite take this to heart and remained trepidatious, though there were particular adjustments made to make Alita's peepers feel more natural.
"At the end of the day they were both right. We didn't actually go that much bigger on the eyes, but we went bigger on the iris, and we filled the space of the eyes a little bit more, and it just popped her character to life even more."
Though Alita: Battle Angel received a lukewarm reception from critics, audiences loved it, with many fans crying out for an Alita sequel. The movie resulted in one of the most impressive blockbuster efforts that we have seen on the big screen for some time, with Alita's Manga-like eyes just one of the unique elements that went into creating such a rich, sci-fi world. This comes to us from Cinemablend.