There was a point where it wasn’t clear what James Cameron’s next film would be, and there was parallel development being done on both Avatar and Battle Angel Alita. At one point, it looked like Alita was the project that was in the lead, and the entire art department floor of Lightstorm at their Santa Monica offices was transformed so that the cubicles and the file cabinets and everything else had been transformed into the city of Scrapyard, a massive metropolitan trash heap that was made of all the debris poured off of Tiphares, a floating city people entirely by the rich. The ceiling of that entire floor was transformed into the underside of Tiphares, so the people designing the world could look up and feel like they were living in that world.

It looks like Lightstorm is finally producing a Battle Angel Alita movie with Robert Rodriguez directing, and it’s going to be interesting to see what happens when Robert works this way, taking his time, directing something on this giant scale. Robert has always worked fast and cheap, doing as much as he can himself, frequently hiring people for jobs and then overlapping his work with theirs. He’s been working like that for so long that I think it’s exciting to see him do something like this. Any time you can challenge a filmmaker to bend his own technique to a very different version of the process, you’re asking them to step outside of their comfort zone, and that can be a moment where they do remarkable things.

The combination of Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron as director and writer/producer is exciting to me. I’m curious how much of the work done by the great Laeta Kalogridis over the years as a writer is still in the mix. It’s a very simple story at heart, but there’s so much potential in where you go from the set-up that it is a real challenge. A former battle robot is dismantled and thrown out, and a scientist discovers her still working head in the trash heap of Scrapyard. He rebuilds her, and that kicks off a sprawling action epic story that has gone through several incarnations already.

I’m curious how much attention Lightstorm paid to the controversy that greeted the recent release of the first image of Scarlett Johansson in Ghost In The Shell. No matter what, this film is going to cost at the very least $100 million. You’re talking about a big canvass, and they’re going to want this actor to make several movies if the first one works. It’s clear based on the short list of Maika Monroe, Rosa Salazar, and Zendaya that they are not looking at any particular race for the role, and if the science-fiction landscape they’re building is not tied to any particular current culture, they buy themselves room to do anything they want to do. Doesn’t mean they’ll escape any grumbling about things, but it does mean that they’re casting a pretty wide net, and they seem determined to find an actor they like, not working from a checklist based on expectations because of the source material.

We’ll see what kind of choices they start making on this casting soon, it sounds like, and I’m excited to see that this is still moving forward. It’s been a long time in the works, and I’d love to see it come together and reward all this time and attention.

A respected critic and commentator for fifteen years, Drew McWeeny helped create the online film community as "Moriarty" at Ain't It Cool News, and now proudly leads two budding Film Nerds in their ongoing movie education.