Alita: Battle Angel found it so important to honor its manga source material that it dedicate a huge portion of its production to having Rosa Salazar covered in performance capture gear to reflect her character's manga counterpart. While some aspects of the film deviate from the source material, there are some panels brought to vivid live-action life.
"That all starts with the script," Alita: Battle Angel executive producer Jon Landau tells ComicBook.com. With a series of graphic novels to choose from, Alita: Battle Angel never aimed at covering all of them in one cinematic outing. "Jim Cameron looked at what [Yukito] Kishiro had done across the first three graphic novels that he had written, pulled out the origin story that he felt was the most succinct to tell, added Motorball into that and then went from there."
Animation supervisor Emile Ghoryeb pointed out to ComicBook.com that he found it very important to honor the source material which he thoroughly enjoyed by flat out recreating panels in the live-action form. He would then pass those moments on to director Robert Rodriguez who approved them with glowing enthusiasm.
"The interesting thing is that we use the graphic novel as inspiration, we created shots cinematically and when we did we lined them up and they were the same," Landau added. "So Kishiro draws in a very cinematic way. We didn't go, 'We want that storyboard specifically.' It came naturally."
Honoring the source material goes right down to the cast members. Alita: Battle Angel's lead actress familiarized herself with the manga, catching moments as they were brought to life, and proudly representing them. "I'm glad that we stuck to the vision, I'm glad that we could all hold up what Yukito Kishiro did," Salazar said in the video above. "That was always the goal. And it wasn't a surprise, it was... We did take images and moments directly from the manga, and did our best to translate them."
Meanwhile, Christoph Waltz (who plays Dr. Ido) was happy to see Alita: Battle Angel also stray a few steps away from its source material. "The translation, the direct translation, would be insufficient for a movie like that because it's a different medium but it's nice to see where it comes from," Waltz said.
Alita: Battle Angel hits theaters on February 14, 2019.