Alita: Battle Angel was handed down to director Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Machete) after James Cameron’s time was primarily taken up by forthcoming Avatar sequels. Despite not directing it, his input on the script, production credit, well-documented fascination with the source material and the overall vision of the film make it feel very much intertwined with Cameron’s directorial body of work.
This is mostly due to the appearance of the film, as many audiences have noted that the world we are being presented feels similar in scope to that presented in Avatar. The latter proved to be - as you’re likely aware - the highest grossing film of all time; box-office success is something that Cameron is synonymous with, just look at the record-shattering success of 1997’s Titanic for reinforcement.
With an estimated budget of $200 million, Alita: Battle Angel absolutely needs to succeed at the box-office. When early trailers emerged, a considerable portion of moviegoers took to social media to prematurely declare it the biggest flop of 2019. Yet, the same thing was said about 2009’s Avatar in its respective year. There’s just one slight problem: Alita hasn’t exactly revolutionised 3D… Avatar arguably did. One of the overarching reasons for Avatar’s success was the promise that audiences would experience a film like never before. The pitch wasn’t necessarily the film itself, but the way it could be consumed.
With such a budget, Alita: Battle Angel would have to look good, and in its defence it does. Cameron is great at world-building, and the narrative with all its trimmings is whacky enough for someone like Rodriguez to work with. The marketing has very much sold it as a co-production between him and Cameron, with promos and interviews selling a conjoined vision, rather than that of just the filmmaker at the helm. If it ends up bombing, Cameron’s name will definitely be dragged along with it. So, what does this mean for the success of Avatar sequels?
Critical reviews have been underwhelming, and the design of the characters has definitely deterred a great number of general audiences. Over the course of the month, it will be interesting to see if the film’s appreciation grows as more flock to see it, or contrarily, how it declines. If in two months time it’s looked back on with total dispassion, then it could have negative repercussions for Cameron’s Avatar plans.
Avatar 2 doesn’t exactly have the strong appeal that the first did in terms of technological advance, so already it will be sold more on the strength of the story itself; the first film undeniably coasts on familiarity. If the first trailer fails to grip people then audiences will have the recent example of Alita to refer back to in determining their desire to see it.
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