Inspiration from Alita Battle Angel
The movie that inspired me to up my game with my characters, Alita Battle Angel is an emotional journey led by an entirely CG character who is so well crafted that we almost immediately 'forget' that she isn't 100% real!
As we'll see, Weta Digital and Lightstorm have created (by far) the most incredible digital character on screen to date. From the amazing performance of actress Rosa Salazar along with the rest of the interacting cast to the performance capture techniques used to how the animators tweaked the 3D mesh according to that captured performance against the stylizing and exaggeration needed to covey the super-human power of Manga - and then all of the rest of the technology, artistry and direction that it takes to make all of this possible.
The Official Movie Trailer
Beyond this point, certain details might possibly spoil it for you if you haven't seen the movie yet - though I think you'd still love it even if you did watch the spoilers!
Very near the beginning of the movie, this tender moment is Alita meeting her saviors for the first time. She discovers the taste of an orange, learns that she's a cyborg and that she has no memories.
The expressiveness of Alita is mind blowing, thanks to the magic of highly talented animators, but also to Rosa Salazar's ability to express so deeply, full of facial muscle reactions. It makes for a superb end result!
We'll take a look at how they do it in a bit.
The whole 'eating of the orange' part is a feat of perfection. The way she reacts to hearing the cyborg stuff gives away the fact that she' just discovering that she is a cyborg - and she emotes it so perfectly!
Then comes Ido wiping the tear from her face. That's just plain cool!!!
How Did They Do That?!!!
Find out below
This scene from the movie begins with a heart warming discussion between Alita and Hugo still early on in the film, so Alita still doesn't quite know who (or exactly what) she is.
The reason I have it here is to show how realistically she (a fully CG character) interacts with the live action actor, as well as how expressive the animation team was able to work her facial muscles, the dynamics of the hair and fluidity of her every move. She's So Real!
The second half of the scene shows the beginning of her awakening - the thing that sparks her first hidden memory of her past life. Again, I'm not sure this would spoil the ride for you if you haven't seen it yet, but it would at the very least inform you of the outcome of the scene - so, yeah... spoiled!
This part of the scene also features Alita interacting with live action actors, but also adds a character whose face is from a live action actress yet the rest of her is CG, along with two more fully CG characters, each animated via performance capture tweaked via key framing by hand. Absolutely Incredible!!!
From Manga to Screen
I bought the movie before really knowing or even hearing anything about it. I had no clue whether I would like it or not. I read a short line from a Google search that Alita was a purely CG character from Weta Digital. That's the thing that drew me to click Purchase. Was I ever in for a treat!
In my opinion the movie is top-notch. After watching it I scroll down a bit to find that there's over two hours of Behind the Scenes documentary material that comes with it. Not throw away filler, but really good bonus features!
This is one of them pertaining to adapting Alita Battle Angel to a movie from the Manga graphic novels, and it's excellent! So much work by so many people over so many years!!!
Evolution of Alita
This bonus feature covers many topics on the massive undertaking that goes on behind making CG characters of this level of realism and what it takes to have them effectively interact with living, breathing actors.
Both of these features are highly entertaining, yet are only a slice of the magic that comes with the movie. For example, one of the bonus features is a tutorial by Director, Robert Rodriguez on... now get this: How to Make Chocolate! I'm going to do this! I'm So Going to Do This!!!
There's so much content to watch, and it's all great stuff to watch. I love the narrated background videos of concept art, explaining the times and how we got to where we are.
The Art of Making the Movie Hardcover
My wonderful wife (who also bought me the movie) got me this book as a present. After seeing all of the behind the scenes footage that comes with the movie I was more interested in seeing the art than reading anything, to be honest.
That silly notion disappeared the second I started reading. This book contains glorious artwork and it's delivered in a nice, big and lavish hardcover tome.
The text is an even more in-depth look at more of the work that artists put into this gem of a flick.
Not to spoil anything but just to give an example, one small part of it covers how Alita's costumes were made for real by a real costume designer. They found a girl of the right size and proportion to wear the costumes and perform some of Alita's movements, all on film so that the animators could see how the fabric behaves for their simulations. The seamstress then provided the patterns for each costume which were used in Marvelous Designer to create the CG costumes! So cool!!!
Alita discovers a body from her home planet. Maybe it works on me? Wet skin and hair on a CG character!
Alita with the body of a guy. Oh... wait. Adaptive technology of the Berserker body? Cool!!!
Hey Dad, check out my new body! This is Me! This is who I am!!!
Wait, did that dude just kiss pixels? These folks really are good!
Ever see Motorball in action?
So how well does Alita play the game her first time out?
Trust me, if you decided to watch these clips but haven't seen the movie yet, you still have to watch the whole thing through!