In a behind-the-scenes video about the making of “Alita: Battle Angel,” producer Jon Landau talked about the biggest difference between that film and “Avatar,” saying how the key to that movie was that they didn’t need it “to be photo-real because you can’t tell me what ‘real’ is on Pandora. We only need it to be photographic.”
Instead, for “Alita,” “We’re on Earth,” he said. “Alita needs to be photo-real so that she can stand right next to Christoph Waltz and look together, of one in the frame.”
This makes a lot of sense. “Alita: Battle Angel,” also known as the remake of “Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over” looks stunning, but the focus was somewhere else in the “Avatar” movies. As Landau says, the live-action manga adaptation needed first and foremost to convince the audience that the titular Alita looked real and that her giant anime eyes aren’t super creepy — everything else in that world is just eye-candy. The issues with that movie were bigger if that one goal wasn’t met. It’s the same issue most other blockbusters face today, particularly superhero movies. If a digital body double or the immediate environment the characters interact with doesn’t look 100% convincing and photorealistic, it ruins the immersion and pulls the audience out of the moment.
That is not a problem in “Avatar,” which has the advantage of having an alien world they can explore and design from the ground up. The alien creatures and the Na’vi, the most photorealistic things in the movie, are still relatively cartoony, so you can get away with them looking a tiny bit off.