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The first trailer for Robert Rodriguez's Alita: Battle Angel falls squarely into the uncanny valley

The first trailer for Robert Rodriguez's Alita: Battle Angel falls squarely into the uncanny valley


And it’s probably deliberate, but it’s still unsettling

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For more than a decade, James Cameron was working on an adaptation of Yukito Kishiro's manga Battle Angel Alita, before handing off directing duties to Spy Kids / Machete / Sin City director Robert Rodriguez. That project is finally moving forward: Alita: Battle Angel is scheduled to hit theaters next year, and today, 20th Century Fox released an initial trailer, in which its main character falls squarely into the uncanny valley.

The story is set in the 26th century, and is about a female cyborg, Alita (played by Maze Runner: The Death Cure’s Rosa Salazar), who is rescued from a trash heap and repaired by Dr. Dyson Ido (Inglourious Basterds / Downsizing star Christoph Waltz). She discovers that her adopted father moonlights as a bounty hunter, and joins him in his work, learning about her lost past in the process, and fending off attackers who know more about her history than she does. Cameron, who is producing the film, has said that the film will be the “spine story” of the first four installments of the manga.

Cameron also wanted to shoot the entire film digitally, like he later did with Avatar. Rodriguez seems to have followed the same plans, because Alita is definitely a digital creation, and she stands out in her real-world surroundings like a green screen on a set. The character looks like an anime doll come to life, or like a Disney character that’s just a hair off from normal. It’s probably a deliberate choice, meant to remind viewers at every moment that Alita isn’t human. But after so many years of CGI animators trying to mimic convincing human faces and not entirely succeeding, it’s still unsettling to see a character hovering this close to realistic, while staying this far away from it.

Alita: Battle Angel hits theaters on July 20th, 2018.