Titanic director James Cameron, whose new IMAX film Aliens of the Deep opens January 28, talked to ComingSoon.net about his next project, the big screen adapation of Yukito Kishiro's anime comic Battle Angel Alita.
Can you describe the genesis of the project?
Cameron: A few years ago I started down this path of creating this 3D camera system and once I started working in that, I couldn't imagine myself going back and shooting with the camera that I used before. It just seemed like going back from a car to a bicycle, and I don't want to ride a bicycle again, so the question is, at what point can I use the kind of imaging that we're able to do now for a feature film? That's taken a few years to put together and the pacing item on that is digital cinema, the changeover to d-cinema, which is going to be happening throughout North America and eventually Europe and so-on, where they are literally going to replace every projector in North America in the next five or six years, however long it takes, because in order to display the stereo, the 3D, you need to have those digital projectors. I need those theaters, so I've sort of been waiting until the right moment to make a big movie and we believe that moment is now. So we're in pre-production now on a movie called Battle Angel, which is based on a Japanese Manga series of graphic novels by an artist named Yukito Kishiro. It's not in the sort of top ten of graphic novels in Japan; it's a lesser known one, and we're going to make Battle Angel over the next couple of years and release it in '07. By early summer of '07, we expect to have somewhere around a thousand digital 3D theaters that will be able to show an image that looks more or less like what you saw in the IMAX theater but the IMAX theater was film, and this is going to be digital projection.
This will be shown in multiplexes?:
Cameron: Multiplexes everywhere. All cities, all territories. And yeah, you'll wear glasses, obviously.
Which timeline do you intend to focus on?
Cameron: It's a bit of a mélange of the first three books, which means that it pulls forward the motorball story into the Ido, Alita, Hugo story, if you will.
Will it be live action?
Cameron: Live action and CG mixed, meaning we will build sets, we'll shoot with actors and we'll have CG characters. Alita will be CG; she'll be performed by an actress but what you see in the film will be CG.
Cameron: That's a very good example.
Do you have any casting choices?
Cameron: No. We have some stuff we're working on, but it's kind of premature to talk about it.
Marquee names or just unknowns?
Cameron: They won't be unknown. They'll be very recognizable names, but I don't see this as a star vehicle per se.
Is this the future of cinema?
Cameron: Uh, TBD
. I don't know yet. It's the future of cinema for me, if I can make this work with these digital theaters. The next time we shoot, we're going to use the new generation of the camera system, which is the new Sony SR compression, so it's inherently got a little more dynamic range and a little better resolution, and we'll do the Lowry processing, or Lowry-type processing on top of it, so we think we're getting to a level where we're basically the equivalent of capturing two side-by-side 4K images, and that's like so much more information than you need. It really allows us for a theatrical feature, I could blow the image up double and still have more resolution than a 35mm film.
With all of your opportunities is filmmaking for yourself more than an audience?
Cameron: If I'm making a feature film like when I'm doing Battle Angel or some of the other projects I have planned for after Battle Angel, I know I'm making a film for an audience. I can't just please myself.
What is the basic plot of Battle Angel?
Cameron: 26th century, the story takes place 300 years after a societal collapse caused by a major war, but in that society, it's a technological dark age following a pinnacle of achievement far, far beyond where we are right now. So in a sense it's post-apocalyptic, but it's post-apocalyptic from a very high level. So now, you've got cyborg technology as just a way of life. People are augmented a lot as workers and so on, so being a cyborg is not unusual. The main character is a cyborg. She has an organic human brain, and she looks like she's about fourteen years old. She has a completely artificial body and she's lost her memory- she's found in this wreckage and she's reconstituted by this guy who is a cyber-surgeon who becomes her kind of surrogate father. It's a father-daughter relationship story that just has the most insane action that you can imagine. It will be PG-13 -- lots of blood, but it's all blue."