The protagonist of the film, Alita, looks doll-like, with manga eyes and animated expressions. In order to achieve this without making it look too unrealistic, a mix of live-action and computer-generated imagery was used. Although the fate of the film hinged on how the audience would respond to its titular character, Rodriguez focused on ironing out the kinks in a way that made sense to him and Cameron. Rodriguez explained the process in an interview with The Irish Times:
“We did worry about how it would all fit together. We kept the line in there that she wasn’t completely human. Because even a few years ago, we couldn’t have made her look like she does… I wasn’t making a movie for Fox. I was making it for Jim. And Jim and I are buddies. So if we liked it, that’s what we did. I felt like I had my own Terminator with me to protect me. It was pretty much like working on an independent film.”
Apart from having access to the right kind of technology that made Alita’s semi-CGI appearance possible, actress Rosa Salazar (who plays Alita) was instrumental in bringing the character to life on the big screen. Salazar was able to portray Alita’s complex emotions in a way that viewers could identify with, despite the fact that she wasn’t entirely human.
“Alita: Battle Angel” features futuristic cyborg suits, cool weapons like the Damascus blade, and extreme sports like Motorball. However, Alita is the beating heart of the film, and it is her bond with the other characters that provides the cyberpunk narrative with an emotional edge. Rodriguez channeled what Cameron did best: using technology to create fantastical worlds that would seem rather empty without characters worth rooting for.