'Alita and 'Avatar 2' Producer Jon Landau on Why Film Adaptations Fail

"They go off and they try and make it too Hollywood"

Jon Landau is one of the biggest producers in Hollywood, with blockbuster hits like Titanic and Avatar among his credits (plus Avatar 2 through 5 in the works). His latest film, Alita: Battle Angle draws its inspiration from something new, a manga of the same name, but Landau is no stranger to big-budget adaptations.

When you think about it, Titanic is an adaptation too, taking the real-life disaster and turning it into one of the most successful movies of all time. Of course, not every adaptation is successful, and in an interview, Landau tells Inverse why some fail while others thrive.

'Alita: Battle Angel' (2018)

20th Century Fox

“I think in general, what happens sometimes when people do adaptations of novels and mangas, they forget what was at the core of the original work that they were so inspired by,” he says, “because they go off and they try and make it too Hollywood, too cinematic.”

Too Hollywood? That might sound funny coming from the producer of the two films sitting at the top of the list of worldwide box office grossing movies, but Landau’s message still has some truth to it.

So what’s the solution? Landau explains what he did to make sure Alita stays on track and stays true to Yukito Kushiro’s original manga throughout the production process.

“We try to hold true to the world that Kushiro created,” Landau says. “Always remember that this movie has to be that girl’s story that Kushiro created. A story that we feel is relatable not just for women, but for men as well. At some point in our lives, we’ve all felt a little insecure.”

It might be tempting to reshape Alita into a Marvel-style superhero story, but as Landau notes, that would be breaking his own rules. “She’s not a superhero,” he says. “Superheroes come to the world with powers. She doesn’t have that. We don’t have that but by seeing her rise up to that, maybe inside of each one of us is the ability to do the same thing.”