In short: he still wants to do the movie.
There are many projects that have been associated with James Cameron, and until Avatar seriously went into production he had several films that seemed perpetually like they could actually move forward, or vanish altogether. They include The Dive, Project 880 / Avatar, and Battle Angel, the final one being based on the manga Battle Angel Alita. Obviously Avatar is the film that eventually got the go ahead.
With the director signed to make two sequels to Avatar, possibly shot back to back, he’s going to be busy for the next few years. But Battle Angel, which follows a cyborg who is found and repaired by a scientist, lingers. So would he give it up to another director, or is this a film that James Cameron wants to make himself, someday in the future? The answer seems to be that he’s holding on to it for now.
Collider talked to Mr. Cameron as he promoted Sanctum this past weekend, and got in a couple questions about the film, which were met with slightly more than brief answers. Asked about making Battle Angel, and then which parts of the manga he might adapt, the filmmaker said,
I’m obviously going to be pretty busy for the next five years [with Avatar 2 and 3]. And so I had to consider, do I hand this project off to another director? And then I thought, ‘No, I love it too much.’…It’s such a rich world. What I’m going to do is take the spine story and use elements from the first four books. So, the Motorball from books three and four, and parts of the story of one and two will all be in the movie.
We’d heard in the past that the film might adapt the first three volumes, but it has also seemed like a project that was difficult to script. In late 2009 James Cameron said of the project,
We’re not that far down the line. We have a very good script and we’ve done a lot of production design. We’ve done about a year of production design and we’ve put together an art reel that shows the arc of the film.
And then in April of 2010 he said,
Battle Angel, I think, is a science fiction movie that begs the question ‘What does it mean to be human?’ It takes place in a future world, a world that has cyborgs, but are you human if you have a mind, if you have a heart, if you have a soul? It’s a journey of a young girl who tries to discover herself and what she learns upon that journey… I just love the character. Maybe it’s from having daughters. I have three daughters, and thinking about what it’s like, the main character is this little girl that everybody kind of ignores. She’s got such a heroic heart on the inside, I’ve always loved that character.
And that, with today’s info, brings us more or less up to date. Given that work is still being done in some measure there are still reasonable odds that we’ll see the film eventually. But when is something I wouldn’t even want to speculate on.