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Alita: Battle Angel 2 movie sequel discussed by James Cameron, Robert Rodriguez: How the Gunnm manga sets up the live-action anime story

A still from Alita: Battle Angel
The ending of the first film is a direct connection to how Alita: Battle Angel 2 would begin. Pic credit: 20th Century Fox

An Alita: Battle Angel 2 movie sequel is already on the minds of co-writer/co-producer James Cameron and director Robert Rodriguez. In fact, they’re thinking so futuristic that they have ideas for Alita: Battle Angel 3 already.

The director says that as part of the process of creating the first film they already have a document laying out the plans for an Alita movie trilogy. They started with the premise of three movies and made certain the first story foreshadowed future events.

How far along is this document detailing Alita: Battle Angel 2? Rodriguez says Cameron promised he wouldn’t send “all the 1,000 pages of notes” and would only send 600 pages. Rodriguez assumed Cameron was joking until 600 pages of script notes really did arrive in the mail.

When the film first came out, Cameron admitted it was “cheeky” to set up the conditions for a sequel before the first film was proven because that decision could blow back in their faces.

“But I don’t worry about stuff like that,” Cameron said in February 2019. “If the film fails, it’s its own punishment, you know? It doesn’t matter if we get mocked on top of having failed.”

Like the ill-fated Mortal Engines of 2018, Alita may never be greenlit for a sequel due to moderate success and leave audiences hanging with an overly optimistic open ending.

Cameron compares the situation to the Warcraft movie, which was designed from the outset to have a sequel yet now it’s mocked because of the first film’s relative failure ($433 million worldwide on a $160 million budget).

In comparison, the Alita: Battle Angel box office only broke $350 million while the production cost was a slightly higher $170 million. Similarly, much of the box office revenue was from international theaters, not domestic in the United States.

That means the Alita movie is barely considered a success since when all movie production costs are accounted for including promotion and distribution a movie must make double its budget to break even.

There’s also the fact the Disney just bought up 20th Century Fox, which released the Alita movie. As this transition is completing it’s questionable whether Disney would want to green light production an Alita sequel when the first movie had relatively poor domestic performance.

Even assuming the financial difficulties are overcome and the studios start production on the Alita sequel, the real question is whether the Alita: Battle Angel 2 release date will come quickly or if the project will once again be stuck in development hell.

After all, the live-action adaptation of Yukito Kishiro’s Japanese Gunnm manga started way back in 2000.

Cameron has also promised multiple Avatar sequels yet 10 years later audiences are still waiting (the Avatar 2 release date is December 18, 2020). And this despite Avatar holding a worldwide box office record to this day of $2.8 billion.

Therefore, assuming the series manages to overcome all obstacles, the Alita: Battle Angel 2 release date probably won’t happen until 2022 at the earliest.

Alita Battle Angel Live Action Movie
The large-eyed depiction of Alita was considered controversial when the trailer first dropped but it works great at conveying the emotions of the character. Pic credit: 20th Century Fox

How Alita: Battle Angel 2 Is Set Up By The Ending And Character Cameos

From the outset, Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron both intended the first film to be a complete story that offers some form of resolution without necessarily requiring a sequel.

“She now knows who she is, and she’s got a target, and it’s still a complete story with a beginning, middle and end,” said Rodriguez.

At the same time, it’s blindingly obvious that the first film sets up the conditions for Alita: Battle Angel 2. From the beginning to the ending, it’s made clear that citizens of Iron City can only hope to reach the heights of the sky city Zalem by competing in the Motorball sport and continue winning.

By the ending, Alita is Motorball champion and she points her sword towards Zalem while the villain Desty Nova watches her from above.

The early inclusion of certain characters was a nod to plans for Alita 2. Edward Norton was cast as Nova for a non-speaking role because they wanted the role filled with a good actor in case the Alita sequel is produced. This inclusion is significant since Nova did not show up in the Alita manga until much later.

The character Jashugan (Jai Courtney) has a brief cameo as well but would also play a major role in Alita 2. Rodriguez also planned to include the Hunter-Warrior Clive Lee but he was cut from the original script since they figured they’d save the character for Alita: Battle Angel 2.

How The Battle Angel Anime And Alita Manga Compare To The Movie

The new movie is very similar to the main plot points of the 1993 Alita: Battle Angel anime, a two-part OVA (Original Video Animation) called Battle Angel: Rusty Angel and Battle Angel: Tears Sign. Considered as a whole, the Battle Angel anime adapted the first two volumes of the nine volumes for the Gunnm manga.

The new movie includes many iconic moments from both the manga and the OVA by rearranging many story elements but it stayed true to the spirit of the story.

Of course, there were certain cool scenes skipped, including the fact that Alita originally met Hugo while fighting a literal freaking werewolf. And certain details were changed including Alita’s name, which was Gally in the anime.

Cameron and Rodriguez went out of their way to be certain one of the biggest highlights made it into the Alita movie. As previously noted, the 2019 film went so far as to pull characters from beyond Volume 2, but Cameron went out of his way to make sure the bloodsport Motorball was included in the first film.

Professional Motorball didn’t show up until later in the manga and even the Battle Angel anime did not include the frenetic carnage. While this rewrite meant the story arc was rushed it also meant audiences were treated to an adrenaline rush of action.

However, when it came to one-on-one battles between Alita and characters like Zapan it’s almost like the anime’s fight scenes were translated shot-by-shot into the live-action movie. The biggest difference with the fights is that the PG-13 film is far less bloody and gory (and kinder to animals) in comparison to both the anime and manga.

When it comes to storytelling and character development, it could be argued that the Alita: Battle Angel movie does a better job than the anime. The father-daughter relationship between Dr. Ido and Alita and the romance between Alita and Hugo is much stronger in the live-action version of the story.

Rosa Salazar’s performance as live-action Alita is considerably better than Amanda Winn Lee’s rendition of the anime Alita in the Battle Angel English dub.

Alita Battle Angel Anime Art
The story of the Alita manga gets even more epic in comparison to the movie. Pic credit: Yukito Kishiro

Alita 2 Spoilers: The Villain Nova

Warning: The following contains a major spoiler for the first film and potential major spoilers for Alita 2.

All in all, both manga Volume 2 and the first film follow similar plot points and end with Hugo’s death. The story of Alita: Battle Angel 2 will pick up with Alita playing Motorball but she’s also working as a Hunter-Warrior.

The rocket-hammer wielding Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz) attends a Motorball match and tries to get her attention after she wins, but she ignores him. During one race, Dr. Ido ends up saving Jashugan and ends up joining his team as a result. He does only in hopes of forcing Alita to quit Motorball and come home.

Nova is a powerful Tipharean scientist from Zalem who’s been manipulating everything from the shadows. An expert in nanotechnology, Nova is capable of transferring his consciousness into other cybernetic bodies. He has backups of his mind and thus he’s very difficult to kill. In fact, Alita decapitates him at one point but he has a backup head contained in his stomach.

Nova is sometimes a direct evil threat to Alita by using other people’s bodies. But Nova is also sometimes a generous ally to Alita, who expresses a wide range of motivations and desires.

During Alita’s Motorball career she was transferred into a Motorball body and the Berserker Body was kept in storage. But at some point, Alita’s manager ended up selling the Berserker Body to Nova in order to keep Alita playing on the circuit.

Alita’s goal of reaching Zalem suffers a setback when she loses a Motorball championship match against Jashugan. Worse, Dr. Ido is taken prisoner when he suspects that Nova was the puppet master controlling certain events and decides to visit Nova in his manor.

Ido had discovered that Nova intended on transferring Zapan’s brain into the Berserker Body. Ido fails in his attempt to destroy the brain and the newly empowered Zapan destroys the lab and manor, killing Ido in the process. When Alita arrives at the manor, Nova promises Alita that he will resurrect Ido if she kills Zapan.

Capable of absorbing Hunter-Warriors with his new nanomachine-powered Berserker Body, Zapan unleashes widespread destruction on the Scrapyard. Alita accomplishes the deed but is sentenced to death for her efforts. Instead of dying, she is recruited as a Tuned agent by a Zalem special operations group that gives her a new body and sends her on a variety of missions (she even fights ninjas!).

As might be expected, it’s fated that Alita and Nova will face off. Nova converts the former Cheyenne Mountain nuclear bunker into a base called Granite Inn. Their fight takes place on both the physical plane and also inside cyberspace hell where Nova reigns as a god.

Let’s just hope this epic battle eventually makes its way to movie theaters as part of Alita: Battle Angel 2. Stay tuned!


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