The following contains spoilers for the end of Robert Rodriguez’s Alita: Battle Angel. Stop reading now if you do not want to know more about the movie’s ending.
By the time you reach the conclusion of Alita: Battle Angel, you realize that it’s really just the first chapter in what could be a much larger saga. Fans of the Manga comic on which this new movie is based understand that. There are volumes of stories that can be told about Alita (Rosa Salazar), and Rodriguez and his producer James Cameron – who once developed Alita as a project for himself – had to figure out how much they wanted to include.
As such, when you get to the end of Alita: Battle Angel, it actually feels like a beginning. The girl has risen to the status of warrior, and she identifies her greatest threat in Nova (Edward Norton). Speaking on the ReelBlend podcast this week, Rodriguez spoke about his decision to end there, explaining:
Now, [Alita] has a very cool ending that makes you think, ‘Oh, that’s going to definitely be more.’ But I like ending movies like that, even if you don’t do a sequel. It’s what I call story value. El Mariachi ended very similar. He didn’t get the guitar case with weapons until the last scene in the movie. In Spy Kids, they didn’t actually become spies until the last scene in the movie. They’re actually spies in the very last scene. So even if you didn’t do a sequel, you could imagine more in your head. Because you go, ‘Oh, now this character is so set up. I can imagine them now going on all of these adventures.’ This is very similar. You go, ‘OK, she’s definitely going to go up there. She’s going to go kick this guy’s ass.’ You almost don’t even need to see it, you know? But you know, if there’s another one, it’ll have tons of surprise, of course, because now you have to counter what people are probably thinking is the logical choice, and really pull the rug out from under them.
Alita: Battle Angel is built for sequels. Based on the cyberpunk comic series by Yukito Kishiro, the story started back in 1990 and lived on, in assorted mediums, for years. James Cameron, in fact, first started developing his take on Alita more than a decade ago, and was deep into development before he got sidetracked by another little project called Avatar.
With Cameron over in Pandora, Robert Rodriguez shifted from Sin City and Spy Kids movies to take a crack at the Battle Angel of Iron City. And it turns out that he inherited a wealth of prep material from Cameron with which to start. Rodriguez spoke at length about this outline when interviewed on the ReelBlend podcast, telling us:
Even when [Cameron] puts his stories together for a one-off movie, he’ll build the idea of sequels. So, in his notes – 600 pages of notes – he had a whole section about a trilogy. Where the trilogy would be. The first world, Iron City would be story one. You would never go up to the second level, there’s more than one level, until a second film. So he kind of outlined where that would go. Even if we don’t make sequels, it helps you to know what to put in the first story, what isn’t important, so that if you do go and do another movie, you’re not like, ‘Oh, we kind of didn’t set it up right.’ But also, [Cameron’s] not really thinking about setting up another story so much as he is about making this first one a complete story. It needs to be a complete story, in case you don’t make another one.
Will Robert Rodriguez be able to make another one? Right now, that’s in the hands of theatergoers, and they can vote with their ticket sales if they’d like to see Alita: Battle Angel turn into a viable franchise. It’s not even a guarantee that Rodriguez would be back for the next one. Producers James Cameron and Jon Landau are the driving forces behind this, and if it does go forward, they’ll go with the right person for the job. (Though Rodriguez poured his heart and soul into the opening chapter.)
Listen to the full interview with Robert Rodriguez in the latest episode of our weekly podcast, ReelBlend: