Alita Battle Angel Ending: What Happened, What Almost Happened And What Happens Next

Alita: Battle Angel sword raised in defiance

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Warning: spoilers for Alita: Battle Angel are in play. If you haven’t seen the film yet, and want to remain unspoiled, adjust your dial back to the 21st century and return to the present day.

It’s been over a year since Alita: Battle Angel’s ending enticed viewers with the first hints at where a potential sequel could go. While writer/director Robert Rodriguez’s fan favorite adaptation only scratches the surface of author Yukito Kishiro’s landmark manga Gunnm (also known as Battle Angel Alita), the ending could be seen as both a fitting finale to the journey of Alita (Rosa Salazar), as well as a launching pad to something greater.

That greater fate is what we’d like to discuss today, as the potential for what has been unofficially named Alita: Fallen Angel is something that could lead to a larger, more extensive franchise. Not to mention, the subject of a sequel has become the priority for fans far and wide that call themselves a part of the online movement known as the Alita Army.

You know of the fan campaign for a sequel, but why does it exist? Should there be a sequel to Alita: Battle Angel? Quite simply, yes there should be, and it’s because of the work already laid into the fabric of the franchise. Which starts with how this first film ended.

Alita: Battle Angel Hugo crying in his new robot body

What Happened At The End Of Alita: Battle Angel

We reach the end of Alita: Battle Angel and see two of the film’s greatest plot threads intertwining into a sorrowful, but energizing path forward. Those two events make up the third act of the film, which starts with a pretty big loss for Alita.

The Death of Hugo

After saving his life, via a cybernetic body for his organic head, Alita’s boyfriend Hugo (Keenan Jackson) tries to make a run up to the forbidden city of Zalem. Chasing him down to the cables that connect this floating fortress to the lower-class neighborhood of Iron City, Alita tries to talk Hugo down, in fear of losing him for good.

Her worries are realized as the shadowy nemesis known as Nova (Edward Norton) triggers a defense mechanism that Alita herself faced off against in her previous life: a ring of rotating spikes. Hugo is mostly broken by the spikes, but it’s Alita’s inability to hold onto his remains that ultimately kills him. A tearful goodbye sees Hugo plummet to the ground, and Alita: Battle Angel’s protagonist grieving.

Alita’s Quest For Vengeance

There’s only one way Alita is going to be able to go up to Zalem and exact her revenge. As Alita: Battle Angel explained, through its protagonist’s love of the future sport Motorball, once an athlete attains the rank of Final Champion, they get to go straight up to Zalem as a reward.

Raising her sword to the air, with Nova seeing this for himself, Alita is now ready to compete to become Final Champion. Though her true goal is clear to the audience: she’s ready to avenge Hugo’s death.

Alita: Battle Angel Hugo holds Alita's face in his hands

What Almost Happened At The End Of Alita: Battle Angel

The ending that we saw close out Alita: Battle Angel lines up with the eventual fate of Hugo in the pages of Battle Angel Alita’s manga counterpart. However, there’s a special feature on the home video release to Robert Rodriguez’s film that shows a very different fate for our star-crossed couple, and it’s implications were pretty major.

Hugo Was Supposed To Survive The Ending

In a reel of concept art put together in 2005, back when producer James Cameron was still developing what was originally called Battle Angel Alita, Hugo and Alita’s meeting on the cables to Zalem actually ended with our hero maintaining her grip on her boyfriend. Bound by love, and a common cause, they descend back to Earth, happily ever after.

Strangely enough, this ending saw Alita herself being the one pursued, as her memories of her mission to destroy Zalem inspire her to be the one that snaps. Hugo talks her down, almost gets destroyed in the process, and the two return home as we see in the rest of the reel.

Alita And Hugo Would Have Continued Their Journey Together

The end of Alita: Battle Angel’s older concept art reel sees Hugo narrating the days to come for the two revolutionaries. While we don’t have a lot of info to go by, we do hear him talk about “the girl who came down from the sky to destroy the world, but instead chose to save it”.

Iron City now knows the legend of the Battle Angel, and Hugo’s love for Alita is as strong as ever. How long that happily ever after would have been a good question to ask after that point, as again, Hugo does die in Battle Angel Alita. So it was probably only a matter of time before the proposed movies followed suit.

Alita: Battle Angel Nova smiles with evil intent

What Happens Next In Alita: Fallen Angel

Unfortunately, there’s no official word on a potential sequel to Alita: Battle Angel. While Robert Rodriguez and various cast members still want to make it happen, there’s still a bit of an air of uncertainty as to where the would-be franchise fits in Disney’s overall plans. Which is a big bummer, because the following notes seem to indicate where Alita: Fallen Angel was going to take things.

Alita’s Grudge Against Nova Continues

You don’t cast Edward Norton as your villain in Alita: Battle Angel for nothing. Rodriguez himself explained in an interview with that Norton’s role as Nova was one of three uncredited cameos that had the purpose of laying down future groundwork.

Top that with that last shot of Nova, in his full, unobstructed Nortonian glory, smiling in an evil manner, and it’s settled. Alita: Fallen Angel was clearly going to see Rosa Salazar’s cyborg warrior scrapping with this veritable figure of evil, and we might have even heard Edward Norton speaking through his own voice for a change.

Motorball Would Presumably Be A Focus For Alita: Fallen Angel

Motorball is also an important piece of the puzzle for Alita: Fallen Angel’s potential story. Which leads to the second uncredited cameo in Alita: Battle Angel, courtesy of Jai Courtney's Motorball competitor Jashugan, who is seen during a quick moment between Motorball matches.

While Alita was learning the ropes of the sport from Hugo in Alita: Battle Angel, her career would be taking off in the beginning of Alita: Fallen Angel. That means Jashugan would either be a valuable mentor, or a powerful enemy, to our hero’s continuing journey.

We'll Probably Learn More About Alita's Past

Our final future proofing cameo comes from mutual collaborator of Robert Rodriguez and James Cameron, Michelle Rodriguez. As her character of Gelda features prominently in the flashbacks to the events preceding Alita: Battle Angel, a lot of Alita’s past life as a United Republic of Mars (URM) soldier is fleshed out through memories of their time as siblings in arms.

Alita: Fallen Angel would more than likely carry that torch, as the thrill of Motorball and the mounting fight against Nova would trigger more memories like those we’ve already seen. There’s tons of room for past exploration, as also seen in the special features for Alita: Battle Angel. All that has to happen is for the right set of circumstances to trigger those precious details.

The Destruction Of Zalem Is The Endgame

No matter how many sequels Alita: Battle Angel spawns, and there’s a lot of material to draw from if Robert Rodriguez paces himself, the endgame is all the same. Zalem must fall, just as Gelda had told Alita before they were separated in combat. As Nova rules over Zalem, and in turn Iron City, this reign of terror has to stop somehow.

And there’s plenty of more surprises, twists, and turns down the road for Alita: Fallen Angel and future films to take on. Even Nova himself has some sneaky ways of continuing the fight, as an adversary of his cunning isn’t easily bested. So taking down the city in the sky is probably the best bet for a potential franchise showstopper.

Even without a sequel, writer/director Robert Rodriguez loves the ending Alita: Battle Angel. On its own, Alita proves she’s a warrior worth championing, and she’s going to have her revenge one way or another.

Should we get to see another adventure in the world of the famed battle angel, then there’s a path that’s already laid out for Alita: Fallen Angel to follow. All that has to happen is for those in control of the series to answer the call of its fandom; and it’s a call that won’t be going away any time soon.

Should you want to revisit Alita: Battle Angel, or if you haven’t seen it for yourself, you can always take advantage of HBO Max’s 7-day free trial offer (opens in new tab), and stream the film through their digital library. Also, if you’re looking to read the entire original run of Battle Angel Alita’s manga, you can go to Comixology and purchase those books digitally, in the name of further research.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.