An ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ sequel is officially in development at Disney. The original 2019 film was directed by Robert Rodriguez and is based on a screenplay by James Cameron (who also served as a producer) and Laeta Kalogridis, who developed it from the ‘Gunnm’ (or ‘Battle Angel Alita,’ as it is known in English) Japanese cyberpunk manga series created by Yukito Kishiro. The story revolves around the eponymous protagonist, a female cyborg with amnesia. Cyber scientist Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) finds her disembodied form in the scrapyard of the dystopic Iron City. He gives her a new cyborg body and the name Alita. Teaming up with the local youth Hugo, she embarks on a perilous journey to discover who she truly is.
Like the first film, which was caught in development hell for about 15 years, the sequel experienced its share of hurdles before this official announcement. This is despite the fact that the original was a critical and commercial hit, earning an approval rating of 61% on Rotten Tomatoes and $405 million at the box office against a $150–200 million budget. Moreover, the ending of the first film teases a sequel, with the uncredited appearances of Edward Norton, Michelle Rodriguez, and Jai Courtney as Nova, Gelda, and Jashugan presumably setting up more prominent roles in the future project.
In 2019, The Walt Disney Studios acquired 20th Century Studios (previously known as 20th Century Fox), the production and distributing company of the original science fiction action film, and that led many to believe that the deal has complicated the development of a sequel. In a 2020 interview with Collider, Waltz stated he would love to return for a sequel but hinted that the project might not survive what he called “Disneyfication.” The actor said, “…it was Fox and Fox doesn’t exist anymore. Now it’s Disney. Maybe it doesn’t fit into the Disneyfication, but I have no clue. I have no clue. Maybe they’re working on something and I wouldn’t be the first person to hear, but meanwhile, I haven’t heard anything.”
However, the first film and the source material have a devoted fanbase that has been campaigning for a sequel for years. In January 2021, Rodriguez stated in an interview with Forbes that he would love to do another ‘Alita’ film. In 2022, he and Cameron reportedly performed a “blood oath” about making the sequel during a conversation for Variety’s ‘Directors on Directors’ Series.
While the returns of Rodriguez and the star, Salazar, haven’t been confirmed in the sequel, Jon Landau, the producer of the first film, indicated they were working on that in an April 2023 interview with Screen Rant. He also stated that what the producers learned from ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ would affect the development of the ‘Alita’ sequel. “I think what we’ve learned from ‘Avatar‘ is how much more facial nuance and subtlety that we can get into characters that we want to be emotional and emote that are humanoid,” he said. “‘Alita’ would not have been possible, but for what we did on ‘Avatar. Avatar: Way of Water’ would not be what it is but what we did for ‘Alita.’ And now let’s put that back and give it back to ‘Alita.’ We’re talking to Robert and talking to Rosa and all is good.”
In May 2023, Rodriguez told GamesRadar+ there had been discussions about the project but mentioned that Cameron and Landau had their hands full with the ‘Avatar’ films. With the official confirmation about the ‘Alita’ sequel, we can expect more news about casting and plot in the coming months.
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