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The Alita: Battle Angel cameos that were meant to set up the sequel

To call helming a live-action adaptation of the '90s cyberpunk manga Battle Angel Alita "ambitious" would be a serious understatement. But that's exactly what director Robert Rodriguez and producer James Cameron did with 2019's Alita: Battle Angel. Fans of the comics may argue whether the Hollywood adaptation did the original justice, but even just getting the futuristic story onto the big screen was a feat in and of itself.

The original manga ran for nine installments and was followed by numerous sequels and spin-offs, which meant Rodriguez was always going to have some tough choices to make when adapting the project. In fact, he revealed in a February 2019 interview with ComingSoon.net the constraints he had to work under. Tthis thing couldn't be a two and a half, three hour movie, because it was a new franchise. [...] I had to deal with a studio to get it made. It had to be a two hour movie, so I had to get it down [...] You have to remove some pillars in order to make that work."

Rodriguez may have had to cut some major players out of Alita: Battle Angel to make the project work, but astute fans of the manga observed that some of those missing characters did, in fact, make small appearances in the movie. Not only that, but they were played by uncredited A-list actors. Typically, this would imply that a sequel is on the way, but what does Rodriguez himself have to say about that? Let's find out.

A super-famous face played the mostly-hidden antagonist of Alita: Battle Angel

One of the biggest surprises for fans of the original series was the subtle inclusion of the character of Nova, a mad scientist type who becomes a major antagonist for Alita (played on screen by Rosa Salazar) later in the story. In Rodriguez's film, Nova's presence is mostly as an unseen force spoken about by other characters. That is, until we get a few glimpses of him in the flesh and realize he's being played by none other than Academy Award-nominated actor Edward Norton.

Although the character has a larger influence on the film, in terms of screen time, he's barely there, so casting an actor like Norton seems like a big get. In his interview with ComingSoon.netRodriguez explained how Norton's casting came to be: "I had known Ed for a long time and [James Cameron] knew Ed and had some businesses with him. He's really smart like [Cameron], so we thought, that's who we need: a mastermind type of guy to play Nova.

The superstar cameos didn't stop at Norton. Two other prominent characters from the manga were slipped into Alita: Battle Angel, and both were played by actors that suggest it might not be the last time we see them.

Alita: Battle Angels' other celebrity cameos

Midway through the movie, Alita regains some memories of her past life as a warrior. In these scenes, she's being trained by a prominent character from the manga named Gelda, played on screen by Fast and the Furious actress Michelle Rodriguez. She's worked both with director Robert Rodriguez and producer James Cameron before in films like Machete and Avatar, so it's no wonder why they turned to Michelle Rodriguez for this small but important role.

Another character introduced briefly in the film is motorball champion Jashugin. We mostly see this fiercely competitive cyborg fully suited-up, but in one scene, we get a glimpse at his human face — only to discover that he's played by Australian actor Jai Courtney of Suicide Squad fame.

Of these two character's inclusions in the film, Robert Rodriguez said, "There was almost no way to tell this story without including those people. You had to get a sense if [Alita] had been trained before by scenes with [Gelda], you had to see Gelda at some point. They're talking about how the game is played, Jashugin is one of the major players. He has a much bigger role later in the books. We didn't want to just put somebody in."

It's not a leap to assume that in casting prominent actors in these cameo parts that all have larger roles in the larger story, Rodriguez was setting up the film's inevitable sequel. So, what are the plans for more Alita: Battle Angel films?

Will we get more Alita: Battle Angel films?

Rodriguez explained to ComingSoon.net that he made the cameo casting choices with the thought of a possible sequel in mind: "It's the promise of a part if there is a sequel." However, he also clarified that at the time of casting there was no script for a sequel written and that "there might not be [a sequel]." In discussing Edward Norton, Jai Courtney and Michelle Rodriguez's cameos, the director explained, "What if there was a sequel? We had to cast three people without really having a part for them to be basing it on to see if they wanted to do it. There was no script for a future one. So we went to people we knew."

This open-ended approach to the casting was confirmed by Courtney in an interview with Business Insider. Regarding the possibility of coming back for another film, the actor said: "I have no idea what the future holds with that. I just approached it totally with zero expectations. If I get the call again, then fantastic."

What exactly are the chances of an Alita: Battle Angel sequel? There is interest from Rodriguez, Cameron, and the cast to continue the story, but there may be a Mickey Mouse-sized hurdle in their way. The movie was distributed by 20th Century Fox, which has since been bought by Disney. Speaking with Collider, Dr. Dyson Ido actor Christoph Waltz expressed skepticism about the film becoming a franchise fitting in with the studio's vision, despite the fact that it was a decent financial success.

"I haven't heard anything and I'm a little disappointed and surprised that I haven't heard a thing so far, because I know that it has followers. I know that people liked it and aside from what others said, I loved it and I liked working on it and I liked the result," said Waltz. "You know, 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."

As of now, there are no concrete plans for a sequel and Alita: Battle Angel's celebrity cameos exist solely as fun Easter eggs for fans of the manga. But there's still reason to hope that one day they'll be the seeds for more movies in this promising sci-fi franchise.