Warning: This story contains plot spoilers for Alita: Battle Angel. Proceed with caution.
Unlike the majority of comic book-inspired blockbusters, Alita: Battle Angel doesn’t have a post-credits scene teasing what’s coming next. But then, it doesn’t really need one. That’s because the last shot of the Robert Rodriguez-directed movie — adapted by co-writer and executive producer James Cameron from Yukito Kishiro popular manga series — provides a whopper of a set-up for a sequel. Don’t mention the “S-word” to Cameron, though. “We’re getting ahead of ourselves,” he tells Yahoo Entertainment, chuckling. “We’ve gotta make some money first before we can talk sequels!” (Watch our video interview above.)
With the movie hitting $130 million worldwide in its opening weekend, sequels are now fair game to talk about. And, if it happens, Alita 2 will feature a match-up for the (future) ages: Rosa Salazar versus Edward Norton. In the closing moments, The Incredible Hulk star is revealed to be the body-possessing scientist Nova, who has been monitoring Alita (Salazar) during her inaugural adventure in Iron City from his home in the cloud city of Zalem. We only catch brief glimpses of Nova during the course of the movie, and his identity is obscured by a pair of high-tech glasses. When he finally removes those spectacles at the end of the movie, Norton’s familiar face immediately snaps into focus — a revelation that caused an audible gasp of surprise at the screening Yahoo Entertainment attended.
According to Cameron, this climactic cameo grew out of his long friendship with the actor. “He and I had talked about doing stuff together, and I know him as a very good writer,” the filmmakers explains. “We were looking for somebody who had the right kind of intellectual gravitas. He can play a very positive smart character, and I thought, “Let’s make you a really, really negative smart character.” Because this guy is dark. I mean, you haven’t seen anything yet.”
Fans of the manga series are well-acquainted with Nova’s darkness. Kishiro’s version of the character went to extreme lengths to test his theories about the human mind and specifically their ability to overcome karma. Cameron used that as the building blocks for Norton’s Nova. “I wrote a 19-page character breakdown and sent it to him and said, ‘This is what this guy is.’ I think he liked where we could go with him, and I strongly suspect he’ll help shape that character as well because he’s a really, really good screenwriter.”
Norton isn’t the only actor who will have a more prominent role in a sequel. Alita also features cameos by Avatar co-star Michelle Rodriguez as Gelda — the warrior who trained Alita in her centuries-old life as a cyborg soldier — and Jai Courtney as a top competitor in Iron City’s number one sport, Motorball. “They all play big character in Alita’s emotional landscape in the future,” Cameron teases.
That said, any future films will, by necessity, deviate from the future outlined for Alita in the comics. “The books are this vast wonderland of ideas and images. I don’t think we’re going to track directly to the books because even Kishiro didn’t! His own universe doesn’t even line up internally when you get around to Book 8 or 9. So we’ll chart our own path through that, but there’s certainly a richness of images and ideas and themes there that could keep us going indefinitely really. Should we be so lucky.”
Alita: Battle Angel is playing in theaters now. Visit Fandango for showtimes and ticket information.
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment