WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Alita: Battle Angel.

James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez’s adaptation of the famed Japanese manga Alita: Battle Angel is now out in theaters and is packed with characters and story setup for future films. One of the biggest instances of this is the puppet-master role given to Alita’s classic villain Nova. However, what really comes as a surprise is the actor they were able to get for the role: Edward Norton.

Set in the year 2563, Alita: Battle Angel follows the story of a cyborg – played through motion-capture by Rosa Salazar – who is found in the junkyard of Iron City by Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz). Ido gives her a new body and names her Alita, and she quickly learns about the refuge state of Iron City. Her new home is directly below the floating city of Zalem – which is the last sky city to survive a night now known as The Fall. However, as Alita soon discovers, she is no ordinary cyborg and quickly becomes a target.


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Although the film’s main villains are Vector (Mahershala Ali), Grewishka (Jackie Earle Haley), and Zapan (Ed Skrein), the former two are pawns in the larger scheme that is taking place, while Zapan is more of a natural rival. However, Alita: Battle Angel doesn’t get to spend very much time with Nova and may leave audiences looking for more information. So, here’s a detailed explanation of the film’s secret villain.

  • This Page: Nova & Surprise Actor Explained
  • Page 2: Nova’s Original Manga Role & Movie Future

Nova Explained: What The Villain Of Alita Wants

Nova is one of the privileged individuals to still live in Zalem and he has become one of the city’s most powerful people. He is a scientist on the floating city and has control of who can and cannot make it up there. The only true way to make it to Zalem is by becoming the motorball champion in Iron City, but he has also passed on word through Vector that harvesting of body parts – whether they are human or cyborg – could also get the job done. This is a lie though, and “going to Zalem” is actually just Vector harvesting human body parts and organs for Nova’s experiments, as evident by the demise of Chiren (Jennifer Connelly).

Nova’s advancements in technology are not really explored in the film, but he does have the ability to take over the bodies of his pawns thanks to their brain bio-chips. It is through them that Nova’s main goal for Alita: Battle Angel becomes clear. Once he learns of an extremely powerful cyber-girl, he identifies her mastery of the lost martial arts Panzer Kunst and knows Alita is valuable. She has a very rare cyber core that is powered by an anti-matter micro reactor and Nova wants this for his own gain. Her eventual discovery of the Berserker armor from the United Republics of Mars makes her even more desired. Nova instructs Grewishka to kill Alita and bring her body to him on Zalem. Since she has proven to already be a handful in combat, Nova tricks Chiren to improve Grewishka’s body through harvested parts that Vector is able to retrieve.

Related: Does Alita: Battle Angel Have An After Credits Scene?

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Edward Norton Plays Nova In Alita

Alita: Battle Angel establishes fairly early on that Nova is somewhat involved in the movie. He is first introduced when he takes over Grewishka’s body following his first encounter with Alita, but it isn’t until later in the film that it is revealed that Edward Norton is playing the mastermind villain. The inclusion of the three-time Oscar-nominee in such a small role is surprising, as is his very James Cameron-like look. Rodriguez told Digital Spy that it was a difficult role to cast due to the nature of the role. There is limited screen time and no dialogue, making it simply set up for a future role. But, both he and Cameron greatly admired Norton and wanted to work with him in some capacity. After some conversations, Norton agreed to play the mastermind.

Norton is first shown as Nova during a memory that Alita has, where she is training with fellow members of the URM military. Her trainer Gelda (Michelle Rodriguez) stops the session to pull up a hologram of Nova’s face and show her the enemy they are facing and refers to him as a dragon that needs to be slain. It isn’t until the very end of the movie though that Norton is shown in his full form. We see him briefly as he pushes several buttons and sends a spiked, spinning ring down the tube that Hugo is trying to climb to get to Zalem and kills him in the process. He is later shown looking down on Iron City and watching Alita get ready for her first motorball game in the Champions League. As she raises the Damascus Blade to Zalem, he takes off his glasses and breaks out his villainous smirk – teasing their future encounter.

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Page 2: Nova’s Original Manga Role & Movie Future



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