Warning: spoilers ahead for Alita: Battle Angel. If you’re looking for a romantic movie with a happy ending, then Alita: Battle Angel is definitely not for you. James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez’s gritty sci-fi epic didn’t just kill an innocent puppy (I'm still not OK), it also turned the titular 300-year-old cyborg (Rosa Salazar) from a teenage girl in love into a hardened, revenge-obsessed warrior when her love (Keean Johnson) dies. But is Alita's boyfriend Hugo really dead?
Well, while the love story between Alita and Hugo broke audiences' hearts, the source material doesn't offer much comfort. Hugo's story is actually way more heartbreaking in Yukito Kishiro’s 1990 manga series Gunnm upon which the movie is based. So count your blessings that the movie didn’t explore Hugo’s backstory from the comics even further onscreen.
Hugo Was Kind Of An Awful Dude
While a lot of Alita: Battle Angel’s love story between Alita and Hugo was lifted right from the comics, Hugo’s death was definitely even more tragic in the manga series. Hugo (or Yugo in Japanese) is an orphan who was raised by his unnamed older brother and his brother’s wife Nana (she actually betrayed her husband’s illegal activities, which resulted in his death). Hugo then ran away from Nana and was forever determined to make it to a sky city himself, which is how he became involved in stealing cyborg parts for Vector (Mahershala Ali). He actually first caught Vector’s eye by selflessly trading his own hand for his brother’s which he recognized being sold by one of Vector’s dealers.
He Let Alita Pine Over Him, Which Is Also Awful
Vector’s scam in the movie (promising Hugo a ticket to the sky city of Zalem for a million credits) was also how he got Hugo to commit crimes against cyborgs in the manga series. But the lie went even further in the books, as Vector made Hugo promise to pull in 10 times that amount to achieve his dream. Hugo and his friends would paralyze cyborgs, stealing their spinal columns to sell on the black market, in hopes of earning enough to get to a sky city. When Hugo met Alita, she instantly became interested in him romantically. But he was so obsessed with getting to a sky city that he was oblivious to her interest. The romance was extremely unrequited for Alita, and she even went on a bounty-hunting spree to try to help Hugo earn his 10 million chips. But it was all for nothing.
Everything Else In The Movie Pretty Much Matches Up
From that point forward, Alita: Battle Angel and Hugo’s story in Gunnm is pretty much the same. Zapan (Ed Skrein) set up Hugo to become a marked bounty himself, Alita learned the truth about Hugo’s illegal activities and still tried to help him make it to a sky city. After an attack by a hunter-warrior, Alita kept him alive by hooking up his brain to her cyborg body, and Ido (Christoph Waltz) transformed Hugo into a cyborg himself. When Hugo learned the truth about how Vector’s promise was always a scam, he tried to climb up to the sky city with his newly upgraded cyborg body, but security measures on the tube severely injured him and he fell to his death despite Alita’s best efforts to save him. His death then inspired Alita to become a Motorball champion, earn her ascension to the sky city and avenge his death.
So Yeah, He's Probably Dead
Hugo’s fate in the movie seems to be the same as in the manga series, but at least in the movie his love for Alita was real, rather than something he manipulated for his own gain. As for whether or not that makes his tragic death at the end of the movie more heartbreaking, that’s up to you. But since his body was never recovered and he wasn't technically shown dying, the next film (if Alita: Battle Angel gets a sequel) could rewrite comics history and Hugo could return for a big romantic reunion with Alita. And hopefully we won’t have to wait another 20 years to find out what happens.