Details pertaining to the new live action Akira have been circulating for a while now. Everyone and their dog has probably heard the news at some point. Here are my thoughts on the entire thing.
Apparently, Leonardo Dicaprio’s production company will be producing the “high budget” remake to be released under Warner Brothers. Steve Kloves, who also worked on Harry Potter, will act as the movie’s script writer. There has been wide speculation pertaining to the cast. As far as I know, the only confirmed cast member is James Franco as Kaneda.
All this may be good news for some, but let me tell you why I remain weary of live action Akira prospects. First of all Akira is widely considered to be a Japanese classic. It was because of Akira that the struggling Japanese movie industry was able to bounce back during the 80’s. It is not only classic anime, but classic cinema as well. The setting takes place in a futuristic Japan akin to post second impact Evangelion. It is post-apocalyptic, but not in the traditional western-literary sense where anarchy reigns supreme and society is fractured beyond control. Instead, much like Evangelion, the citizens of Neo-Tokyo have rebuilt the city and are now living in yet another materialistic and political society.
Now for the live action adaptation, they plan to move the setting to none other than New York. Why? Why would they do this? Is it because they think American movie watchers are incapable of understanding or comprehending a culture or setting other than their own? This is why American adaptations of other forms of media tend to fail. Look at some examples:
|Asimov 1950||Hollywood 2004||
What’s occurring here is the “westernization” of Akira. Something which, at its core, is a self-introspective commentary of 80s Japanese society. Yes, the result may appeal to the American audience and sell more tickets, but the loss of substance is substantial. This opens up the door to another debate, why even adapt things to live action in the first place? If you want to watch the movie, go buy the glorious Blu Ray release of it. Contrary to what many people think, Akira in 1988 is perfectly fine the way it is. There is no need to “update” it with new animation, setting, or other aspects thereof. Why fix it if it isn’t broken? Better yet, why try to tweak something that’s already perfect?
The whole “bring anime to a wider audience by making it live action” argument is reasonable, but flawed. You want to bring animation itself to a wider audience? Show the audience anime, don’t show them an imitation. Anime is no different than books, movies, TV shows, etc, in that its not simply a medium for entertainment, but also a medium for artistic expression. Theres a reason people draw these cartoons on paper, its to convey the writer/director’s feelings in a way that is impossible to do in any other medium, live action movies or otherwise. Everytime hollywood gets their hands on the movie rights to a certain anime, suddenly, its a different director, different medium, different audience, and most importantly, different mindset. Hollywood has no intention of creating art that remains faithful to its source, they’re a business, and as such has their eyes only on the profits. One must simply look no further than the abomination known as Dragon Ball live action to realize that I’m correct. What’s our target audience and which demographic can we secure the most money from? Teenagers. Thus they put Goku in a high school.
Now, I may have come off as condescending due to excessive ranting. So I’d like to clarify that there have been some live action adaptations of anime and manga that I have enjoyed. Good adaptations are rare, but they do exist. The presentation and execution must be flawless. I’m speaking from heavy personal bias, but so far, the only live action adapations where I would call “better than the original” would definitely have to be the Korean film Old Boy.
As far as Akira is concerned, I am looking forward to it, albeit wearily. I have no idea what’s going to happen. I just know that it will be a challenge to adapt it in a way that is appeasing to both sides of the debate. Yes, my arguments are mostly opinion based and less factual, but I just don’t want this to turn into another Dragon Ball. Please do not turn into Dragon Ball.