I’m still unconvinced about “Akira” as a live-action property.
I’m convinced that hiring Steve Kloves to come in as a screenwriter on pretty much anything is a good idea, so the news that the studio is moving forward with casting how that he’s done with his rewrite of the script suggests that he managed to crack what has been a difficult task for everyone assigned to it so far.
I’ve read Gary Whitta’s first couple of passes at the project, and I’ve heard about the plans Albert Hughes has for the film, and it sounds to me like a really strange and risky project. Little surprise. The Katsuhiro Otomo manga and the 1988 film based on it are both surreal, dense, and even as a fan, I’d hardly call them ironclad examples of how to write a compelling narrative. They are dreamy, filled with big memorable images that frequently seem to work more as experience than story. I love the movie, but I am also weirded out by it each time I revisit it. Like “Godzilla,” the prior incarnations of “Akira” have been built out of the mythology and psychology of a country that actually knows what it’s like to have nuclear bombs dropped on it, and the scar that leaves on a national psyche comes out in these films in fascinating and organic ways. Moving the setting to “New Manhattan” does the same thing that happened when they remade the Argentinian film “Nine Queens” as “Criminal” in the US: they can tell the same surface story, but the subtext vanishes because of geography, robbing the original of much of its meaning.
That doesn’t mean I think “Akira” will be bad. I’m just curious to see what they’e done with it, and why they’re looking at guys like Robert Pattinson, Andrew Garfield, and James McAvoy for a character named “Tetsuo” and Garrett Hedlund, Michael Fassbender, Chris Pine, Justin Timberlake, and Joaquin Phoenix to play “Kaneda.” These aren’t really Anglo names. According to Deadline, whoever plays the parts will come from those two shortlists, and it brings up a few interesting possibilities.
Would Warner really want to pair Fassbender and McAvoy again on a movie about people who have psychic powers that could destroy the world? Seems unlikely. If they were to cast, say, Pattinson and Pine, that’s an interesting combination of charisma, and my money would be on Pine in the battle of the Blue Steels. Could we end up with Tron Jr. versus the new Spider-man? And if they cast Joaquin Phoenix, will they need any special effects?
This has been an important film for Warner, development-wise, for a while now, and it looks like they’re getting closer and closer to actually pulling the trigger on it. If they’re serious about an August start date, we’ll start hearing more and more details in the months ahead, and I will be very interested to see what they end up doing. I don’t think these are sacred text, and I think there’s room to certainly improve on the actual storytelling of the original, but there’s also just as much room to make a big embarrassing heap of fanboy-pandering crap, too.
Here’s hoping Kloves has broken this thing, and that the right cast falls together. It’s in Akira’s hands now.