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Nevermind, Live-Action ‘AKIRA’ Movie Still Happening with ‘Unknown’ Director

To quote Tetsuo: “Hrrngg… hrrngg…”

Just when it seemed that plans to produce a live-action American film based on AKIRA, the seminal and sacrosanct manga and anime created by Katsuhiro Otomo, had been scuttled in the name of good taste, it turns out the project is actually very much alive. Variety reports the film, produced by Warner Bros. and Leonardo DiCaprio, will be directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown, Orphan, House of Wax).It was just within the last several days that ComicsAlliance, io9 and other sites were reporting that the live-action American adaptation of AKIRA that pretty much everyone agreed was a bad idea had apparently been shelved. Director Albert Hughes walked away from the project in May, shortly after George Takei popularized bitter fan sentiment about controversial casting rumors, and concept designer and comic book artist Chris Weston, who was hired to redesign Kaneda’s iconic motorcycle for the film, characterized the project as having “floundered.” Obviously, that is not the case.

Created by Katsuhiro Otomo in the form of a manga serial and feature-length animated film, both of which are considered landmark works of art and superlative examples of their respective mediums, AKIRA is the story of super-science, politics and youth in revolt set against a post-apocalyptic version of Tokyo. Its main characters are Kaneda and Testuo, two motorcycle gang members and the best of friends — until the latter is cursed with uncontrollable powers. Otomo explores apocalyptic themes in the series a way that only a Japanese creator could, telling the tale of a conflicted, corrupt and desperate city borne out of a catastrophic event that recalls the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Everything about the story is informed by the Japanese people’s struggle to redefine their nation in the post-war era, including the shocking nihilism of its young protagonists.

Indeed, AKIRA is an enduring work that continues to spark thoughtful discussion, including some by our own David Brothers.

While a Hollywood production of AKIRA is not necessarily doomed, the chances of such an endeavor yielding anything that approximates the power and spectacle of the original works are infinitesimal. Variety indicates the story has been modified to take place in the United States, and numerous reports, including a shocking piece from Deadline, suggest the film will star non-Asian leads, something that has fueled much of the disdain for the developing film.

Galvanizing that scorn was George Takei, the Asian-American icon best known for his work in the Star Trek franchise. Speaking with The Advocate in April, Takei argued that fans of AKIRA identify with the work so strongly because it is so indelibly Japanese.

The manga and anime phenomenon is mostly white in this country. It originated in Japan, and, of course, it has a huge Asian fan following. But it’s the multi-ethnic Americans who are fans of Akira and manga. The idea of buying the rights to do that and in fact change it seems rather pointless. If they’re going to do that, why don’t they do something original, because what they do is offend Asians, number 1; number 2, they offend the fans.

More on this as it develops.

[Via Variety]

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