It’s time to celebrate Otakus! The seemingly ill-advised venture to create a live-action version of Akira featuring a mostly non-Asian cast has been shelved.
Although an Akira live-action remake could have the potential to be great, fans were most outraged with the revisions to the original story that the new live-action version was rumored to feature.
Issues with the remake
As you can read for yourself in the timeline of events below, all of the rumored cast members, with the exception of Morgan Freeman, were caucasian. For a film as unambiguously Japanese as Akira, this was quite a surprise. Out of all the amazing Asian actors we have on the scene, the old white guys were best suited to play Japanese boys? This was almost a slap in the face of the Asian community.
To be honest, they might have been better off making this a completely different movie and simply admitting that the movie had a similar plot to Akira!
So how do we explain all these white guys in Neo Japan? We don’t. The setting was moved to modern-day New York City.
Umm…. ok then… so … doesn’t this completely change the plot? This anime dealt with the feelings of isolation, confusion and anger that Japanese teenagers experienced at that time. How is this even remotely the same movie if it doesn’t take place in Japan? Why would the characters be named Tetsuo, Kaneda and Akira?!
They should have changed the movie name to “Alex” and moved along.
Mr. Sulu saves the day
Perhaps the most amazing part of this story is that the film appears to have been shelved due to the fan outcry. Often Hollywood is perceived as ignoring the purists and aiming at new fans when they make a cartoon or book into a live-action movie (this happens less in cartoon adaptions I’ve noticed).
Instead, it appears that the voice of the fans had an effect on the decision to abandon the movie. George Takei, known for his role as Mr. Sulu in the first Star Trek series, created a petition in outcry of the lack of Asian cast members and the removal of the setting from Neo Japan in the proposed remake. Bravo Mr. Takei!
If you’ve read my previous post about Akira, you will know that I am a huge fan of the movie.I understand that some changes need to be made when going from manga or anime to live-action, but changing the setting and race of the characters in this classic, milestone of a movie is obscene.
I can’t even imagine the flavor, edge of desperation, context or culture of the original making its way into this remake in any form, shape or fashion. The fact that the director would even consider it is a wake up call to the fact that although Hollywood has come a long way (they no longer cast white men as Native Americans for example) they still struggle with their inherent racism that probably stems from the fear of alienating the main, white audience.
This is a foolish fear, as we all know, but it seems to persist nevertheless!
What do you think?
You’ve heard my opinion: now I want to hear yours! Are you relieved or disappointed by this news? What do you think will happen from here? Do you think the movie will really never see the light of day?
Timeline of events
Here is a summary of the events leading up to the cancelation.
- In 1988, Akira, the anime version of the manga by Katsuhiro Otomo was released.
- Around the early 2000s, talk surfaced of Warner Brothers acquiring the rights to a live-action remake of the film.
- Stephen Norrington and Jon Peters were linked to the film.
- In 2008, Anime News Network reported that Ruairi Robinson would direct, Gary Whitta would write and Andrew Lazat, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson would produce the film.
- In 2009, Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon Levitt were rumored to be stars in the film
- Late 2009, Gary Whitta said he was no longer attached to the film and Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby were rumored to be taking over script writing.
- In February 2010, Deadline reported that Warner Brothers was in talks with Allen and Albert Hughes to direct the film.
- In November 2010, it was reported that Zac Effron was in talks for the leading role and that Morgan Freeman would be Colonel Shikishima.
- On June 17, 2010, Lazar said a new writer had been hired, the movie would be fast-tracked, Albert Hughes would be the only director and that the first movie would be based on volumes 1-3 and the second on 4-6.
- In February 2011, it was reported that James Franco was in talks for the role of Kaneda. That same month, Vulture reported that Mila Kunis was offered the role of Kei, but turned it down.
- In March 2011, Deadline reported that Garrett Hedlund, Michael Fassbender, Justin Timberlake, Joaquin Phoeniz and Chris Pine were in the running to play Kaneda, while Andrew Garfield and James McAvoy were rumored to be in talks to play Tetsuo.
- In April 2011, a petition against casting a live-action Akira film with non-Asian actors was set up on Facebook and George Takei spoke with The Advocate about the rumors.
- On May 6, 2011, Keanu Reeves was offered the role of Kaneda, but 11 days later he was reported to have turned it down.
- On May 26, 2011, it was reported that Albert Hughes had left the project due to creative differences.
After much going back and forth with the project, the plug was finally pulled on AKIRA a few days ago. Many hardcore anime rejoiced at the fact their beloved anime epic would’nt be ruined by Caucasian castings or redesigns of the plot. However…..
It was recently reported by Variety Magazine that the AKIRA project recently found a new director for the film in the form of Jaume Collet-Serra. In the past, he directed such films as “House of Wax” and “Orphan”. The saga of this anime turning live action movie continue….
Check out the Variety post below.