Did anyone ever, ever, ever think that shooting Akira as a Hollywood live-action film would be a good idea? Surely Im not the only person who thinks this is as ghastly as Spike Lee reworking Oldboy, except at least that was already with real people. Well, huzzah! Raise your hands in joy because the project has been put back yet again.
I think it is wonderful that the reason for this suspension, though not yet fully confirmed, is rumoured to be the script, which has plagued Warner Bros. for a long time now. I’m personally glad that this somewhat ironic twist came about: the original Akira was attacked by fans of the manga series for rushing the saga – the manga had not yet finished its run before it was animated, and the character building and plot development that can happen through a manga saga was somewhat lost in space in the animation. In the film, all the themes under the sun surface: corruption, bad capitalism, disenchanted youth, awful education, repression, love, superpowers, good vs. evil struggles, military oppression… it goes on. But it somehow works in the 1988 cult classic. It takes a few viewings admittedly, but its a grower and says more about Japanese society than you might first believe.
But it is not a happy story. Everyone is doomed to a greater or lesser extent and its never entirely clear who are the bad guys are who are the good guys. Steve McQueen (of Hunger and Shame fame) recently said that hed never direct an American movie because they require happy endings. But most good movies have a sad or ambiguous ending at best (well, in my opinion, although there are many exceptions!)
This isn’t exactly fodder for Hollywood types elsewhere either: Akira makes you think outside of its action-packed, fast-paced surface. Blink and youll miss a key plot point or twist in the tale. Maybe youll miss out on the relationships (often crooked) between people. I know I did. So is this really blockbuster fare? People complained that emInception/em was far too complicated, but in comparison to Akira, thats a doddle to understand. At least Inception didn’t have a meandering, almost non-linear storyline and characters so minor yet so vital to actually knowing what the heck is going on.
But aside from the complexity factor, do we really want Hollywood messing up another foreign film? The remakes of all the J-Horrors (The Ring and The Grudge in particular) werent great after all. And do we really want Kristen Stewart playing Kei? Do we really want our mysterious terrorist-come-heroine-come-telekenetic wonder Kei played by someone whose charisma amounts to that of 3 planks of wood tied together with ropey string? And I’ve actually seen her in more than the Twilight movies. I think I’m being kind: slacker can’t be bothered attitude wont cut it when playing Kei.
I’m not trying to be snobby here and say that America ruins foreign films or that people cant be bothered to watch something with subtitles – Akira was dubbed, after all (although the subtitles are better and a bit less random!). I just dont want an amazing film to be tarnished by the fact that everyone will love a Hollywood version. Is that so much to ask?