As one of the most iconic animated films of the 20th Century, 1988’s Akira (based on a manga series of the same name) is the kind of IP that you need to tread carefully with. Yesterday on Habitual Films I listed the live action remake as my top development hell languishing IP that I wanted to see finally make it to the big screen. (I apologize if I sound a bit ranty in this post.)
Today I re-watched the film for the first time in years, having invited my middle brother over to watch it with me as he had never seen it before. And I’m now maybe more than a little worried at the prospect of another adaptation.
Fears that the Hollywood live action version being spearheaded by Warner Bros. will just turn into a huge action film-fest are well founded. After all, it’s already been well noted that the film is shifting continents, so rather than being in Neo-Tokyo it will be set in Neo-Manhattan. With such a geographic shift, the cultural changes – regardless of how much of a cultural melting pot that part of the world is – would cause the film to markedly stand out from the original may mean that it no longer has the charm that fans of the anime version find in it.
Though in all honesty, reports on places like Cracked.com are what have got me truly worried about where the script is going. I don’t think it’s the creative forces behind the re-adaptation that are to blame. Quite frankly, the Cracked.com article shows to me that the script (if the version they saw is anything close to what may be brought forward to production) is being heavily influenced by that one force that seems to always strive to stifle creativity in favour of sticking to what they think sells: marketing.
The problem with marketing departments at studios having a part in the final say over which media texts get produced is that there’s a bit of a chicken and egg issue with the whole thing – with marketing departments not thinking about why there’s public demand for something in the first place. Which came first – the genre breaking/defining film or the public’s desire to see it? Normally it’s the genre breaking/defining film that the public surprisingly loves – comes first.
The film coming first has been most noticeable (to me) with three films over the last twelve years or so – The Matrix (1999), Donnie Darko (2001) and The Dark Knight (2008). The first two took a while to become super popular, but with The Dark Knight Nolan was allowed to push boundaries with the genre creating something longer and more introspective than we had previously seen in a comic book movie – it broke the mould. The funny thing is that The Matrix and The Dark Knight were both produced by… Warner Bros. So, why don’t they want to take a risk with Akira and ignore their marketing department for once?
Of course I could be completely wrong, and it could just be the writers that are completely dull. But when you appear to be turning a bunch of teenage characters into thirty-somethings and changing their roles completely from the source text – smells like dull, unimaginative people in marketing whispering in the ears of studio bosses (to me). Writers rarely want to sanitize narratives, at least when working within genres such as SF.