Warner Bros. set to make Akira two-parter (updated)

Warner Brothers has (re-)purchased rights to Katsuhiro Otomo’s classic Akira comics and plans to turn it into two films, says Variety. They had previously held the rights a few years back but let them lapse.

Ruairi Robinson is attached to direct. Robinson previously helmed the Oscar-nominated animated short Fifty Percent Grey and the science fiction short The Silent City, both of which you can see at his personal website, along with his student film, The House of Dame Street. (Thanks to FirstShowing.net for the link-up.)

The trickiest part will be the scripts, which is to be (or has been?) written by Gary Whitta (of the upcoming Hughes Brothers sci-fi flick, The Book of Eli), particularly cutting down the utterly brilliant six-volume comics into a four- to six-hours of movie. While Otomo himself adapted the spectacular but somewhat incoherent animated film, it only covered about the first couple of books or so (it’s been a while since I’ve seen it or read the comics), so I think we can expect some serious omissions or changes from the comic.

The film will be produced by Andrew Lazar’s Mad Chance with Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson’s Appian Way (which doesn’t necessarily mean Leo will be in it, mind you). Most exciting of all, though, is that the film is being fast tracked for summer 2009 release.

UPDATED: The Hollywood Reporter‘s story has been updated with a little bit of info about the film and the caveat that the action of the film will be transported from Neo-Tokyo to "New Manhattan," a post-nuclear war New York rebuilt by Japanese money… hm. Meanwhile, AICN has it "on good authority" (take that for what it’s worth) that Leo is eyeing the role of Kaneda.

Posted on February 20, 2008 at 15:58 by Gordon@MovieMakeout · Permalink
In: News

28 Responses

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  1. Written by Caolan
    on 2008-02-20 at 16:55

    I don’t foresee this turning out well.

  2. Written by Gordon McAlpin
    on 2008-02-20 at 18:24

    I dunno. Did you watch Silent City? (Click the link.) It’s really good. The script is going to be the deciding factor, though. (It almost always is.)

  3. Written by Caolan
    on 2008-02-20 at 22:38

    Well, Silent City was good. In fact, I wouldn’t mind seeing it in a feature length format. But Akira… it’s sort of a different beast altogether. I mean, the original was complex enough. I just feel like, with many English adaptations, the original premise will be lost within explosions and awesome fight scenes. And lord knows they’re not going to call the movie Akira.

  4. Written by Gordon McAlpin
    on 2008-02-20 at 22:43

    Why wouldn’t they keep the title? It’s too big of a property to change the name. And it’s not like Akira was a major character; they don’t need to rewrite him as a white dude for American audiences.

    I can see Kaneda turning into “Ken” or some shit, but I don’t see why they would change the title. We’ll see, though…

  5. Written by Caolan
    on 2008-02-20 at 23:08

    Perhaps you’re right. I just feel like a lot is going to be lost in transfer, and it’ll get to a point where it only slightly resembles the original. And for some reason Leo as Kaneda (even if it’s only speculation) bothers me. I don’t mind him as an actor, I only worry that this is an odd role for him that may be better played by someone else. But I guess time will tell.

  6. Written by Chad
    on 2008-02-21 at 01:03

    Ugh.. there we go messing everything up. If the movie is in “New Manhattan” then i care not for the movie. I mean where is the “Kaneda” or, why does American Cinema do this? This makes me so upset.

  7. Written by Pablo Albornoz
    on 2008-02-21 at 02:10

    Caolan, I think Leonardo DiCaprio is a little “too old” for the Kaneda part. In the comicbook Kaneda is like.. dunno, 17? 18 year old? I hope the character don’t get lost in interpretation.

    Maaaan I was hoping someone experienced in comicbooks, like Guillermo Del Toro.

  8. Written by Cody Clark
    on 2008-02-21 at 02:13

    I don’t understand why. Its been so long and the anime was such a success that another movie does not really need to be made. I feel Akira has been pulled into the trend of making comics into movies. Is Warner Brothers looking for a big blockbuster? Is the American public ready for the Akira that Otomo gave us? Frank Miller’s 300 made a great movie because it was mostly about style. But Akira has some depth to it…

  9. Written by Pablo Albornoz
    on 2008-02-21 at 02:34

    I like to think in Akira Live Action movie as a way to explore the weakness in the audience about the things to come, The nuclear uprising, spy satellites falling to Earth, the goverment hiding obscure experiments on human beings. It’s nothing that we haven’t seen before but it makes a great cushion for an already great script and screenplay. Maybe it’s not the kind of thing WB will normally do and I was hoping that Dreamworks or Universal to take over the project, but after Batman Begins and Dark Knight I thing they are making his way to this kind of movies that are kind of “almost artistic” in terms of production.

  10. Written by John
    on 2008-02-21 at 04:41

    Cody, if you’re wondering why, the answer is almost certainly money.

    Dosen’t mean it’s a bad thing though, I’d quite happily go and see a live action version of Akira, no matter how it changes. Like the transfer from manga to anime it’s probably best to take it on it’s own merits and try not to compare to other versions too much.

  11. Written by Cody Clark
    on 2008-02-21 at 11:33

    Well WB may do it right. I find it a good sign that they are making it in two installments. I know that Warner Brothers will make it look cool.

  12. Written by Gordon McAlpin
    on 2008-02-21 at 11:35

    I’d rather it be a trilogy, simply because the books are SO freaking thick, but I do think Robinson is a good (if untested) choice. His short films show a good balance of character and visuals.

  13. Written by Niha
    on 2008-02-21 at 12:44

    If it is “New Manhattan” instead of Neo Tokyo, then that’s not Akira. And Leonardo DiCaprio can’t be Kaneda (no matter how good an actor is, they can’t play a teenager if they are 34)

  14. Written by Gordon McAlpin
    on 2008-02-21 at 13:20

    I would be surprised if Leo is Kaneda in this; like I said, take AICN’s “good authority” for what it’s worth: not much. I never trust anything from unnamed sources with not even one vague reference to who they are and what relation they have to the production. It’s just shit reporting.

    Oh, and the locale change is really not that big of a deal. Look at High Fidelity: London to Chicago, yet in almost every other respect, it’s a very faithful adaptation. That said, I doubt this will be a faithful adaptation in almost every other respect. I don’t really care, as long as it holds up on its own as a movie: if I wanted to get the exact same story all over again, I’d rewatch the movie or reread the comics. I have never understood why people complain that a movie is different from a book or comic, unless the changes are worse than the source material, not just different. If you don’t want it to be different, don’t see it.

  15. Written by ted, the koala-lover
    on 2008-02-21 at 13:38

    I am extremely grateful, in the very least, that Guillermo Del Toro is no where near this project. I loved the Orphanage and The Devil’s Backbone, but Hellboy was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. I was embarassed when I was done watching that movie. Nothing was near what it was in the comic books- he just took the character and used elements of the comics to make a cluster-fuck of a movie. And invented pointless character traits- kittens? FUCKING KITTENS? Shaving down his horns? Wasn’t he also addicted to donuts or pizza, too?

    Stick to horror/suspense, Del Toro. Keep your hands off my comic book adaptations.
    Ps: Pan’s Labyrinth sucked too.

  16. Written by Pete
    on 2008-02-21 at 13:51

    This is actually the first bit of movie news I’ve been excited about in a while. While I’m a fan of both the anime and the comics, and while I know things will be completely changed for the movie, I still think they have a big chance of making this into something good. If they stick to the spirit of the source material, the nitpicky details don’t matter to me.

    Maybe I’m just biased because I like post-apocalyptic/sci-fi films.

  17. Written by Gordon McAlpin
    on 2008-02-21 at 13:52

    Ted, the horn-shaving is from the comics, even if they never show him using a belt sander in them: http://www.arschkrebs.de/interviews/Mignola9704.shtml

  18. Written by Alan Augustson
    on 2008-02-21 at 20:14

    This feels to me like a symptom of a problem Hollywood’s had for a while — namely a long drought of original ideas. I mean, everything today seems like an adaptation of a thirty-year-old book, or a movie version of a horrific scrap of ’70s television, or a ripoff of a vastly-superior Japanese horror flick, or a remake of a film that sucked the *first* time.

    When I first heard that the writers were going on strike, you wanna know what I said? Honestly? Hm?

    “How will we know the difference?”

  19. Written by Gordon McAlpin
    on 2008-02-21 at 20:30

    Oh, I dunno. Hollywood was always adapting books, plays, what-have-you. And the bigger the budget, the smaller the chances they want to take, so they go for “proven” properties… Of course, this doesn’t adequately explain why they always want to dick up these proven properties once they get their grubby little fingers on them, but that’s sort of beside the point.

    I’m generally more inclined to point people towards foreign and indie films that DO have original ideas at play, rather than complain too much about Hollywood’s lack of balls — because I can totally understand the suits’ fears. I wouldn’t want to gamble $100 million on a movie that will make people scratch their heads, either! But then, if I had $100 million, I wouldn’t blow it all on one film, either; I’d make a handful of smaller, cheaper movies.

    Well, maybe one $60 million action movie in there. :)

    (And: hey, Alan!)

  20. Written by Kaije Armena
    on 2008-02-22 at 00:10

    Thank you very much, Japanese cartoons, and ‘ANIME’ and Mangaka! Thanks Gordon!

  21. Written by Pablo Albornoz
    on 2008-02-22 at 03:38

    Man, this discussion has gone waaay too far for me. My only question right now is, …”Great Tokyo Empire” for “Great Manhattan Empire”?? It doesn’t seems to fit in!!

  22. Written by InDavo
    on 2008-02-22 at 14:21

    say what you will, i just want to see how they try to mix live-action and CG when Tetsuo turns into giant Giger-esque baby and eats his girlfriend.

    that shit will be FUCKED up.

    And Leo as Kaneda might not be too bad. He still has the ability to look semi-young, and it’s not like he’s the same caliber as he was in way back when with The Beach. His story may end well, even if the movie flops.

  23. Written by Alan Augustson
    on 2008-02-24 at 11:43

    (Hey Gord! How ya been?)

    To me, the reason Hollywood’s been so bereft of original ideas, for so long, is that the film community has become kind of inbred.

    Actors started producing, directing and writing vanity projects — this has always occurred, mind you, but to nowhere near the present extent.

    Essentially, the “kid in the candy store” grew up, bought the candy store, and locked all the other kids out.


    I guess as long as Hollywood never tries to rip-off “Audition”, I’ll live with it.

  24. Written by flounder
    on 2008-02-25 at 00:18

    I just hope that when they write the movie, they have it all planned out before filming. I would rather it not start out awesome and proceed to fall flat on its face. (Matrix trilogy anyone?)

  25. Written by Alan Augustson
    on 2008-02-25 at 17:25

    Funny you should mention that — I *still* haven’t got around to seeing the last in the ‘Matrix’ trilogy and feel they shoulda stopped at one.

  26. Written by Gordon McAlpin
    on 2008-02-25 at 18:39

    Alan, you know how awful the second Matrix was? The third one makes the second one seem as good as the first one. That’s how bad it is.

  27. Written by Daniel
    on 2008-03-05 at 00:56

    I couldn’t understand some parts of this article , but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.

  28. Written by Gordon McAlpin
    on 2008-03-05 at 01:18

    Uh, yeah. There was some sloppy editing in there, sorry. I think I’ve fixed the really bad bits.

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