People Tell Me I Look Like Han Solo.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
  Hughes Bros. to helm live-action Akira
I saw The Book of Eli a few weeks ago, and I liked it quite a bit. It doesn’t really reinvent the wheel when it comes to post-apocalyptic action films, but it’s a solid entry in the genre, buoyed by a great performance from the reliably excellent Denzel Washington. The style and craftsmanship on display, in particular, really clicked with me, and it reminded me how talented the Hughes Brothers are as filmmakers. Now it’s being reported that they’ve signed on to helm another post-apocalyptic story, this time adapting the legendary 1982 Japanese comic Akira, (which was in turn adapted into a legendary animated film in 1988 by writer/artist Katsuhiro Otomo) for Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way production company and Warner Bros.

As far as I can recall, Hollywood’s been threatening to remake Akira for more than a decade (at one point it was to star Ben Affleck!), and I don’t think it’s any better an idea now than it was before. The story, originally told in a mammoth 2,100-page graphic novel (divided into six huge tomes), follows youth biker gangs in futuristic Neo-Tokyo years after a mysterious explosion destroyed the city and triggered a world war. Tetsuo, the youngest member of one of the gangs has an encounter with a strange, blue-skinned child on the street who, we later learn, has been broken out of a secret government facility researching mind powers. Tetsuo ends up in the program himself after he’s found to have incredible potential, and soon Kaneda, one of his older friends in the gang, tries to break him out of the program, only to learn that Tetsuo has gone mad with power. Screaming, exploding heads and another apocalypse ensues.

The graphic novel is much deeper than the animated film, delving into the society that springs up after Tetsuo triggers another mysterious apocalyptic blast that levels Neo-Tokyo once again, while the film (written and directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, who wrote and illustrated the comic) has Tetsuo’s city-destroying meltdown as its climax. Word is this new version of Akira will actually follow the route of the comic, and in order to accommodate the much longer story, word is the movie will be released in two parts. Ambitious, to say the least.

I’ve read the Akira comic (it’s pretty incredible in its scope and ambition, and Otomo is an ridiulously talented cartoonist), and I really love the animated film (the opening sequence where the gang is racing through the streets of Neo-Tokyo while the taiko drums swell on the soundtrack is absolutely amazing, especially with a high-end DTS sound system), and as much as I pride myself as not being a guy who hates remakes just for the sake of hating remakes, I can’t envision a live-action adaptation of Akira with, presumably, an all-Western cast that isn’t terrible. That said, assuming this version of Akira moves forward – and that’s a very big “if” indeed – I can’t pretend I won’t be following this project closely going forward.

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