A live-action American adaptation of the hugely influential anime Akira has proven to be a difficult project to get off the ground. Warner Bros. originally acquired the rights back in 2008 and were looking to produce the film quickly alongside Leonardo Dicaprio’s Appain Way, but less than a year later, it was shut down due to scheduling conflicts. Then, over the course of the next several years, directors like the Hughes Brothers, screenwriters like Gary Whitta, and actors like James Franco, Gary Oldman, Garrett Heldund, Helena Bonham-Carter, Zac Efron, and Keanu Reeves have been attached to the long-gestating project, but nothing has yet materialized. All the while, controversy raged about the film “westernizing the story” by setting it in a post-apocalyptic Manhattan and casting white American or British actors as Japanese characters like Tetsuo and Kaneda.
The latest setback to occur in the endless Akira adaptation saga occurred when Non-Stop and Orphan director Jaume Collet-Serra came aboard to helm the movie in early 2014, but once again things moved at a glacial pace as casting negotiations dragged and the director struggled to get the budget down to Warners’ requested $60-70 million. Unfortunately, these issues led to Warner Bros. pulling the plug on Collet-Sera and shutting down Akira‘s Vancouver production facilities yet again.
However, there is now renewed hope that Akira will actually get made, and Warners is looking to the highly successful Netflix series Daredevil for a creative force to take on the challenge.
According to THR, new Daredevil showrunner Marco J. Ramirez is set to write yet another draft of the Akira screenplay for Warner Brothers. Ramirez – who also worked on Sons of Anarchy and DaVinci’s Demons – is taking over showrunning duties on the Marvel Netflix series from previous head honcho Steven S. DeKnight, who is moving on to join the Transformers writing room.
In case you need a refresher, Akira is a classic 1988 Japanese animated film set in the post-apocalyptic city of Neo-Tokyo in the year 2019. The story focuses on two members of a futuristic motorcycle gang named Kaneda and Tetsuo, and their struggles in the streets with military factions and rival bike gangs known as “clowns.” Tetsuo is discovered to have latent psionic abilities and is manipulated, culminating in a sequence of massive telekinetic destruction as dark secrets of government experimentation on children are revealed. The film often holds the top spot on “best Anime films of all time” lists and explores post-WWII themes like the horrors of nuclear war, the nature of human evolution, adolescent rebellion against authority, and alienation.
It’s unknown at this time if Ramirez’s script will retain the American setting (where Japan owns New York) of previous versions, but if his hiring and experience on Daredevil is any indication, perhaps Warners is looking to go even darker with the source material and attempt to ground it by keeping the focus on dramatic interplay among characters like Kaneda, Tetsuo, and Colonel Sjikishima – removing some of the more fantastical elements of the original Anime as a cost-cutting measure.
Ramirez’s work on Daredevil demonstrates a knack for hard-hitting, gritty, and intense street-level action and powerful relationship dynamics, and as much as audiences might want to see a gigantic mass of mutated flesh, protoplasm, and cybernetics unleash a psionic, city-annihilating explosion, perhaps the studio is more interested in exploring the friendship between Kaneda and Tetsuo, and delving into the metaphors of the Akira project. Although, with the popularity of movies like Furious 7 and Mad Max: Fury Road, you can bet the thrilling motorcycle chases will remain intact.
Stay tuned to Screen Rant for more news on Akira as it becomes available.