‘Akira’ May Be Director Jaume Collet-Serra’s Next Film

Published 10 months ago by

Akira Kaneda Akira May Be Director Jaume Collet Serras Next Film

Keeping track of the trajectory on Warner Brothers’ announced live-action remake of Akira - Katsuhiro Otomo’s highly influential 1988 anime film (adapted from his 1980 manga of the same name) – has proven challenging at best. Since receiving a green-light several years ago, the production has been put on hold not once, but twice, and endlessly cycled through directors and cast members (from Kristen Stewart to Ken Watanabe); most recently, Jaume Collet-Serra, the man behind the Liam Neeson action vehicle Unknown, walked away from the film after failing to get WB’s blessing to move forward with a $90 million dollar budget.

But despite countless ups and downs, WB still really wants to get Akira made; the studio breathed new life into the project last summer, and today, it looks like Collet-Serra might be their helmsman of choice after all. Despite having jumped ship on Akira over monetary issues, the Spanish filmmaker is still fervently pursuing the director’s chair for the film, though at present there hasn’t been any official word from the studio as regards his present involvement on the new adaptation.

Collet-Serra’s latest comments on Akira cropped up during the press junket for his upcoming film, Non-Stop (also starring Neeson); speaking with the folks at Coming Soon and Collider, the topic of conversation inevitably wound around from his second collaboration with Neeson to Akira. Based on one specific statement he made to the latter outlet, though, that may make a degree of sense. It sounds like Collet-Serra has managed to impress WB with the endeavors he’s undertaken in the intervening stretch of time since first associating himself with the film.

Here’s Collet-Serra’s direct quote from the Collider interview:

“I’ve done two movies since I put this little pause on that project … but now powers that be are interested.”

There’s a question as to which two movies he’s referring to. While simple logic indicates that he’s talking about Unknown and Non-Stop, he also served as producer on Spanish-American thriller Mindscape, which has received positive response on the festival circuit and is currently in the process of being given a US release. It’s possible that the driving factor here is Unknown, which turned out to be an impressive box office performer and whose budget fell in-line with what WB wants to spend on Akira (between $60 and $70 million); maybe seeing the returns Collet-Serra could earn with limited resources has made them reconsider his participation here.

Akira Tetsuo Akira May Be Director Jaume Collet Serras Next Film

But two macho action movies and a mind-bending psychological detective picture don’t necessarily suggest that Collet-Serra has what it takes to do justice to Otomo’s narrative. It took Otomo’s own hand to siphon the vast complexity of his original comic into a two hour movie, after all, and there’s still a huge disparity in terms of what he chose to pull from the page to the screen. Fans, then, might have a question or two about whether Collet-Serra is the best choice to direct WB’s Akira, but while chatting with Coming Soon, he offered up the following quote about his approach of properly adapting Otomo’s landmark work:

It’s great that they’re waiting for me. It’s different, because you have to be respectful of the source material. Otomo adapted his own work from a manga into an anime and both things are completely different and genius. The only way to do a live version of “Akira” is to take the spirit and adapt it. It will be as different as the anime was from the manga.

That’s a fine sentiment, and one that could dissuade fears Akira‘s core audience might have over Collet-Serra’s involvement. He’s not wrong; it’s often best to honor the source material when handling adaptations, particularly one with such dedicated admirers as Akira. Figure out what makes the story tick and build off of that, keeping the essence intact. At the same time, though, Collet-Serra has a surprising perspective on Akira‘s characters (and on characters in Japanese narratives in general) that might spark some outrage among that same viewer base:

Nobody’s interesting. Tetsuo’s interesting because weird sh*t happens to him, and Kaneda is so two-dimensional. That’s part of the Japanese culture, they never have strong characters. They’re used as a way to move the other philosophy forward.

While a response to this remark could take up an entire article on its own, it’s sure to prove unpopular among Otomo fans; it might be a comfort, then, that Collet-Serra’s involvement here isn’t set in stone based on his interpretation of the film’s two primary protagonists. Is this the person who should be handling directorial duties for Akira? Or should someone more capable of speaking to fan interests be at the wheel here?
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We’ll keep you up to date on any new information about Akira as it becomes available.

Source: Coming Soon, Collider

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  1. i know a lot of people have the attitude that if its a classic dont touch it but i really wanna see this film make.
    if made properly it could be amazing
    im not really sure how well known akira is now but it has referenced in a lot of shows
    most notable was south park.
    and its definitely inspired a lot of movies in america.
    and was one of the first animes to break into america.

    i would love for this to happen
    and i have a feeling its in hell because the big guys are trying to put their stamp on it.
    they probably want a giant spider but the director doesnt want that

  2. WTF? I don’t think Akira is untouchable (hell, the anime is borderline unintelligible), but it doesn’t sound like Collet-Serra cares about this property at all and the studios must want to make a quick buck. Do we really need/want another ill-conceived whitewashed anime-remake? Has Hollywood learned nothing from the Oldboy remake?

    • The one thing I hate about live action movies based on anime or manga properties is the term “white-washed”. It’s so ugly and kinda shows the ignorance of the people saying it, especially when they say it about a property that have characters that look Caucasian anyway originally (like the Dragonball franchise).

      Anyway, what does Oldboy have to do with this? Those who saw Oldboy said that it felt as though the director didn’t have a clue what made the original so special (a criticism I’ve seen countless times over the weekend regarding the Robocop remake too actually) but there are exceptions.

      The Departed was a remake of an Asian movie and went down well with audiences and critics. No ludicrous and mildly offensive claims of “white-washing” went on with that movie.

      • Since Son Goku from “Dragonball” is based on Son Goku the monkey king from the famous chinese story “Journey to the west”, I’d say it’s safe to say he was drawn by Toriyama to be Asian, Alien or not. Why would he be more likely to be a Caucasian alien? Most Japanese manga characters that are Asian are drawn with large eyes and various hair colours that do not in reality fit, but that is just artistic freedom.

        The US “The Departed” was an adaptation of Asian film that had already been made, so your point doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t think it is vulgar to think some projects get whitewashed. I think it clearly happens. The Japanese elements from “Akira” are so strong and integral to the themes of the story, that moving it to the US would lose a lot. And if they do, why not still have a “little Tokyo” district in Neo New York and an American Asian Capsules Biker gang? I’ve no problem with corrupt politicians, scientists and Army officers being any ethnicity. I want the Capsules to have a cultural identity that bonds them and fits the tone of the manga or anime.

        I agree that the anime and manga are two very different beasts (The manga being far superior). The anime despite being a classic is clunky and vague.

      • I agree with you 100% Dazz. This is why there aren’t alot of films based on anime/manga material. I would love to see a Bleach or Naurto live action film or even an Death Note film that’s not only made up of Japanese actors, but because of casting issues it would rub a majority of religious fanboys the wrong way. For example: The Last Airbender, Dragon Ball Evolution.

        Btw, for whom it may concern: Oldboy isn’t a remake. It’s an Americanized adaption which is based on the original source material.

        • The funny thing about the Oldboy remake is that it really is a remake. It’s way closer to Park’s film than Garon Tsuchiya’s novel.

          And being concerned about white-washing doesn’t make someone ignorant. The reason nobody cared about The Departed being predominantly is because Scorsese smartly took the essence of the Infernal Affairs films and applied it to a world that he knew and that he understood. In other words, he told the story from his perspective. If WB’s Akira follows a similar tact, no harm, no foul; there’s no reason that such a film could use Otomo’s basic conceit to explore new, different ideas from a different cultural standpoint. In fact, I encourage that, because I think it makes for more honest, more diverse filmmaking.

          But if the Akira remake/adaptation/whatever winds up being set in Neo-Tokyo with a Western cast, tackling the same concepts as Otomo’s original work, I imagine that someone’s feathers will get ruffled, and I can’t say that I blame them. I know I might raise an eyebrow. Perhaps two.

          • Yeah, I think I used the wrong wording there. It seems silly though in most cases (the adaption of Avatar I could understand the anger though) because as we’re seeing with superhero movies recently, as long as the acting holds up and is close to the source, it shouldn’t really matter.

            I guess in a way, it is ignorant in that someone is ignoring the acting ability but yeah, none of us can say we’re innocent of bias when it comes to these things so it’s all good.

  3. Calls Akira’s characters 2 dimensional but cast Liam Neeson in two movies back to back to basically play the same one dimensional character as in Taken. Clearly he is not the guy to direct an Akira film. His “2 dimensional” comment is just to justify the inevitable whitewashing of the cast and changing Akira so it it’s only in name only, like WWZ or anything else with name recognition.

    Just say no to Collet-Serra on Akira… better yet, on any film for that matter.

  4. @Dazz

    Am I being ignorant, or are you (hint, its you). The story takes place in Neo-Tokyo. The characters names are Kaneda and Tetsuo. Hardly Caucasian locations or names. Also, I don’t see how they “look” white. The picture posted here – the guy has darker than white skin. Asian skin typically is pretty white. I actually agree with you that the DBZ protesters were ridiculous since Goku et al. are aliens and can be of any color (and those did clearly look more white in the anime). Nonetheless, I don’t think we need Keanu Reeves or Brad Pitt (who were initially rumored to be sought by the studios) to do this film – both race and age-wise, it makes so sense.

    But DBZ sucked more for the actual point . . . that it was ill-conceived. Same with the Oldboy remake.

    Personally, I thought the Departed wasn’t that good either (never saw the original), but Scorsese doesn’t just push through crap when he makes (or remakes) a film. He works hard to make good films and even if I don’t like them, I have to admit they are well made and well thought out.

    Here (if you had read the entirety of the article) Collet-Serra seems to not care for the characters or source-material. In fact he seems to have contempt for the story and the fans (and we saw how well that turned out when Michael Bay made contemptuous Transformers films). I doubt the studio cares either beyond making a quick buck.

    • Nope, not really (hint, it’s actually you being ignorant here, nice immature way of trying to look intelligent there in your opening few lines, that’s definitely a way of trying to get someone to change their opinion of your initial comment…).

      I didn’t get that far in the article but I just knew someone would bring up the old “OMG, white-washing!” argument.

      As for Akira, I love the original movie, love the manga, wouldn’t bother me if they changed the names of the characters and had a setting that looked like Neo-Tokyo but wasn’t explicitly named in the movie.

      What you have to remember is that a lot more people HAVEN’T heard of it than those who have and if a live action adaption does well, those people may read about the original through media articles during publicity before release and then they have two versions to choose from as far as which they enjoy more.

  5. $90 million for the budget? Yea this doesn’t need to be made. Marvel and WB spend how much on their films? Maybe ‘white-washed’ is a bad term, ‘americanized’ would be more appropriate. Japanese films are deep, psychologically and philosophically. Something Hollywood rarely touches.

  6. The director of House of Wax, Orphan, and Unknown… how exciting.

    I hate these studios hiring mediocre directors to beloved animes like Akira and Ghost in the Shell. Why can’t people think of anything new anymore? Well I am looking forward to Transcendence and Interstellar, but still.

    • So basically you would want Christopher Nolan directing a film like Akira. Can’t say I disagree with you on that one.

      • Technically I didn’t say I want Christopher Nolan to direct it (just that I was looking forward to his new science fiction film), but I sure as hell wouldn’t argue. C Nolan knows how to tell a story properly, and Akira would be no exception. But alas, we get this new director who feels he has the right to insult Akira’s characters when he doesn’t know how to use characters himself. But I must agree that Akira’s characters were never anything special, but at least they weren’t boring or stupid like the characters in Orphan, House of Wax, or Unknown. I have yet to watch his other films (those Goal movies) but people seem to dislike them also.

        • The characters in the manga are great. They are a shadow of themselves in the anime. For example Joker in the manga becomes Kaneda’s ally and has a real character arc unlike his brief racing duel scene in the anime.

          • I read the manga (very long and awesome book), but to be honest, the characters were quite static. I felt they at least developed a little bit in the film version.

  7. Has anyone seen the original script for a few years back? ABSO-F*CKING-LUTELY HORRIBLE.

    Also: $90 million? Nope. Ain’t gonna cut it.

    Also also: He specifically states that a true translation “can’t” be done (horrible thought for a real director to have), and just wants to “keep the spirit” of the anime/manga. WRONG.

    Finally: This is going to crash harder than the Shadow of the Colossus movie, which somehow recently found its way out of developmental hell. I shed tears for my fellow anime and videogame fans as Hollywood finds its next big thing after comicbook movies fade away.

    • True translation of the source and risk massive failure and going way over budget in the process or make a smaller movie with less money to avoid catastrophic failure if it fails to sell tickets at the cinema while keeping the story true to the spirit of the original as a sort of tribute to what made Akira such a popular thing in the first place.

      I choose the latter.

  8. If this director does Akira we are all screwed.

    Sad day for all Akira Fans.

  9. Nooooooooooooo!

  10. No.

  11. I’m probably going to get booed for this but I don’t really see any “uniquely Asian” aspect to Akira other than the names. I mean the basic concept is a bunch of gangs with mutant powers warring in a large decaying city in an apocalyptic future. That could be set in any country anywhere in the world.

    • I agree. I’m a massive fan of the film and manga, and even being half Japanese myself I really don’t see a problem with American actors. It makes sense when Hollywood is doing it. I think it’s ridiculous people are worrying about that and not who’s directing or writing the movie. That should be their number one concern.

  12. You all forget that a “whitewashed” low-budget Akira adaptation was already made. It was called Chronicle.

  13. I really wish they would just give up on making an Akira movie.Adapting from the anime is pretty stupid considering how vague some of the stuff is in it and adapting from the manga would require no less that two movies.

    A great director would be needed to even think about doing this story justice,along with a huge budget.I say they give up on this Otomo story and focus on something much much easier to make.Domu would be perfect as a movie and is something that Hollywood should look at instead of Akira.

  14. If they want this movie to work, they should have Neill Blomkamp do it, or at least Gareth Edwards. It should also be filmed in Japan, with Japanese actors.

    My honest opinion.

  15. I don’t care about a live action Akira. It wouldn’t have Geinoh Yamashirogumi’s score-gasm.

  16. Why, why can’t this movie idea just die.

    Live action film is no higher form of art than a comic or an animated feature. Not everything has to be made into a freaking Hollywood blockbuster to fully exist. Just let it go.

  17. After 30 years in develpment hell . Almost half of Hollywood actors/actress being approach for casting.
    Chances are we’ll get an Americanized script with white actors . Neo-Tokyo will be changed to Neo-Newyork. Or Neo-LA.
    BLERGH.

  18. A Hollywood movie that has nothing to do with the original (manga/anime) shouldn’t be called an adaption… A better name for it would be: A Hollywood fan-fiction. Movies made like this have nothing to do with the Japanese originals and will only be remembered for being less than trash! So for an example, take Dragonball: Evolution. It has less than nothing to do with Dragonball… Other than being bad fan-fiction. And the worst part is, Robotech fans are still waiting for WB to make their vomit inducing movie… But in the end, Hollywood is like a toilet, and some people (Jaume Collet Serra) want to fill it up with cr@p movies like this!

  19. Really on the fence with this one.

    On the one hand I think seeing Akira translated to live action would be cool from a visual and concept view point – the Pacific Rim defence. Regardless of it’s deficiencies as a film or with the narrative I get a kick out of seeing those Kaiju and Jaegers on the screen, I’m pretty certain I would get the same feeling from seeing Neo-Tokyo, Kanada and his crew, the clowns, the hover platforms etc.

    One the other hand I’m concerned about the quality of the finished product, with Pacific Rim a lot of the issues others bemoan don’t effect me so the experience of awesomeness isn’t diminished. I have concerns that Akira wouldn’t be able to pull of the same trick.

    Reasons for the concerns – not seen a script or heard details so how westernised is going to become, will it be Neo-Tokyo or will it be shifted to mainland Europe or America. What’s the casting situation are the main characters going to keep their oriental origins or are they looking to cast non-Asian actors.

    Now normally that wouldn’t bother me but my concerns about that issue are fed from my other concerns….. namely what story will be put on screen.

    Akira is horrendously complex, deeply philosophical and it is also very much of it’s time. The are a multitude of issues that Otomo was commenting on especially in the manga, the anime ramped up the action beats a bit at the expense of some of that commentary.

    The whole biker gang, youth rebellion was an extreme vision of what was happening with the youth of Japan at that time, the economic landscape was changing as was the population demographic which an increasing aging population (Otomo looked at that too with Roujin Z, also epic).

    These are only the ones I recognise, but with in the story you’ve got a whole political thriller going on, don’t know if that’s a reflection on any political reforms occurring at the time.

    And that’s not even looking at the philosophy about self, ones value, power, knowledge etc. Sometimes I feel like I need a PhD to grasp some of the wilder concepts from the manga. GitS-SC has the same effect on me as well.

    Akira is not just psychic body horror and that depth and texture is what makes Akira so awesome as well as the frankly amazing production values and I have grave concerns that a lot of that texture will be lost….. hell Otomo himself had to tone it down to squeeze a (slightly) coherent narrative in to a movie running time, I don’t have confidence that the Hollywood machine is capable of the same feat.

  20. As long as Liam Neeson stars as Kaneda, an aging biker gang leader, then the movie has my approval. The name Kaneda can even work with a slight variation. Liam Neeson will basically be someone who was born in Canada and just changed the C in Canada to a K, and adopted it as his biker moniker.

  21. In my opinion whether it is set in Neo-Tokyo instead of Neo-New York isnt going to be the biggest issue. It is whether it IS really going to be keeping in faith with the “spirit” of the story.

    The fact that he’s talking about the characters being static and 2-dimensional, doesn’t say a whole lot about about that “spirit”, since its the ideas that are front and centre in the manga, and to a slightly lesser extent in the anime. Its not all about Kaneda Vs Tetsuo in a fight to the death.

    It is highly likely Akira WON’T explore the ideas and concepts explored in the original story, because that wouldn’t be a safe enough route for Hollywood, which is called an industry for a reason. It is there to make money, not art. New ideas are rarely taken on board (especially if they are expensive), and if they are then 50 other movies are made the same way, jumping on the bandwagon.

    Its more likely we will see a blockbuster action flick, with lots of special effects, good vs evil, and promoting a love interest angle front-and-centre. Kaneda would just be a misunderstood emo with a cool motorbike, who grows up out of childish attitude to become a hero and make his revolutionary strong female support lead fall in love with him.

    I’d expect just enough Japanese touch, to add shine (because Japanese stuff is cool…a la Hollywoods take on 47 Ronin, Pacific Rim, Godzilla, Wolverine), but not to make audiences think too hard out of the box, because they want to deliver what the screened preview action sequences.

    There is no need to really maintain the “spirit” of the original story, because Warner Bros true target audience would never have seen the original anyway.

    • I think this last comment is actually the most realistic. Most western people simply have no idea how to connect with the deeper themes in the original anime and could hardly grasp the true depth of the source material. The director is likely one of those and believe me most of the studio executives are the same. When a picture gets a small budget they are experimenting which is good since dozens of rewrites and executives making very silly decisions to impact weather the film will have a more ‘universal’ appeal. I think the best way to to describe Akira’s remake to someone is to say ‘Blade Runner, what if it was remade like how they remade Total Recall or Robocop? Basically those movies over simplified the main concepts of the story and sucked the soul right of the film and made a movie that had updated special effects.

      I would really hate to see Akira’s remake trashed and made totally shallow with no layering in the storyline or the depth at all – basically Oldboy – which completely swallowed and distorted the original so badly that it was incomprehensible next to the original. In my opinion if you make this a Hollywood movie with a Spanish director and western actors, and you don’t have any one who understands the cultural context or the depth of the themes explored in the 1988 original, this will head into Oldboy territory…