Hollywood doesn’t have a good track record when it comes to adapting anime/manga properties for the big screen, as evidenced by the underwhelming box office returns (and at best lukewarm, at worst hostile, critical reactions) for such live-action films as Dragonball: Evolution and Speed Racer, as well as the animated Astro Boy – all three of which hit theaters in the late 2000s, as it were. Of course, that isn’t stopping Paramount Pictures from moving forward with the Scarlet Johansson-led Ghost in the Shell, nor has it prevented rumors about Hollywood film adaptations of franchise like Naruto and Bleach from popping up every now and then.
Similarly, a live-action version of Akira – Katsuhiro Otomo’s celebrated cyberpunk anime series-turned acclaimed 1988 2D animated film – is a project that has been making start/stop progress for years now, but that Warner Bros. Pictures has (seemingly) yet to give up on altogether. Daredevil season 2 co-showrunner Marco J. Ramirez was reportedly hired to put together a fresh script draft for Akira back in June of 2015 – and now, just over a year later, comes word that WB is courting a high-profile director to get the film moving forward, once again.
On the latest episode of Meet the Movie Press (check around the 13:47 mark of the episode), host Jeff Sneider revealed that Justin Lin is said to be WB’s current top choice to direct Akira, and that the studio is actively courting the filmmaker to sign on for the project. Earlier this year, it was reported that Lin is actively developing (and may yet direct) a Space Jam sequel for WB. As noted by Sneider, it’s plausible that WB studio heads would be all the more willing to green-light Space Jam 2 – a film Lin is reportedly invested in getting off the ground – should they be able to convince the director to commit to Akira, too.
The original Akira takes place in an alternate reality where a third World War breaks out in the 1980s, giving rise to the story’s primary setting: a dystopian version of Tokyo (known as Neo-Tokyo) circa 2019. Otomo’s manga/ anime are generally regarded as being allegories for Japan post-WWII (and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki), which is part of the reason why there’s long been so much opposition to the idea of an “American-ized” take on Akira – in particular, one featuring a largely white cast (see similar accusations of white-washing against Ghost in the Shell). However, were Lin to sign on for the project, it’s plausible that the live-action Akira would feature – at the very least – a more diverse cast and find a better way to honor Otomo’s source material, while also adapting it for a larger audience.
Of course, a live-action Akira has proven to be difficult nut to crack for several filmmakers in the past, including Albert Hughes (The Book of Eli) and, more recently, Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows). Lin reads as being the better fit to tackle the project than those that have come before him, given that he now has experience handling both high-octane vehicular action/thrills (the Fast & Furious series) and more thought-provoking futuristic science-fiction (next month’s Star Trek Beyond) – both of which are key elements of Akira. The question is whether or not Lin is interested in taking on the challenge in the first place – assuming that WB is, in fact, courting him for the job to begin with.
We will bring you more information on Akira as it becomes available.