Warner Bros. Pictures has had an off-and-on-again relationship with Akira for over a decade now. The original Japanese manga ran from 1982-1990, with an anime feature film adaptation in 1988. Akira depicts a world devastated by WWIII, and a rebuilt Neo Tokyo that falls into further apocalyptic chaos when testing on some “gifted” individuals goes awry.
A live-action U.S. remake has been in development hell seemingly forever, with a slew of potential directors (The Hughes Brothers, Jaume Collet-Serra, Christopher Nolan, George Miller), stars (Zac Efron, James Franco, Keanu Reeves, Garrett Hedlund), and writers (Steve Kloves, Jonathan Nolan) coming and going from the project, and consistent news updates that the project is greenlit, then dead, then back on again. The most recent development in the ongoing saga of the Akira remake is that Justin Lin (Fast & Furious, Star Trek Beyond) is being courted by WB to direct the film, likely the script by Marco J. Ramirez (Daredevil).
Bloody Disgusting has now unearthed some fantastic concept art that Ruairi Robinson shared back in 2014 from an abandoned version of Akira. The images depict Chris Evans (yes, Captain America himself) as the protagonist, Kaneda, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as his telekinetic frienemy, Tetsuo. There are also plenty of images of pre- and post-apocalyptic Neo Tokyo, as well as some great storyboards on Robinson’s site with Akira on his throne – a plot beat noticeably absent from the animated film.
You can check out some of that Akira artwork, below:
While it’s a little odd that some of these Akira illustrations are essentially painted recreations of an already fully animated film, they’re no doubt enticing imagery for some fans – hinting at what a live-action remake could bring to the table, in terms of visuals alone.
Even the beloved anime adaptation suffered from a severe abridgement of the original manga, necessitating the omission of the entire second half of the series due to time constraints. Fans of Akira aren’t remiss in their longing for another chance to get this property right, and the once-rumored live-action Akira movie trilogy might be a good way for that to happen. However, it’s easy to argue that an American remake of Akira in “Neo New York” instead of Tokyo is a misguided venture to begin with. “Whitewashing” is one thing, but appropriating the imagery of nuclear fallout that gave the original story such foreboding cultural weight is more than a little tone deaf in geo-political sensitivity.
With live-action anime/manga adaptations such as Ghost in the Shell and Death Note now in production, there’s once again a decent possibility that Akira will finally get a live-action makeover too. But how do you feel about an American remake of Akira? Would live action water down the animated imagery, or take it to the next level?
We’ll bring you more information on Akira as it becomes available.