Warner Bros.’ decision to press ahead with a live-action Americanized take on the cult-favorite anime/manga Akira has proven very unpopular with hardcore fans of the allegorical Japanese sci-fi property. Nonetheless, the project is indeed moving forward, so now it remains to be seen how exactly director Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan, Unknown) will adapt the story to a futuristic U.S. setting.
A possible plot synopsis has been released for the new Akira, which is reportedly set to begin filming in Canada by Spring 2012. While the aforementioned plot summary is (in many ways) identical to that of its inspiration(s), there are a few noteworthy differences.
Kaneda (Garrett Hedlund) is a bar owner in Neo-Manhattan who is stunned when his brother, Tetsuo, is abducted by government agents led by The Colonel.
Desperate to get his brother back, Kaneda agrees to join with Ky Reed (Kristen Stewart) and her underground movement who are intent on revealing to the world what truly happened to New York City thirty years ago when it was destroyed. Kaneda believes their theories to be ludicrous but after finding his brother again, is shocked when he displays telekinetic powers.
Ky believes Tetsuo is headed to release a young boy, Akira, who has taken control of Tetsuo’s mind. Kaneda clashes with The Colonel’s troops on his way to stop Tetsuo from releasing Akira but arrives too late. Akira soon emerges from his prison courtesy of Tetsuo as Kaneda races in to save his brother before Akira once again destroys Manhattan island, as he did thirty years ago.
It ought to be pointed out that the Acting Auditions site also indicates that the Kaneda character is still the leader of a motorcycle gang and that Ky is “a powerful medium who use psychic powers of her own, but can channel the powers of others through her body.” Additionally, Ken Watanabe and Helena Bonham Carter are also shortlisted as starring in the film (neither of them are officially set for the project).
Another thing to note is that the previously-referenced site also lists the primary scribes behind Akira as being Steve Kloves (all but the fifth Harry Potter movie), Albert Torres (the indie dramedy Henry Poole Is Here), and relative unknown David James. It’s not clear whether or not that means for certain that material from earlier drafts penned by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby (Children of Men, Iron Man) and Gary Whitta (The Book of Eli) will not be used in the final shooting script for Akira.
That’s all to say: despite the over-abundance of negativity surrounding this project, it’s not fair to declare that the new Akira is utterly doomed to become another terrible Hollywood blockbuster. There is some solid creative talent working behind-the-scenes; several noteworthy actors are testing for the film’s most pivotal role (Tetsuo); Watanabe and Carter are two thespians that tend to shine, no matter what movie they are in; and, to the average person who is not remotely familiar with the original source material, this new Akira probably reads as being a potentially cool cyberpunk thriller with some (slight) social commentary.
Naturally, that doesn’t at all guarantee that Akira won’t turn out to be the mess many are predicting. As always, it’s best to just wait and see more before reaching any final conclusions – lest the final product actually turn okay and all the detractors be left eating humble pie.
We will continue to keep you posted on the status of Akira as the story develops.