Taika Waititi's live-action Akira is officially happening and now has a 2021 release date. Thanks to the acclaim of Thor: Ragnarok, Waititi has become one of the most sought after talents in Hollywood. His early low budget comedic work first gained him attention, but now every studio is hoping to work with him in some regard. This includes Warner Bros., who viewed Waititi as the latest possible man for the job to bring Akira to the big screen and began discussions with him to do so in 2017.
The original manga, set in a post-apocalyptic 2019 future where a mysterious explosion nearly destroyed Tokyo several years ago, is written and illustrated by Katsuhiro Otomo and launched in 1982. The cyberpunk story follows a group of teenage bikers, led by Shotaro Kaneda, and other characters who try and prevent Kaneda's mentally imbalanced friend Tetsuo from using his telekinetic abilities to awaken Akira, who is responsible for the original destruction of Tokyo. Warner Bros. has spent years trying to get Akira off the ground and into theaters, and now that Waititi is firmly aboard, they are ready to move forward.
As shared by THR, Warner Bros. has set a May 21, 2021 release date for their live-action Akira movie, which Waititi will direct. This officially makes Akira the next project up for Waititi, after he'll see Jojo Rabbit release this fall and makes more sense of him leaving a movie about Michael Jackson's monkey. This date puts the live-action adaptation up against the recently announced John Wick: Chapter 4 if both films retain these release dates. Akira will also take the spot WB recently vacated when they delayed Super Pets to 2022.
WB officially giving Akira a release date comes after reports recently emerged that filming on the movie would begin this summer. The July start to Akira's production will give Waititi nearly two years to complete his latest project, but also now leaves only a handful of weeks for WB to make other announcements. Akira is currently without any cast members, and the casting process will be closely followed by many, as Hollywood adaptations of other mangas have often seen characters white-washed. Hopefully, Akira will avoid making such decisions.
Even if WB and Waititi cast appropriately for Akira, it does appear that they'll make other changes. A reported synopsis for Akira is changing the location of the events to Manhattan instead of Tokyo, marking a significant geographical difference to the story. However, this change or the possible alterations to the story and characters have not yet been confirmed to be part of Waititi's vision for the film. He has previously said that he wants to adapt the story of the comics, and not the anime, but do it in a new way. With the release date set for Akira, those looking forward to Waititi's take may not have to wait long to get clarification on these details.