American comic book adaptations are, without a doubt, all the rage in Hollywood right now. The same isn't so true for Japanese comic books (a.k.a. manga) and/or anime TV series adaptations, though there have been numerous reports in recent years about big screen takes on such properties entering development. That's generally been as far as they've gone, though.
Now, we're waiting to see if the Robotech live-action film adaptation can buck that trend. The project was very recently reported to be actively moving forward again following several years of stagnation - with 300 co-producers Mark Canton and Gianni Nunnari now leading the charge (and 300 co-screenwriter Michael Gordon on script-writing duties). Sony has now become involved with the film too, having picked up the Robotech movie rights with an eye on making it the first installment for a new tentpole franchise.
Robotech the anime series combined three different Japanese anime series (which ran from 1982-84) and then aired in the U.S. in 1985. The story takes place in a futuristic setting where humanity fights back against extraterrestrial invaders by way of giant robotic machines - technology harnessed from an alien's spaceship that crash-landed on Earth. Columbia Pictures Production Chief Michael De Luca released the following statement about Sony/Columbia's acquisition of the Robotech live-action feature (via Variety):
“‘Robotech’ is unique in that it has always been a marriage of spectacle with human characters that seem drawn from life. That’s why we are so excited to be working with Mark and Gianni as we move forward on this project. With a history that offers an epic love triangle, a renegade hero, and a world on the brink of extinction, ‘Robotech’ offers a wide scope and a rich and impressive universe where the story possibilities are endless.”
Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim - which draws from the same giant mecha storytelling tradition as Robotech - was something of a moderate commercial hit back in 2013, yet ultimately proved successful enough to warrant a multi-platform franchise - one that will include at least one sequel, an animated TV series, and comic book tie-ins. Sony, as mentioned before, has similar long-term plans for Robotech, but first the studio must be convinced to give the project a proper green-light - something a live-action Robotech failed to get when it was under Warner Bros.' watch, despite years of development (and interest from people like Leonardo DiCaprio).
If there ever was a time for Robotech to come together, though, it's in the current age of the geek. The project certainly explores the sort of subject matter (semi-apocalyptic future setting, themes about humanity's relationship with technology) that's in fashion right now. However, much like video game movies, anime-based films don't exactly a stellar track record in terms of either their critical reception or box office success - at least, not for the time being (see: Dragonball: Evolution, Speed Racer).
DreamWorks has the Ghost in the Shell live-action movie scheduled to arrive in theaters in 2017; its success (or lack thereof) could impact Robotech's chances of making it to the big screen. Pacific Rim has indeed shown there's indeed a market for this project, but most of the anime film adaptations (see: Akira, Bleach, Death Note, and so forth) that've reportedly entered development in the past five years are currently stalled or dead in the water. So, there's fair reason to doubt that Robotech will actually take the next step forward.
Then again, if a big-name (or up and coming) filmmaker signs on to direct/develop Robotech, that could keep it moving on down the pipeline. Andrés Muschietti (Mama) was previously reported to be under consideration to helm the project, but there's no mention of him in the latest update. Still, we'll be keeping our fingers crossed since, let's face it: it's hard to say no to a new tentpole about human-piloted robots fighting alien forces, right?
We'll bring you more information on Robotech when we have it.