Taika Waititi's Akira had a perfect release date, and then Thor 4 came along and killed it. Few films embody the concept of development hell quite like the live-action version of Akira, based on the seminal 1988 classic of the same name. Even before Warner Bros. acquired the rights to an adaptation in 2002, there had been years of speculation regarding a possible Hollywood version of Akira, with many deeming the anime impossible to film in live action. Although Warner Bros. eventually let their money do the talking, the past 17 years have seen repeated failed attempts to get Akira off the ground, with a revolving door of directors and no light at the end of the tunnel. Finally, in May this year, Taika Waititi was officially unveiled as directing the live-action Akira and a release date was set for May 21st, 2021.
Akira fans breathed a collective sigh of relief, but celebrations were short-lived. Marvel Studios recently confirmed a fourth Thor movie, following on from Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok and the director would be returning to helm his second MCU offering. It subsequently transpired that Waititi would be tackling Chris Hemsworth's further adventures as the God of Thunder before beginning production on the anime adaptation, and Akira has since been delayed indefinitely.
Given Akira's previous struggles, there is obviously some level of concern that this latest setback could derail the film entirely but, assuming that the delay is just a temporary measure while Waititi works on Thor 4, the move has ruined what would have been a perfect release date.
The Akira story is set in 2019 and, ideally, Warner Bros. might've liked to coincide the film's release with that year, if only to create a serendipitous sense of the franchise coming full circle. In an even more fortuitous coincidence, however, a key plot point of Akira revolves around the 2020 Olympic Games being held in Neo-Tokyo and, as luck would have it, the real-life 2020 event will indeed be held in Tokyo.
This meeting of dystopian fiction and the real-world is beneficial for both the Akira movie and the Olympics themselves, and the event's organizers in Japan have been capitalizing on the Akira comparisons in their marketing for the 2020 Games. Likewise, releasing in 2021 would've allowed the live-action Akira to ride the wave of the Tokyo Olympics buzz. A 2020 release would have perhaps been too soon, with the story's destructive battle sequence set within Tokyo's Olympic Stadium potentially triggering a huge backlash if Akira were to release around the time the actual Olympics were held. On the other hand, waiting a year until 2021 would allow Akira to cash in on the remaining excitement of the Tokyo Olympics, but with enough time having passed so as to avoid any unwanted controversy.
By swinging his mighty hammer where it wasn't welcome, Thor has likely pushed Akira's production back by a couple of years, at least. By the time Taika Waititi's live-action Akira hits theaters, thoughts would have already turned to the 2024 Paris Olympics, with the Tokyo Games a distant memory, and that fascinating real-life allegory between Akira's Neo-Tokyo and Japan's actual capital city would've been lost.
Thor 4 and Akira are currently without release dates. More news as it arrives.