If you know nothing else about the Japanese animated film Akira you should know this: it’s worth every bit of praise it’s ever received. If you want to add another jot of information to that knowledge you should also be aware that it is beautiful.
It’s some of the most gorgeous animation that I’ve ever laid eyes on, and the gif above is only the smallest sliver of the visuals the movie contains. Even if you want to throw aside its mountain of accolades there’s the unquestionable fact that nearly every character skidding their motorcycle to a halt owes a debt to this film-
You’ll notice in that link up above that it’s not all aesthetics, either, the narrative itself is nothing to scoff at. At its simplest it’s a story about the friendship between two young men, Kaneda and Tetsuo, and the complications that arise to threaten that relationship. The psychic abilities and grotesque transformations are just bonuses, really; it’s a powerful tale fueled by raw emotions.
Talk of a live action remake began to surface as early as 2002, when Warner Bros. acquired the rights to create one. Hollywood’s take on Neo-Tokyo and its inhabitants was closely followed by various news outlets for over a decade, but since then the project has essentially festered in development hell.
And thank God for that, because not a single iota of good news has been released about it thus far.
To begin with there’s the casting, which justified its search for White actors by changing the locale to Neo-Manhattan. Among those considered for Kaneda were Garrett Hedlund, Michael Fassbender, Justin Timberlake, Joaquin Phoenix, and Chris Pine, with the former inching out the others for top pick. Those being looked at for Tetsuo were as follows: Alden Ehrenreich, Michael Pitt, Paul Dano, D.J. Cotrona, Logan Marshall-Green, Toby Kebbell, Richard Madden, Rami Malek and Dane DeHaan. Of the fourteen actors just listen only one, Rami Malek, is a minority being of Egyptian descent.
It’s the old “let’s make everyone White because White sells” mentality that the film industry has been wallowing in essentially since its inception. That same mindset is why we’re getting a film called Gods of Egypt in 2016 which stars, so far, two minorities. The three headlining deities are all White actors. Because it makes perfect sense for an ancient African civilization to have worshiped
aesthetically European beings.
The thing is that Akira is, in many ways, a Japanese story, especially when you focus on Kaneda and Tetsuo and their positions as youth in the world they live in. It’s not just that Warner Bros. et al are taking away roles that should ostensibly go to Asian actors, it’s that they’re divorcing the story from the context that forms it. Speaking of its existence as a Japanese work of art, though-
Jaume Collett-Serra is currently the director of the project, and this February did an interview with ComingSoon about the film. He starts off fairly strong, telling us that as a challenge “[it’s] different, because you have to be respectful of the source material.” So far so good, I think. Then he . . . hoo boy, then he says this:
“Nobody’s interesting. Tetsuo’s interesting because weird sh*t happens to him, and Kaneda is so two-dimensional. That’s part of the Japanese culture, they never have strong characters. They’re used as a way to move the other philosophy forward.”
This man has said that, as a culture, Japan is completely lacking in “strong characters”. Of all the . . . This is the man that they’ve put in charge of an Akira remake- a man who doesn’t think that the characters he’s going to be working with are even interesting!
Honestly, I’m going to take a page from Mercutio’s book and call a plague on this this entire production, because I haven’t even begun to scrape the top of the arbitrary changes they’ve decided to make, like making them [emphasis theirs] “not lifelong friends or members of a violent teenage motorcycle gang, but rather siblings and apparently adults, with Kaneda owning a tavern.“
There’s such an utter disrespect for the source material it’s unbelievable. I not only want to shame everyone involved in the creation of this film, Serra-Collett in particular, for disregarding a truly artistic film, I want to pray that this film never gets made.
At least not by those currently involved. Thankfully there are those out there who firmly believe that “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” and have delivered five glorious minutes of what we could [and should] be getting. Bless ’em for what they’ve done.
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