11.08.2008

Live action Akira movie... In Neo-New York

As I'm sure you know, I'm quite the fan of Akira.

I've known about the live action Akira movie plans for a while now. People who collect Akira stuff can't help but come into this information, since every single search for material comes up with a billion film blog entries discussing it, the IMDB entry, etc.

I've largely ignored the fan reviews of the early premises, since no real information has actually surfaced and everything except the cast is pure speculation. But Jeremy sent me this early review of the script for the first movie (the 6-volume graphic novel set is being split into 2 seperate movies).

I'm nervous.

First, though, let me say that I'm very happy to hear that the plan of making the movie based on the manga / graphic novels is still in tact. In my very humble opinion, the graphic novel is vastly superior to the anime as a story, and not just because I started with it.

Where I'm skeptical is in the over-americanization of the story. Yes, I know that having Leo DiCaprio as Kaneda would look odd with the rest of the cast being japanese, so fine - cast white skinned folks if you like. But why change the names? What's wrong with Tetsuo? Why does it have to be changed to Travis? Why is Ryu changed to Ray? And if you're going to go through the trouble of changing those names, why not change Kaneda to Kenneth? Kaneda isn't an American name.

The name thing all by itself is not my problem - it's a view into my problem. If they're changing the names (well, half of them) to American names and setting the film in Neo-New York instead of Neo-Tokyo, what other changes will they make half-heartedly to appeal to Americans? How will the civil war be depicted? What about the subtle themes of nationalization and foreign help during desasters, the psychological dramas taking place amongst the teens as they are forced into adulthood by war, and other undertones? Will they be shed in order to streamline the movie?

Reading the review, I see that Kaneda's gang is sort of a militia who has taken up the mantle of policing the streets. But you never see the boys' homes in either the manga or the anime - all you see is their boarding school. There are police everywhere in both story sets, as the city is clamped down due to the military being stationed and deployed in the mainland. The biker gangs are just that - gangs.

Furthermore, the Red Devils? Are they shedding the capsule iconography? What about the drug references? Drugs and control (and the perception of control) are major themes in Akira, and I believe an entire facet of the story would be lost without the imagery and use of drugs.

The reviewer says the script remains faithful to the original story - but what kind of faithful? Consider the Lord of the Rings trilogy - while it shed some characters like Tom Bombadil and neglected to show a lot of the ancillary material of the books, it remained faithful insofar as the intent of the story - the characters were faithful recreations, the epic tale of travel remained intact. All in all, one could easily see that details in LotR-movie were cut for time and cohesion in a film medium. Same goes with Shawshank Redemption and No Country For Old Men.

Contrast this to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Now, I know that the radio shows, novels and movie were all intended to be told in their own way, but come the fuck on - that movie was garbage.

It wasn't made poorly or filmed badly or poorly written - no. It deviated too far from a beloved story that was just fine on its own. Had they simply taken the book and written a movie directly from the events, using a narrator to serve as the wit delivery system of Douglas Adams, it would have been dandy. But instead, they tried to make it its own artistic whatever. And it failed.

So I'm concerned about Akira. I have been a fan of DiCaprio since Basketball Diaries (with the notable exceptions of Titanic and whatever movie it was he did where he was on that island and sucked). The dude has it upstairs, so I'm very very hopeful. And Hollywood seems to be doing a fine job with Americanization of foreign films (such as The Departed vs. Infernal Affair).

More than anything, I just worry that people will think I look silly with my tattoo.