As a huge fan of the 1988 classic anime, Akira, I, like everyone else, have mixed emotions about a live-action movie version of the story.
After reading the script for the upcoming Akira movie (dated 2010, written by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby and which is being directed The Hughes Brothers), I questioned whether this film is a good idea, when the anime version stands on its own merit. We’ll let you guys draw your own answer to that question, but today we have some details of the Akira script to share with you.
The story has been “Americanized,” with the center of the action taking place in New Manhattan after the decimation of the city ( an incident resembling a nuclear bomb explosion), has been blamed on the work of unknown terrorists, with the iconic shot of Akira as the sole survivor clutching his teddy bear standing solemn in the crater at ground zero.
Flash-forward to sometime in the future where protagonists Kaneda and Travis (gone is the name Tetsuo – why not just keep it? ) belong to one of several biker gangs that control the burned out old Manhattan, while the shiny new Chinese-owned-and-invested “New Manhattan” glitters back at them like a star that cannot be touched.
The story somewhat follows the animated film but introduces a new character, Ray Arcman, who is the mad scientist that created Akira by using psychic and kinetic experiments on children including the three Espers (the elderly looking 10-year-olds from the animated film).
Asian gangsters run the underworld along with several motorcycle gangs (sadly, the “Clowns” are not in the film). Illegal drugs are still in demand and the gangs in turn have to pay tribute to their bosses, the ”Packies” (Pakistanis).
Liberties are taken with some of the characters: Princess Miyako is now an elderly trash-collecting lady in Old Manhattan and the Colonel’s part doesn’t come off as strong as he did in the animated version. I cannot see Morgan Freeman playing the Colonel at all – nevermind the rumor that Zac Effron could play Kaneda.
There are also continuity problems with the script. In one scene, the Colonel sets off a claymore mine in order to block the approaching Black Ops army and is wounded. Yet, in another scene after this, when he is captured, The Colonel is able to take out two military policeman and operate a .50 caliber mini-gun in a helicopter gunship in order to save Kaneda – then he promptly disappears for the remainder of the film.
Yes, Travis (Tetsuo) does expand and morph into a ballooning human amoeba, but only for one short scene. I think we can all agree that this is one of the landmark, crucial scenes that needs to be in the film, yet it’s only a mere fragment.
Kaneda gets a Tech 9 machine pistol instead of the high-tech-looking plasma-type weapon that was used in the original anime, and on the iconic Akira poster. This is not a change that makes sense to me.
I thought the ending of the script was weak (it hints at a sequel – please), and you just didn’t care about the characters the way you did in Katsuhiro Otomo’s production.
The time to have made this film was in the ’80s when there was still a buzz about it. This new version is not for all audiences and sadly, I believe it will fall in the same niche category as Watchmen did.