Warner Bros. has officially been given the live action adaptation of the classic manga series Akira the greenlight. Back in July the studio hired Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan, Unknown) to develop the film. The movie is set to go into production in late February or early March.
The studio has been trying to get this movie into production since 2008, and now everything is officially finally moving forward. I really wish I could be excited about this, but I'm not sure if this is going to be pulled off effectively for live-action. I find it funny and wrong that this movie has been given a $90 million dollar budget, when a western like The Lone Ranger has been given a $216 million dollar budget. I think the budgets should be switched.
There's no word on who will officially star in the film yet, but it was previously reported that James Franco was in talks to join the film as Kaneda. Keanu Reeves was talked about being cast in the film at one point as well. They've now turned their attention towards Tron: Legacy star Garrett Hedlund, who's now considered a front-runner. Though no offer's been made yet. I think Hedlund would make for an interesting choice for this movie. I wouldn't complain if he ended up being cast.
The story is set in New Manhattan and the story basically follows the leader of a biker gang in New Manhattan, who’s friend gets jacked up from a government medical experiment, in which he receives destructive psychokinetic abilities. There are more details about the movie being made below from a draft of the script. The most recent draft was written by Steve Kloves. There’s a big chance that they wont be able to fully capture the epic awesomeness of Katsuhiro Otomo's story, but it will be interesting to see what they come up with.
Leonardo DiCaprio is producing the film with Andrew Lazar. Otomo, who wrote and directed the 1988 Japanese anime movie classic will be an executive producer on the project.
Here are some previously released details from a script for the live-action version, not sure if this is still the route that they are going to take, but here it is...
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.
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.