One movie has been lurking in Development Hell for so long that it may as well have taken up residence down there. Akira. Katsuhiro Otomo’s famed six-book manga series, which spawned an equally famous 1988 anime, has been gestating longer than ten elephants.
Attempt after attempt has been made, but it has always failed to see the light of day. Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok), Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows), Daniel Espinosa (Life) Justin Lin (Fast Five), and David Sandberg (Shazam) all tried and failed to drag this out of Development Hell and into the light.
The Book of Eli director Albert Hughes was attached for over a year, and he recently spoke about his experience on the Happy Sad Confused podcast. The ever-reliable Dark Horizons reported on his interview. He says he exited because it became clear the studio simply wasn’t ready to commit:
“I was deep. I was deep. The dirty little secret on that is they tried it many times, they were $9 million in by the time I got on.
I had another three on the project so they’re in 12 [million dollars] right now. I had a production designer, a whole office, previz and it all came down to you know this BS stuff in town like ‘oh the right casting’. It’s like well ‘Akira’ is the name, it’s the IP.
They were scared to make it and you could smell it after a while. You know it’s like well why did you get me involved? This was after ‘Book of Eli’ when Warner Brothers opened up the vault, and they said what do you want.
I said I want ‘Akira’ and so I was on that for a little under a year and I started smelling the roses of the coffee, I’m like this… they’re not really ready to make this. They’re using the excuse of casting, but that’s BS you know.
Then you know the whitewashing thing comes into play like, ‘are we gonna hire Asian actors or white actors’ and like… I’m not trying to get involved in all that. I’m fine with doing the original the way the original needs to be done, and I think the IP is bigger than any one actor.
But at that time that was 2011, and I did some really cool previz though I had some fun doing that … and redesigning the bike.”
Akira is set in the wake of the Third World War, and follows the leader of a biker gang in Neo-Tokyo as he tries to save his friend from a medical experiment.
We can probably help you out here Al. The reason that they are scared to commit is because they know, deep down, where this ends up.
It’s like Blade Runner. This is a movie in most of our top twenty lists. We own, or have seen, countless multiple versions. We can debate and discuss its themes and deeper meanings at length. Its aesthetic is legendary. This is, in short, an important movie to us as superior online movie beings.
And so the noise is heard, the hype is believed. Millions are spent on a lavish sequel… which nobody goes to see. It craters at the box office.
You see, to us Blade Runner was important. To normies, who outnumber us significantly, it’s a dour, boring experience and they have no interest in going to see anything to do with it in theaters.
Akira, and manga and anime in general, are the same. To fully realize these worlds requires huge budgets. Studios fear what may be the truth. That nobody gives a shit about any of it, outside a subset of us.
Now, that is not to say that streaming and the still comparatively deep pockets and global reach of Netflix can’t come into play here – look at One Piece – but spending over $200 million an an anime based property? Not gonna happen right now.
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