When it comes to creating mega-selling film trilogies out of comic book characters whose last great movie adaptation was released about three decades ago, Christopher Nolan has a pretty solid track record. So it should probably come as no surprise that a new rumour has surfaced that Warner Bros has pegged the Dark Knight Trilogy director to develop a trio of films adapting cult classic Japanese manga Akira.
You may have noticed that I specifically said “develop” and not “helm”. That’s because Den of Geek is reporting that Nolan is involved in some undisclosed capacity and has apparently met an unnamed director who was previously attached to a live-action feature film adaptation. Just who this unnamed filmmaker is up in the air, as there have been several stop-start attempts at bringing Akira to the big screen ever since WB acquired the film rights to Katsuhiro Otomo’s dystopian sci-fi tale about psychics and futuristic biker gangs in Neo-Tokyo back in 2002.
At one stage even Keanu Reeves was attached, while the latest effort saw Jaume Collet-Sera (Non-Stop, Run All Night) set to direct with Garret Hedlund starring. Last we heard though, Collet-Sera had also pretty much bailed on the project.
Of course it is possible that Nolan is in fact directing this himself. Just last week the news broke that Nolan is helming some mysterious, unnamed film for Warner Bros set for release in July 2017. That’s smack dab in the middle of blockbuster season, and it really wouldn’t get much more blockbustery than a big budget live-action adaptation of Akira.
The “trilogy” part of this rumour also excites me quite a bit. Otomo previously adapted his own manga for the critically acclaimed 1988 anime feature film version of his story. While this animated version is greatly beloved and deservedly considered one of the best animated sci-fi films of all time and a landmark in the Western acceptance of Japanese animation, it isn’t a direct adaptation of the manga, cutting out a lot of material.
Otomo basically directed the anime movie two years before he would actually complete the manga, with the film version really only telling about half of the eventual story with a much more reduced cast and smaller scope. This means that Nolan and his mystery collaborator could be going back to the source for an even more epic film version of the tale than we’ve previously seen. That could be incredible as long as they don’t go overboard with stretching it out and we end up with another Hobbit situation, where it’s 50% film, 50% padding? (If there’s even one dwarf singing about doing the dishes in Akira...!)
Besides for that sorta-potential problem though, I have always also had one other major issue with an Akira adaptation: It’s undoubtedly going to be pretty Hollywood-ized, losing that classic Japan-ness, that is so inherent in the manga/anime. There’s a reason why Hollywood has taken so long to crack an adaptation of this story. Maybe Christopher Nolan is the man that finally gets it done.
Here’s a great video that explains the story differences between the manga and anime versions of Akira [Please note: It does contain SPOILERS!]
Last Updated: September 16, 2015