Currently doing press for the Liam Neeson thriller "Non-Stop," filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra has confirmed he's still very much working on the new "Akira" adaptation at Warner Bros. Pictures.
The original's story was set in a neon-lit futuristic post-nuclear war "New Tokyo" in 2019. Kaneda is a bike gang leader whose close friend Tetsuo gets involved in a secret government project known as Akira. Trying to save him, Kaneda runs into anti-government activists, corrupt politicians, irresponsible scientists and a despotic military leader.
The confrontation sparks off Tetsuo's supernatural power leading to not only death but the uncovering of the truth about Akira that the government tried to bury three decades before. The story was previously adapted into a 1988 anime film which is considered a classic of the genre. This version is expected to stick close to the original manga and could spread the story across several films.
Collet-Serra tells Coming Soon that it's taking time because they are taking their time with it and want to be as respectful of the source material as possible:
"Otomo adapted his own work from a manga into an anime and both things are completely different and genius. The only way to do a live version of "Akira" is to take the spirit and adapt it. It will be as different as the anime was from the manga.
I think you cannot make a movie about "Akira" and hope that everyone understands it. Like everything else, you have to make three or four movies in one where there's the essence somewhere.
If you're a fan, you already know what it's about and you'll see it's part of the same world, but trying to oversimplify it would be a mistake.
I think if at some point a character tries to explain it to the audience at the end of the second act, that's a problem. It's more like an existential opera. It's something that can only be explained in the manga, and even in the anime it's hard to follow."
Asked what the new live-action version will bring that the original anime doesn't, the filmmaker says:
"I hope that I can bring strong characters. In the original source material, I don't think the main characters are the protagonists. What I'm hoping is to bring characters. Nobody's interesting.
Tetsuo's interesting because weird sh*t happens to him, and Kaneda is so two-dimensional. That's part of the Japanese culture, they never have strong characters. They're used as a way to move the other philosophy forward.
So hopefully in my version that will be strong, and you'll have a story that happens in that world that will show you a little bit of the mystery. Then, if you're interested, they'll make 'Akira 2 & 3' then you can get deeper into it.
I love the world, a lot of people love that world, so why wouldn't we indulge in it a little bit and see how it would be if it was real? Like you say I don't have to explain everything, but wouldn't you like to spend two-hours in a world of "Akira" and follow a character and be like, 'that's cool'? That's all I want to offer, is two-hours in a world you can actually feel. We're working on it."