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Taika Waititi Getty Images 3.jpg

Apparently Taika Waititi is Still Remaking 'Akira'

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Film | April 10, 2023 |

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Film | April 10, 2023 |


Taika Waititi Getty Images 3.jpg

Boy, Hollywood really wants to remake Akira, don’t they? And yes, that project is still in development, after YEARS of it being stuck in development hell with an assembly line of directors signing on then off. We haven’t heard much about the project, which is currently attached to Warner Bros. Now, Justin Kroll, a reporter for Deadline, is saying it’s still happening. And there’s a script. AND Taika Waititi is going to direct it.

Akira is both one of the greatest manga and animated films ever made. Katsuhiro Otomo’s masterpiece helped to bring Japanese animation to America and remains one of the defining texts of the medium. Its impact speaks for itself. For as long as American studios have known about Akira, they’ve wanted to make it into an English-language live-action film.

It’s not an utterly objectionable idea. After all, even Otomo’s own film of his work only covers a sliver of the epic manga, which he hadn’t even finished writing at the time of production. It’s not hard to see why Hollywood would be drawn to a cyberpunk tale of corruption, body horror, teen bikers, and all-out war. Stephen Norrington was going to direct it, then Ruari Robinson, then Jaume Collet-Serra. Keanu Reeves was long considered a front-runner for the lead, despite not being a teenager. Then, in 2019, it was confirmed that Waititi would take the lead on a lavish big-screen adaptation. He last talked about the project in 2021, and since then, there’s been silence. We last wrote about how it was totally happening in 2019, when it received crucial tax credits to allow it to film in California. Then Waititi went off to do Thor: Love and Thunder, which made a ton of money but received cool responses from fans and critics alike.

Kroll is a pretty reliable reporter with a lot of exclusives under his belt, so if he’s saying Akira is a-go, it’s a likely prospect. Still, it’s no guarantee given how many times Warner Bros. has tried to make this happen, even as fans of the anime and manga get pretty blunt about how little they want it.

To Waititi’s credit, he’s always been clear that he doesn’t want to cast a bunch of white people in his Akira, which is more than can be said for his many predecessors. Still, we’re all really apprehensive about this project for a reason. Akira is intrinsically Japanese, a text rooted in the feelings of isolation and paranoia of post-war Japan. The whole dang point of it is in examining the inevitable rot at the heart of a world where future generations are stripped of all options. Sure, you could Americanize that. The notion of the youth of neglected urban communities revolting against a government that has left them aside is very universal. But when Hollywood says ‘universal’, it means ‘white.’ And nobody really trusts any major studio to let even the best filmmakers tackle Akira without reducing it to cool psychic kids on bikes. We saw what happened when Hollywood stripped other anime adaptations of their cultural context. Hello, Death Note and Ghost in the Shell.

Thor: Love and Thunder also showed a filmmaker in a rut. Waititi’s tightrope walk of pathos and humour felt more imbalanced than ever here, with key emotional moments landing with a clunk thanks to forcibly inserted gags and some of the wonkiest CGI the Marvel franchise has ever seen. This is a guy who works best on smaller scales. The basic blocking of Love and Thunder felt like first year film school failings. Waititi is a director with a youthful look at the world, one with an impish irreverence that worked when satirizing the shoddiness of Nazi propaganda. I’m not sure it fits with Akira in any way. That’s material you have to take 100% seriously.

Again, there’s still no guarantee this movie will ever happen. Even Kroll notes that the project still needs to go through the usual channels at Warner Bros. It’s just that Waititi is allegedly focused on making it happen right now. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be writing this exact piece in four years time once more, still quietly whispering ‘Tetsuoooooooo’ into the wind.