Could EDGE OF TOMORROW Help AKIRA And GHOST IN THE SHELL Adaptations Become Better Movies?

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Edge of Tomorrow had it’s trailer released yesterday and it’s overwhelming positive reactions leads me to believe this could start something big. We’ve seen Batman start the comic book craze and Blade/X-Men launch the Marvel brand, could we see Hollywood start going for broke with major anime and manga adaptations? Some pretty lousy entries in the genre include Dragonball and Blood: The Last Vampire, but it’s possible that this upcoming release based on the manga All You Need Is Kill could change all that.

Studios are now fighting to develop movies based on video games, I assume that once that bubble is over we’ll see a massive influx of Hollywood movies based on manga and anime. There are currently a few projects in the works that could seriously take notes from this film, while others might never get made (such as Ninja Scroll and Battle Angel: Alita). Akira and Ghost In The Shell have been the two crowning jewels of the genre and have live-action films already in development (I’m not discounting Robotech). It’s possible that they could be influenced for the better by this release. I’ve run down the two project’s production history and what could happen to make them even better in my opinion by taking cues from Tomorrow.

Akira

AKIRA: Warner Bros. put themselves into some controversy when they decided to make massive creative changes to their live-action adaptation of Akira. They meant well, but were trying to relocate the film from it’s original Neo Tokyo setting to Neo Manhattan, a change that would take a punch out of the original concept. There is a lot of nuclear holocaust themes infused into the Japanese pop culture post-WWII, we see this with Godzilla being a fictional representation of the destructive power of the atom bomb, creating such a monster (or monsters within us) that is able to level entire cities, Akira has similar themes running within it (uncontrollable military power). Setting the film in New York removes that aspect and waters-down the original ideas behind the story. A majority of the concept art used a lot of Japanese influence and when some of it was leaked it confirmed the movie was aiming to be set in Manhattan. The rumor was, in the film Japan buys the island of Manhattan from the U.S. government after a disaster (because using 911 is a better way in for American audiences?) and turns it into a Japanese state. It was a tricky way of not having to shoot in Japan and limiting the amount of Asian cast members.

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It seemed like the studio’s plan was whitewash a majority of the cast of the film, this opinion was later supported when various sources linked actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception, Wolf of Wall Street, The Departed), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Don Jon, Inception, Looper, The Dark Knight Rises), Garrett Hedlund (On The Road, Tron Legacy, Troy), Joaquin Phoenix (Her, Gladiator, Inherent Vice), Andrew Garfield (The Social Network, Red Riding Trilogy, Amazing Spider-Man franchise), James McAvoy (Welcome To The Punch, Filth, X-Men Days of Future Past, Wanted), Michael Fassbender (Assassin’s Creed, X-Men Days of Future Past, 12 Years A Slave), Chris Pine (Jack Ryan, Star Trek franchise), Zac Efron, James Franco (Homefront, This Is The End, Spider-Man Trilogy), Mila Kunis (Black Swan, Jupiter Ascending), Justin Timberlake (The Social Network), Robert Pattenson, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman (Robocop, Dawn of The Planet of The Apes, Dark Knight Trilogy), Helena Bonham Carter (Terminator Salvation, The Kings Speech, Harry Potter franchise, Lone Ranger), Alden Ehrenreich, Michael Pitt (Bully, Boardwalk Empire), Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood, Looper, Prisoners), D.J. Cotrona (G.I. Joe: Retaliation), Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus), Toby Kebbell (RockNRolla, Wrath of The Titans, Dawn of The Planet of The Apes), Richard Madden (Game of Thrones, Cinderella), Rami Malek, Dane DeHaan (Chronicle, Lawless, Amazing Spider-Man 2), Ezra Miller, Kristen Stewart and Keira Knightley (Pirates of The Caribbean 1-3) for roles in Akira. While a majority of these names are stellar actors they give the impression they were only give lip-service to it’s Japanese source material. After this bit of controversy we saw names like Keanu Reeves (47 Ronin, Matrix franchise) and Ken Watanabe (Last Samurai, Inception, Godzilla) linked to the movie.

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Our favorite Star Trek helmsman turned Captain George Takei voiced his concern about the casting ignoring Japanese talent. I had to agree with him at the time since we did see Warner Bros. Japan producing awesome films such as Outrage and Outrage: Beyond, actors like Ryô Kase (who can speak perfect English) could have made solid casting choices when this was first being put together. Kase co-starred with studio darling Ken Watanabe (linked for a supporting role in Akira) in Clint Eastwood’s Letters From Iwo Jima (a WB production), Ken taking roles in other big studio pictures including Last Samurai (earning him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination) Godzilla, Inception, Batman Begins and Warner Bros. Japan’s remake of Eastwood’s own Unforgiven.

We’ve seen Fox take a rather large risk to appease fans with The Wolverine, placing Logan in a Japanese setting surrounded by mostly Japanese actors which is canon to the Frank Miller/Chris Claremont comics it was inspired by. They wanted to adhere to their promise to shoot in Japan, when the tsunami hit they delayed production and still shot exteriors in the country, rather than running back to Australian sound stages and creating mock-ups of Japanese streets. I have to hand it to Fox, that took a lot of guts and their domestic box office might have suffered from that choice but fans like myself took notice, and it still managed to become the second highest grossing X-Men film worldwide to date. Warner Bros. isn’t dumb, they have close connections with Japanese filmmakers, crew and actors, you’d think it’s Chief Executive Officer Kevin Tsujihara would be willing to tweak this aspect in the future, since he’s calling the shots at the studio currently.

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Edge of Tomorrow (also a WB production) was entirely shot outside of the U.S. and it’s UK production has given the film a unique look, similar to Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men or Neill Blomkamp’s District 9, taking place in “exotic” locations you normally wouldn’t attribute to the genre. The worst thing a science fiction project can do is look like ones before it, shaking things up is how to make an impact. We really haven’t seen studios take advantage of this on a regular basis and they wonder why most science fiction films aren’t embraced. I’m not too focused on WB making this an R-rated film because it could actually use a little restraint on nudity or gore. Most PG-13 films allow the level of violence you’d expect from an adaptation like this anyways, with smart camera angles and bloodless squibs, then again I wouldn’t be mind it being R-rated as well.

Akira‘s development has been an odd one. Last Days On Mars director Ruairí Robinson was originally set to direct with a script from Gary Whitta, even before him writer-director Stephen Norrington (Blade, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) showed interest. Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way was set to produce which lead to rumors he was interested in a role. Directing siblings Allen and Albert Hughes (From Hell, Book of Eli, Dead Presidents) were in talks to direct when Robinson exited the film, Albert Hughes (Motor City) would eventually sign-on and also leave over creative differences. Apparently, the idea was to turn the manga books into a trilogy of films and would have cost a lot, we would see the film’s budget eventually become a sticking point with the studio. Writer Max Brooks and director Josh Trank would eventually make their own science fiction film Chronicle, seeming inspired by Akira and their budget ended up being $12 million.

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Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) would be the next director to attach themselves, Steve Kloves (Amazing Spider-Man, Harry Potter films) and Jonathan Nolan (Memento, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Interstellar, The Prestige) were later asked to help with script re-writes, it’s unknown how much of their contributions were used for the currently incarnation of the script. Director Jaume said during this year he was hopeful production would begin sometime in 2014, he was shooting Non-Stop and Run All Night is about to be shot as well, a cast for Akira has yet to be officially announced but will likely be criticized again.

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Above is some of the leaked concept art from the film and was dug up by the folks at io9 .You can clearly see they did try to keep the “look” from the anime and manga intact, even though this is taking place in Manhattan. I actually think this artwork is great and they had something special in the works, let’s just hope they’ve heard our concerns and take a few pages from Edge of Tomorrow.

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GHOST IN THE SHELL: Dreamworks and Steven Spielberg obtained the film rights to make a live-action 3D film based on the Ghost In The Shell franchise back in 2008. Producer Avi Arad who has been mostly involved with Marvel productions was also attached, he is recently working on the expanding the Amazing Spider-Man universe and got the rights to make a Metal Gear Solid film for Sony. Originally, screenwriter Jamie Moss was developing a script but would later be replaced by Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island). She is best known for co-writing Avatar, Battle Angel: Alita and Terminator: Genesis. Laeta confirmed to MoviesOnline that the film would be based on the manga and not the anime or series.

“..a lot of action”, however “there’s still going to be a lot of atmosphere – [The movie] is about vast possibilities – all of this technology, the Internet – it’s about the limitless possibilities of this technology.”

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A director hasn’t been named but Spielberg has a love for the genre and I don’t doubt was considering making it himself when he originally gained the rights. Steven recently attached himself to direct Robopocalypse, it was going to shoot last summer with Chris Hemsworth (Thor, Avengers, Rush) and Anne Hathaway (Dark Knight Rises) in the leads, however the production was put on hold. Disney could make more Indiana Jones films, owning Lucasfilm and recently purchasing the distribution rights from Universal. Mr. Spielberg would likely be heavily involved with new Indy films and is expected to pickup production on Robopocalypse soon. This only adds to problem that we haven’t heard any movement on the project in years, and if it’s going to actually happen it needs a director.

I wouldn’t be much of a stickler with the location of this film, because like Edge of Tomorrow it’s more open to the concept of many different locations, but having it set in Japan could still be compelling since it’s science fiction elements are very different from Akira. I do however, believe it’s ultra violence should be kept in, as the source material lends itself to becoming of a science fiction movie on the level of RobocopTotal Recall, Aliens and The Matrix.

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Unlike Akira, Shell hasn’t had really names attached for casting. I know a lot of people (including a few of us here are at UnleashTheFanboy) were upset that Haywire‘s Gina Carano (Fast And Furious 6, Expendabelles) didn’t make the cut to play Wonder Woman in Batman Vs Superman, but I’d imagine she’d be perfect casting to play Major Kusanagi. We’ve seen Jennifer Lawrence prove a female-driven action film like Hunger Games and Catching Fire can be successful (Alien and Terminator franchises before that). Something that we’ll likely see again in Edge of Tomorrow, as Emily Blunt is the badass character here and is trying to turn a lemming Tom Cruise into a solider on her level of awesomeness. The Major is arguably the most influential female character in manga and anime, helping to inspire iconic characters such as The Matrix‘s Trinity and you would be shocked how much Ghost In The Shell has influenced that franchise. Having the main protagonist be a strong female character like The Major is a must, if they go the Batou route that could cause some serious problems with fans.

Do you think (if successful) Edge of Tomorrow will launch a Hollywood craze to adapt more films from manga and anime sources for major releases? Or do you think that studios should just leave these projects alone and focus more on original concepts? Leave your comments below!

 

 

Author
  • A fan

    Casting none Asians to play Asians is not only insulting but also a little racist. Why is it that no one ever names Asians to play the roles of Asian characters? Do you not want to see these movie adaptations receive the respect they deserve?

  • Venom

    Gina Carano would “be perfect casting to play Major Kusanagi”??!! Are you seriously this stupid? Major Kusanagi is, what’s that word again, oh yeah: JAPANESE.

  • SnapIntoASlimJim

    The person who wrote this article needs to do better research. To begin, “All You Need Is Kill” is a novel not a manga. A manga adaptation has started to be published recently as well as an American graphic novel adaptation which was also just recently released. However, “All You Need Is Kill” is a sci-fi novel.

    Furthermore, nowhere in this article does the author bother to mention the whitewashing of the main character of the story who went from a Japanese guy in his 20s to Tom Cruise which further puts that glass ceiling that the racist Hollywood producers put to not allow people of color to rise up the ranks in Hollywood. If “Edge Of Tomorrow” is successful it would be a tragedy since it will justify future whitewashing projects. What’s strange about this author is that he mentions the problem with casting white actors in Asian roles in Akira but then goes on to suggest a white actress to play a Japanese character in Ghost In The Shell?? It’s almost as if two separate people wrote this one article!

    At the same time this is going on, we have the unfortunate Street Fighter webseries which also continues the whitewashing tradition by taking the character of Ken Masters, who is mostly of Japanese ancestry, and changing his ethnicity to completely white by having some white actor in a laughable wig play him. If that is successful it will also set a very erroneous model for that myth by making people think Ken is white when in reality he is of mostly Japanese ancestry.

  • poet and dog

    As drawn strips, they are already in their finest form.

    Even the animated Akira movie is nothing but a gateway drug for the hefty manga.

    Stand Alone Complex, on the other hand, is an example of an anime that does justice to its manga – partly because it has room to breathe as a series.

    If anything, Akira & Ghost in the Shell deserve a long-form medium to fully express themselves & their worlds –

    a video game from either Kojima Productions (Metal Gear) or Eidos Montreal (Deus Ex) would be ideal.

    Really though, ask yourself, how badly do you want to see the colourless, intellectually-compromised 2hr long Americanizations?