One of my biggest pet peeves regarding Hollywood is not the tired “they have no new ideas” complaint, a complaint that is bolstered by dozens of films based on other movies, books, toys, and cartoons filling the cinemas. Mine is a broader concern that they have no regard for the fans when it comes to such adapted works. I don’t mind Hollywood remakes and sequels of stuff I enjoy, but what I don’t want to see is adaptation for the sake of itself, and missing the point of the source material.
A while back, Michael Bay summoned a veritable crap-storm of nerd rage when a script for his new Ninja Turtles film leaked to the masses. The story, characters, and general spirit of the original had been all scrapped in favor of something that was essentially the same plot of his Transformers franchise. Mr. Bay yelled at fans on Twitter, whined in interviews that he was misunderstood, pretended the script was fake, and eventually delayed the movie for some reason “totally not related to the backlash…seriously you guys.”
Luckily, it seems like the film is back on track, but the whole situation is almost baffling. Why would a film studio take something fairly popular amongst a very hardcore and vocal fan base and alter it to an unrecognizable state? Why not actually make a NEW franchise with nothing to do with an established franchise? It’s almost like this happens behind closed doors:
“Hey guys, thanks for meeting me here today! The purpose of this meeting is that I have a GREAT idea, no not an original one of course, (chuckles) that would be difficult and my head hurts from all that blow I did earlier! So here’s what’s gonna happen….We gonna take something that already exists and we remake it. This is cutting edge stuff guys, nobody has ever thought of re-doing classic films before!! Here’s the catch about us remaking it though, we don’t! (everyone in room gasps!) This is the clever part guys, we throw away everything that made the original popular! We change everything about it, because despite the popularity and reverence for the original we know better than the original creators. It’s a stroke of genius, I know.”
This attitude seems to plague all of Hollywood, a place that has increasingly replaced artistic vision for dollar signs. There’s no wonder most “talent” is flocking to television, as that format seems to have more freedom for just about everyone. That isn’t to say they aren’t without their issues as well. I remember reading about a San Diego Comic Con years ago where a group of execs slipped into a screening of the US remake of the popular UK science fiction drama Life on Mars, only to be horrified by the bad reception it was getting. Supposedly, they had no idea that the show had fans over here, and immediately re-shot the pilot with a new cast attempting to re-create the show exactly.
Japanese Anime and Manga seem to be the new hotbed for film licensing, and it has been pretty bleak. Executives seem to understand which are the popular franchises, but miss the entire point of why said franchises are popular. It’s like they assume that fans will see things based on name only, and will gladly accept massive changes to all aspects of a production. We thankfully dodged a Keanu Reeves Cowboy Bebop Film, a Zac Efron Full Metal Panic film, and even a Evangelion film that was supposed to be all action, and none of that pesky plot from the original. Sadly, we were “blessed” with atrocities such as the Fox Dragonball: Evolution film, so it hasn’t been perfect. Each time this happens, the possible directors of these franchises in the making, seem bewildered that there is so much outcry.
The property that I am the most worried about in regards to this situation happens to be Akira, one of my most beloved science fiction stories. I basically have Akira to thank for getting me into anime, because I was completely oblivious that there was an entire industry devoted to “cartoons” that weren’t necessarily meant for children. I’m not going to pretend I understood the film when I first watched it over at a friend’s house back in 1992, but the mix of violence, psychological storytelling, and amazing visuals simply blew me away. I eventually bought all of the manga, animation cells, and even action figures related to it.
For about ten years now I have been hearing about a possible “American remake” of Akira being in the works, but they never get off the ground. Fans flip out about proposed changes, and each one dies a quiet death shortly after. The newest version of this project seems to be one helmed by a director named Jaume Collett-Serra. This name may be familiar because he’s been talking this project up for years now, and it seems perpetually stalled because he feels that he needs to drastically alter everything about it. In an interview with Coming Soon, the would be director had the following to say:
“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.
Yeah. 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.”
So there you have it, get ready for the American Akira that nobody wants!