Nov 042011

I wrote earlier about the knee-jerk reactions regarding the non-asian casting for the upcoming Hollywood remake of the anime classic Akira. Over at Merideth Woerner, and numerous commentators are apoplectic (has she/they actually ever even watched the original?)

Like her loathed Tron:Legacy, Akira was, and still is visually arresting but overall both films fail on a number of levels including unlikeable characters, non-existant character development and a reliance on exposition and over the top performances. And while Tron:Legacy’s primary failings were it’s underdeveloped script and bland direction, Akira was overstuffed to the point of incoherence (given the simplicity of it’s plot progression.) and bad dialog.

Garrett was no more responsible for the failures of T:L than Christiansen and Portman were in the Star Wars Prequels. Many people discount the value of a good director. For example many the actors in Tarantino films are better known for their cheeseball performances (Travolta, Darryl Hannah, David Carradine) than decent. Cronic uncharismatic mumbler Viggo Mortenson (have you seen this guy in interviews?!) has put in starring roles under Cronenberg and Jackson. Even Stallone was able to shine under decent direction.

And given that we’re getting the director of House of Wax and Orphan, that fact is magnitudes more worrisome. At least they are working on gettingadmittedly director-proof actors like Gary Oldman and Helena Bohnam Carter, but there aren’t a hell of a lot of bankable young stars in the age group, are there (what did you want, Pattison?)

But serously, it’s as though fans out there consider Akira the high water mark of anime (which it isn’t, except for perhaps, the debris animation). We aren’t talking about Shakespeare here, or Kurasawa or Miyazaki. And Garret’s role, that of Keneada, is hardly an anime Hamlet. He’s an immature streetpunk who is a gapemouthed jerk over the course of the original film who barely survives (mostly by luck, not character or intelligence.)

Again, the background of the story is the only things that’s truly compelling there, Keneada and Tetsuo, hardly. A relativelycompetentdirector/screenwriter could improve on the original script easily, or at least put out a pretty and passable product like Snyder’s Watchmen (whose budget was comparable to that proposed for Akira.)

Get a grip people.

Oct 272011

Yes apparently, on the even of season 3 of the popular BBC series, Mifits creator Howard Overman is working with Josh Schwartz (Chuck) on an adaptation of his groundbreaking show. While the show is popular and Schwartz has been successful, adapting UK shows, especially UK genres shows has been pretty disappointing over the years. On the plus side here, the two are adapting outside of network channels, and will be shopping the adapted script after it is completed. Another plus is there are actually networks where an American Misfits could thrive and still offer a similar degree of perverse humor that makes Misfits what it is.

The best places would clearly be either AMC (home to the likes of Breaking Bad) and HBO (True Blood) and perhaps STARZ (Spartacus) which already have shows which offer edgy material. MTV, with its current foray into scripted genre drama, most notably Death Valley, might be a possibility (although their adaptation of Skins was an embarassing failure.) Unfortunately SYFY and regular networks would likely eliminate most of the edgy content, and therefore would likely wreck any chance for a decent adaptation.

But if it’s able to retain it’s perverse humor and attitude, an American Misfits could be half-decent. And a half-decent British show is often the equivalent of a damn good American one.

Oct 212011

Apparently, after many years floating around in development hell, an American Live Action Akira movie has been greenlit for production starting in 2012. And apparently one of the key components of this is Tron: Legacy Lead Garrett Hedlund (who is considered the front runner to star). Now, there has been a great kerfluffle over the past couple of years about the planned production. A few loud voices complained that the cast would be white. Others complained that changes would be made to Kaneda’s iconic red motorcycle. Albert Hughes quit as director (to be replaced by Spanish director Jaume Collett-Sera. As far as I am concerned none of these complaints bear much weight in whether or not the film is likely to be any good.

And this is why:

Firstly, the complaints about casting. The setting has been moved to the US, and yes, it will have a cast reflective of the American demographic. What is wrong with that? Yes advocates like George Takei complained about “whitewashing”, and other suggest that the leads should be Asian-American. Why? Do Japanese directors cast Americans and Brits when they adapt iconic western stories and set them in Japan. Kurasawa’s Yojimbo and Throne of Blood are good examples here. He adapted Dashell Hammett and Shakespeare. And where were the complaints with the spate of remakes of Japanes Horror Films starting with The Ring. There were none. Not a peep. There was even some praise here and there. But then, the leads of those movies are typically female. The leads of Akira are mostly male. hmmm.

On the other hand, Infernal Affairs, the critically praised Hong Kong crime drama was ‘whitewashed’ into The Departed, Martin Scorcese’s Oscar winning movie. Where was George then? Or does this only matter when the source material is a cartoon or comic book?!(ie. the lambasting of The Last Airbender for it’s racial casting)

I does seem that only in the US do adaptations get attacked for appealing to the general adaptation of this kind. Ursula Le Guin castigated the SYFY network for ‘whitewashing’ Earthsea for their miniseries based on her novels. To be fair, the miniseries was terrible, but along with the hack job dumbing down of a script, she singled out the color and races of the actors playing the parts. On the other hand, she gave the Japanes a free ride on the similar job of racial homoganization done in the Studio Ghibli Legend of Earthsea movie, despite the fact that it was as guilty as the American adaptation was (and have their fair share of nasty racial issues, both historic and ongoing). It truly seems that only the US gets attacked for this sort of behaviour. No one complained when the East Timorese adapted the french film The Return of Martin De Guerre with a cast of Timorese. No one would complain if Bollywood adapted Shakespeare (actually I think most of their films are adaptations of Romeo and Juliet anways) or the Turkish Star Wars or likely if they made a version of Harry Potter in Nigeria with an all black cast.

So why not use American Demographics for a story that is taking place in Neo-Manhattan. Certainly there will be some color as there has been in most recent films. And the audience will be fine with it. As they have been with an African AmericanSgt. Fluffy Agent of S.C.H.M.U.C.KSgt. Fury Agent of Shield, or a Korean-American Boomer/Athena in Battlestar Galactica (where the original was an African American.)

And what does it matter if the red motorcycle doesn’t look the same as in the 80s Manga or Movie? It’s 2011. Should all remakes be placed in a timewarp?

What really should matter is if there is going to be a coherent script. The fact is the anime original is a structural mess. The plot is primarily backstory, and there is no character development to speak ofthroughoutthe film. What the film had going for it was stunning visuals. I would argue that they still stand up, but like Lynch’s Dune, anyone who wants to understand what is going on has to go back and read the manga source material. A great deal of the dialog that wasnt’ exposition amounted to characters screaming at each other:”Kaneda!” “Tetsuo!” “Akira!”and son on. Acquiringbigger weapons was used as shorthand for character growth. While the more recent dub improved things a little, it did also remove one of the only memorable lines from the original.

“Gentlemen,” the Colonel orders. “We’re going to the Olympics.”


To be fair, Hughes seeming need to insert his own style into the movie would probably have gotten in the way of a decent story. And Hedlund might make a decent lead if he is actually given something to do (acting wise). And with a hundred million dollars, it should look at least passable. And, yeah, there are questions about whether the source material will get any respect in the script. On the other hand, if you are using the the script for the original anime movie as your benchmark, then there’s as much room for improvement as there is for disaster. I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.