Posted on Tuesday, March 1st, 2011 by Russ Fischer
We know that Warner Bros. is aggressively moving forward on a live-action adaptation of Katsuhiro Otomo‘s classic manga Akira. Albert Hughes will direct the film from a script that has passed through the hands of several screenwriters, most recently landing on the desk of Harry Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves. He’ll rewrite and then casting can get underway in earnest. (There have been many casting rumblings already, and we don’t know if this rewrite is motivated by failed attempts to land big names, as has been suggested.)
Meanwhile, a few pages from an earlier draft have been sent out to casting agencies, and have also ended up on the web. Hardcore Akira fans will liekyl find the contents to be a mixed bag.
io9 got the pages, and later verified that, yes, they are from an early Akira draft, but that “the version of the script that Kloves is rewriting is reportedly a lot different, although it’s possible that some of these ideas still remain.”
So think positive. There is some bad stuff here, but also the very good possibility that it has all hit the wastebin; with luck these pages went out to casting agencies just to get across the idea of the world and the characters.
Speaking of characters, let’s start with hero Kaneda and his childhood friend Tetsuo, who in the original Manga and anime becomes tremendously powerful when his latent psychic powers are activated. In these pages, Kaneda and Tetsuo are brothers, which is a big change. It puts the film sort of in line with the classic western priest/outlaw fraternal split. It’s not the most unworkable change, but it is one that doesn’t make much sense — why make such a fundamental change in the characters right off the bat?
Kaneda meets the cute revolutionary Ky (Kei/Kay in the Manga/anime) but in this version she knows a lot more right off the bat than she did in previous versions, as she explains some of the story of the psychic ‘children’ that help awaken Tetsuo’s powers, and tells Kaneda of the experiments done on the massively psychic child Akira.
But the upside is that, in this draft at least, the drugs that played a big part in Kaneda’s gang seem to have a prominent role. Tetsuo is seen scarfing pills to control his pain and powers, for instant. (As was seen in the manga.) Now, if this WB production ends up being PG-13 as we’ve been assured, then the drug references could quickly go by the wayside.
The biggest downfall with the pages io9 read is that they are heavy on clunky exposition. But let’s be frank: so was the anime. While that version of Akira is brought to life with wildly beautiful animation, the script is leaden. That’s the massive hurdle faced by any adaptation of the material. A great deal of condensing has to be done, but even then there is a deep backstory to communicate. I’m afraid that any version of the story will be heavy on the exposition, but perhaps Steve Kloves will be able to streamline it to some degree, so the dialogue at least flows.