Is the live-action Akira dead, or is it not? That status has been a big question mark more than once in the past couple years as directors and screenwriters have tried to develop a new Americanized live-action version of the classic manga and anime by Katsuhiro Otomo.

Now we know that the new version is very much alive, as WB is looking to Jaume Collet-Serra, the director of Orphan and the Liam Neeson action thriller Unknown, to direct Akira.

Variety has the report, saying that the budget for the film has been pulled back to about $90m — that’s down considerably from what was looking like a $150m movie in its most recent incarnation when Albert Hughes was going to direct.

It sounds as if the latest script, by Harry Potter screenwriter Steve Kloves, is still in play. (Book of Eli writer Gary Whitta wrote an early draft, and Albert Torres and Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby also wrote drafts.) The film will still be set in New Manhattan, with Variety describing the story only as following “the leader of a biker gang who saves his friend from a medical experiment.” So that’s all info that hasn’t changed in the past month or two.

And still we have zip for casting info. That will still be one of the big points of concern and curiosity for many. Based on what we know, be prepared for actors who are (a) white and (b) older than the characters in either previous incarnation of the story. If you’re not ready to accept both of those points, best to just ignore this one altogether, at least until there is some footage to demonstrate how it all turned out.

Can we predict how it might turn out based on this directorial choice? Jaume Collet-Serra’s star is certainly rising, assisted by the fact that Orphan and Unknown both performed well, with the latter turning up $130 globally on a $30m budget. That sort of frugal performer makes studios happy, and if Jaume Collet-Serra can keep that profit proportion while tripling his Unknown budget for Akira, WB will do OK.

But will the story be in good hands? I like the idea of Steve Kloves scripting as he’s proved several times that he can really condense material well. But Collet-Serra didn’t quite manage the deeply silly aspects of Unknown. Enough of Akira has the potential to also look ridiculous on screen that the wisdom of this choice will have to be proven as the project moves forward.

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