Taika Waititi’s “Akira” Movie Idea Actually Sounds Like it Might Work

Matthew Loffhagen
Taika Waititi
(Photo: Taika Waititi)

Taika Waititi is the man of the hour. “Thor: Ragnarok” has made the New Zealand-born director the toast of Hollywood, and he’s now pretty much able to do what he likes.

What he wants to do next (apart from pretending to be imaginary Hitler) is to remake popular Japanese anime “Akira”. On paper, this sounds like a pretty terrible idea.

Hollywood isn’t particularly good at adapting anime into live action movies.

Last year saw “Ghost in the Shell” and “Death Note”, neither of which really wowed audiences. The trend of lackluster adaptations goes back decades, as anyone who remembers “Dragon Ball Evolution” can attest.

When it was first announced that Waititi would be trying to turn “Akira” into a live action Hollywood blockbuster, I can’t say I was optimistic. The director simply doesn’t feel right for the project – his bright, colorful, comedic style is at odds with the somber, angsty vibe of the original anime.

It does seem, though, that if Waititi is going to go ahead with this plan, he’s at least thinking of ways to do the story justice.

Said Waititi:

“I haven’t really started to get my head around it yet. What I wanted to do was an adaptation of the books, ’cos a lot of people are like, ‘Don’t touch that film!’ and I’m like, ‘I’m not remaking the film, I want to go back to the book.’ A lot of the people freaking out haven’t even read the books, and there are six gigantic books to go through. It’s so rich. But (the anime) Akira is one of my favourite films; my mum took me to see it when I was 13 and it changed my life.”

First off, it doesn’t sound like this is a project that Waititi has put a lot of thought into yet, which is good. Perhaps he’ll ultimately decide to pass it on to someone else, or it won’t ever materialize, like Peter Jackson’s “Halo” movie.

Akira Gun
Source: Toho

The idea of taking things back to the manga feels like a wise decision. With the anime, many audiences are so familiar with the story that any changes would feel out of place, so creating an adaptation that’s more based on the comics than the cartoons would ideally inject enough of a varied tone to the piece in order to help it feel unique.

Even so, the big challenge that Waititi faces is making something that’s not filled with jokes, and honestly, at this point in his career, I can’t say that I’m eager for something that’s super serious, but then, perhaps he needs to go in this route for his own development.

Considering how well Waititi can manage character drama, I think that he should be able to tackle a serious subject matter – I’m just concerned that studio executives might look at his work on this and grumble that it doesn’t look enough like “Ragnarok”.

Nevertheless, I’m going to allow “Akira” the benefit of the doubt for now. I can’t say I’m convinced that it’ll be any better than any other Hollywood remake of a popular anime, but at least Taika Waititi’s strategy here seems logical.