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How the live action Akira movie turned into a monster


The promise of an eventual live action Akira adaptation has been ongoing for over 15 years.

That seems crazy, but it’s 100% true. Akira is not only one of the most iconic anime movies ever made, it’s one of the first anime movies to get an international cult following. In 2002, Warner Bros. swept up theĀ Akira license to presumably make a quick buck off a live action adaptation. Yet in a hilarious twist of fate, there’s been nothing quick about this theoretical film. Even so, despite all this time, the promise of an Akira film has not only lived on, but arguably shines brighter now than it ever has.

The question is, can we actually count on a live action Akira one day coming out? While we wouldn’t necessarily say no, we do think your expectations should be tempered with a few grains of salt.


This Fan Trailer is the closest thing we have so far.

Since it’d be too exhausting to go over the complete history of Akira adaptations, let’s just get the highlights.

Warner Bros.’ first crack at Akira had Stephen Norrington directing and James Robinson writing. You may remember these two from their work on 2003’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which itself was an adaptation of Alan Moore’s comic book of the same name. After the aforementioned movie failed at the box office, Akira was promptly put on hold. This was the first step into the live action Akira’s decent into madness.

The movie came back into the spotlight again in 2008 as a planned duology that would release in 2009. But once 2009 rolled around, Akira‘s then-director left the project and was replaced by the Hughes Brothers. However, after a supposed script of the movie leaked in 2011 to extremely heavy criticism from fans, Albert Hughes announced he was leaving the movie. The other Hughes brother, Allen Hughes, had already left the project prior to the leaks.

Akira Tetsuo

From there, numerous big names have been allegedly attached to the project, including George Miller and Christopher Nolan. However, by 2015, word was that no progress had been made on the film. This can presumably be interpreted as “we have nothing.”

Which brings us to the present day. Taika Waititi, most notably known for directing Thor: Ragnarok, has stepped up to the plate to direct the film. Though this news broke in 2017, we didn’t get any real information until Waititi spoke about the film again in 2018. According to him, he plans to base the live action adaptation around the manga instead of the movie. We’ve yet to hear anything else, though Akira’s original writer and director still needs to sign off on the project.

Akira

So, does this mean we might finally be getting close to seeing a live action Akira?

On one hand, it’s almost a good thing that an Akira adaptation has taken so long to come to fruition. When we look at all these early attempts at the project, we can see deliberate attempts to “westernize” the story that probably would have alienated fans. As it is, the alleged leaked script was panned for whitewashing the cast and clumsily making allusions to American history. Now that comic book movies are consistent blockbusters and anime movies might be following suit, it only makes sense that Akira would get a lot more love now than it would have before.

On the other hand, we still don’t know anything about the movie. While we shouldn’t expect to hear anything for a while, it’s certainly premature to get hyped at this stage. It’s amazing that Waititi wants to adapt the manga and not the movie, but that’s also a massive challenge. Heck, Otomo cut most of the last half of the manga from the movie, and he’s the guy who wrote it! Waititi has a lot on his plate with this approach, and we can only hope Warner Bros. doesn’t just want to cash out a rushed project after letting this license falter for so long.

Akira

In short, we probably will get a live action Akira eventually. It’d be great if it’s Waititi’s version, but it’s too early to say for sure. Maybe if we’re lucky we’ll see a trailer by 2021, but at this rate, I’d consider even that a miracle.

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Written by TimM
Tim is a video game aficionado who is fascinated by pop culture. He built his first collection in 1999 by catching all 151 monsters in Pokemon Red, and he hasn't stopped collecting since. His work has been featured multiple times on Destructoid.com.