​Why There's No Goddamn Point In Ever Making An American Akira Movie

Greetings, letter-writers of the past! I'm doing pretty well, myself. I found this new village where they have some local lottery. I assume they don't give out cash, since society has fallen and all, but I entered it,hoping for some good prizes. We all drew slips this morning, and mine had a black dot...

I think that means I've won, because it seems like everyone else in the village is being forced to gather stones and rocks for some reason. Maybe I've won a bunch of rocks? Man, I hope there's more to this lottery than that. Anyways, on with your letters!


KANEEEDDDDAAAAAAAAAA

Spiff:

Dear Mr. Postman,

I hope this correspondence finds you well, with mental faculties unbitten and all limbs accounted for.

My question is concerning the much-lamented, currently postponed attempt at adapting the property "Akira" into an American-made live action film. I, as well as pretty much everybody who was invested in the news trickling out about this project, am glad it did not proceed forward. It would have been a mediocre clusterfuck, and it seemed stripped of everything that made it creepy and special. BUT, I still have faith that this can be course-corrected if certain parameters are met.

1) The basic setting will change from Neo-Tokyo to Neo-insert-major-American-city-here (most likely Neo-New York) Why? Because most Americans aren't Japanese, and they're frame of reference will have to be readjusted to better suit the audience. Do I consider this blasphemy towards the original(s)? No. The story to me is about alienation, a need for acceptance, and a general feeling of hopelessness in a society that has grown up in atrophy. As long as the city looks alive and futuristic, but imposing and uncaring, it should work just fine.

2) The cast will be mostly composed of known actors, most of which will probably be white. My feelings on this are admittedly mixed, but I also understand the reason behind this. If Akira is adapted, yet given the respect it deserves, it will have an outlandish budget. With all the visuals needed, including futuristic city shots involving a 3D cityscape, other CGI FX like shattering glass and debris flying everywhere, explosions, and giant frickin' lasers being fired, practical FX like the bikes, military hardware, prosthetic makeup and workable sets for cast and crew, they aren't going to cast a bunch of no-names.

Those are my thoughts on the matter. Do you consider them incorrect? Should it be a strict translation, keeping as much of the original intact to the possible detriment of the film, or do you believe in flexibility when adapting a foreign property into a new medium to better suit the intended audience? I still have so much faith that this project could be a super huge phenomenon if they hit all the bases correctly.

My Best Regards (and hope you aren't slowly mutating into some Lovecraftian horror-beast)!

I understand your points, but I disagree with you, and here's why: I think Akira is one of those works to intrinsically tied to the place and time it was created — i.e., '80s Tokyo — that transposing it in any fashion loses something. Akira was set in 2019, but it was made in response to the increasingly soulless bureaucracy of modern Japanese society and the disaffected youth culture that arose in retaliation. When we read the Akira comic or watch the movie, we can feel the power of that relationship to its origin, that energy and passion, no matter what country we're from, or when we read it.

Any adaptation — in medium, setting, whatever — lessens the power of the original. Could America make a good live-action version of Akira in 2015? Yes. Would it at all be as good as the original movie or manga? No chance at all. It's a lot like Watchmen, actually. Watchmen was a response to similar '80s dystopian fears but was also completely informed by the last half-century of the comics' medium. Now, I'm one of the people who like the live-action Watchmen movie, and think it's probably about the best adaptation we could have gotten. But there is nothing it adds to the original comic, and I can't imagine a live-action Akira movie adding anything to its source material either.

I say all this as an answer to you question of whether it's better for an adaptation to be accurate or flexible, because I think for truly great works it doesn't matter. I think you're correct in that accuracy to the source material often means limiting the potential audience — e.g., setting the movie in Neo-Tokyo with Asian actors — while flexibility — e,g. setting it in Neo-Chicago or whatever the hell they were planning with Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Kaneda (renamed Ken, natch) — means increasing the audience, while pissing off fans of the source material. Is it better to be accurate or get as many people into experience Akira as possible? It's kind of a wash for me, especially because either way you go, you're still not going to improve upon the original.


New Avengers

Isaac M.:

1. How do you think Marvel will handle losing Hemsworth, Downey Jr. and Evans? I can't imagine the Marvel Cinematic Universe getting a complete reboot so their only options are to recast or let the universe continue without them. The groundwork is already laid for different characters to hold the Captain America shield or wear the Iron Man armor. It would be exciting to watch the universe age and evolve in ways that have never been possible in the comics. What if Steve Rogers dies and stays dead? What if Tony Stack retires from active duty and makes Iron Man suits for other heroes and finances The Avengers?

2. Does the lineup of an Avengers movie matter anymore? Is the brand and trust strong enough to work without Tony Stack, Steve Rogers, and Thor? Could Avengers 4 work with a lineup of Star Lord, Gamara (if Guardians is a hit), War Machine, Falcon, Ant Man, Doctor Strange, Bucky Barnes as Captain America, and The Hulk (with whatever actor they want)? I think dropping and adding characters that come and go between each Avengers movie would keep the universe fresh.

1) The drawback — or, for me, the benefit — of making one cinematic universe is that Marvel can't reboot one series without rebooting them all, and in doing so basically making everything that's come before meaningless. Like the universe of the comics, it's far better and more effective for them to keep building on what's come before — so after Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet or whatever the hell is happening in Avengers 3, we'll move on to a new major threat like the Masters of Evil, and then Secret Wars (note: in my dreams).

The more Marvel continues to build its cinematic universe and tie its movies together, the more it stands to lose by a reboot. Which is why I think most if not all the heroes will simply be recast rather than retired, supplanted, killed in action, etc. Organically introducing a new replacement every time an actor nears the end of his/her contract is an unsustainable practice — and it's not one that works with every character? Who the hell is supposed to replace Thor? Beta Ray Bill? Thunderstrike? And what about Hawkeye? Why would they waste the time trying to explain someone else taking his name as opposed to just hiring a new actor to play the role of Clint Barton? Don Cheadle is a great War Machine, and he could definitely have a spin-off movie. But do you think he can shoulder the entire Iron Man franchise after Robert Downey Jr. leaves? I don't think so. They have to recast and keep moving on. It's like when a new writer/artist team comes aboard a comic — the character may look different and act different, but he's still the same character.

2) Yes and no. One of the Avengers' greatest strengths — both as a team and a franchise — is that it can include pretty much any hero Marvel has the rights to. They can show up, and drop out as needed, and any heroes Marvel introduces in stage 3 can certainly join the Avengers in later films.

But Iron Man, Captain America and Thor are the triumvirate behind the Avengers, and I can see mass audiences looking askance on an Avengers film that didn't star at least two of these three major heroes. And if I can see it, I imagine Marvel can see it and is petrified by the idea. I doubt they'll risk making audiences feel even slightly uncomfortable, and make sure Cap, Thor, Iron Man and to a lesser extent the Hulk are always part of the Avengers movies. But all the other spots on the Avengers roster will likely be up for grabs each and every movie. It'll help keep things fresh, and it will probably be used to bring a few more characters into the Cinematic Universe as well.


Book Learning

Brad:

I have a friend who, any time there's a movie or TV show based on a book he had been interested in but hadn't read yet, he waits until after he's finished all the movies/show before reading the book. For example, he held off on Lord of the Rings until 2004 so he could see the films first, and he's waiting out Game of Thrones until the show is done in a few years. His logic is that if he does it in this order, instead of being disappointed by all the changes from the book, he just enjoys the movies and then when he finally reads the book it's even better.

...anyway, my question is - is he a genius?

No, but it's a practice that obviously has its advantages. I used to do the same thing for the same reason; I was also one of those guys who refused to start series until they were finished, mainly so I wouldn't get stuck in another Wheel of Time situation of waiting years and years for a slow trickle of sequels. I ended up having to stop, and you know why? Because I found myself reading crap because I wouldn't let myself read the books I actually wanted to read.

Life is short. Why deny yourself the pleasure of reading a good book, no matter what the circumstances? What if your friend gets hit by a clown car tomorrow? Does he really want to have died, covered in blood and clown make-up, without the pleasure of reading some masterpieces of fantasy literature like Lord of the Rings?

I can also say this: Having read the Game of Thrones books beforehand has not dampened my enthusiasm for the TV show one iota. Some things the books did better, a few things the show is doing better, and both are immensely enjoyable.

Admittedly, I don't know if this is something that's changed in me, where I am no longer quite as critical as I used to be (an idea which I'm sure is hilarious to some of you), and more open to seeing the qualities of adaptations on their own merits. Or maybe it's that adaptations have gotten better, more accurate, more true to the originals. Maybe it's both.

All I know is that I no longer stop myself from reading or watching what I want to watch, and I think I'm a happier dude because of it. Your friend's mileage may vary.


Do You Believe In Magic

Martin:

Hello Postman:

Do you see any chance for a movie or tv-show Magic: the Gathering related? There are so many awesome books and short stories in the multiverse... Even the comics were great (well, I was little and everything was great). Ofc, not talking about a show where they play the game like they did with yugioh (who am I kidding, I'd totally watch that and complain about the characters bad deck building skills).

But really... All the classic elements are available plus some really bizzar optional stuff. It takes literally nothing to explain to an audience where "X comes from and why he can use power Y" or to implement a new idea (etc) to a scene. No limits. And all that without making it weird or overcomplicating it.

After aeons of hot and cold war, magical guilds in a planetsized steampunk city have to unite against godlike entities invading their universe to devour everything in their way. Add some heroes, some hot chick, blood and gore and crazy language, a huge gamechanging betrayal followed by hopelesness then save the day ("aether-portal-pull them to Zendikar, have the Planeswalkers seal them back inside the Eye of Ugin, then we see an old wise guy chuckle and a breathtaking sunrise over Ravnica").

There you go WotC, you may use that. And thats only loosely based on like 3 planes. There are hundreds. So what do you think? Magic movie, go or no?

The answer is technically yes — someone can make a Magic: the Gathering movie pretty easily if they wanted to — but I'm pretty sure no one wants to. You're not wrong about M:tG having all the necessary elements for an epic fantasy, but alas, if storytelling potential had anything to do with what movies got made the entertainment world would be a very different place.

Now, you may argue that Magic is no different from Warcraft, which is currently being filmed with a budget of a zillion dollars and is poised to become a major fantasy movie franchise. But remember, Hollywood does not perceive reality as normal people do. We know that Magic and Warcraft have a ton in common, especially in terms of their accompanying stories. But Hollywood sees things by who owns them. Warcraft is owned by a videogame company, and thus Warcraft is a videogame movie. Videogames are hot! Lots of videogame movies are being made!

But Magic: The Gathering is owned by Hasbro… specifically the same part of Hasbro that owns Dungeons & Dragons. The D&D movie was a bust! The Magic movie would also be a bust! Also, Magic is a game, and the last game movie was Battleship, which was also a disaster! Everyone stay the hell away from Magic: The Gathering!

It may happen eventually, and maybe Warcraft will be so big that there's a major scramble for fantasy franchises and some desperate studio decides to take a chance on Magic. But I wouldn't tap your Ornithopter any time soon.


Sound Effect

Connor W.:

Why are all Transformers fans obsessed with Soundwave? He was a tape player. You think he'd he be the first one fans would stop caring about, but no, everyone loves him. He keeps getting added to al the cartoon s and even the movie, and he's never been cool in any of them. What is the deal?!

As someone whose Transformer fandom is based almost exclusively on Soundwave — he is the only Transformer figure I own — I am uniquely qualified to answer this question.

1) He is a boom box. Now, this makes no sense to anyone born after 1983 or so, but boom boxes were once cool, and that time period coincided specifically when Soundwave first came out.

2) He was pretty much the best looking Transformer. His robot mode was pretty cool and looked pretty close to how he did in the cartoon, where as pretty much every other Transformer was a pale imitation of their animated selves.

3) HE HAD TINY ROBOTS INSIDE HIM. And I'm not just talking regular tiny robots, but a robot jaguar and a robot hawk and more. That was all super, super cool.

4) Soundwave was the smartest, coolest Decepticon by a country mile. While Megatron had some overelaborate, ridiculous plan, and Starscream needlessly schemed and the other Decepticons were basically idiots, Soundwave got his shit done and got it done right.

5) And last but not least is that Soundwave in his transformed mode looked closest to what it was supposed to represent. Yes, he was a tiny boombox, but a boombox that was reasonably close to an actual boombox's size. You couldn't mistake the other Transformers in their vehicle modes as anything other than toys; Siundwave could, kind of, be an actual robot in disguise. (Note: I know Megatron in his gun mode was even more accurately sized, but we all learned pretty quickly looking like you were holding a real pistol was a bad idea.)


Do you have questions about anything scifi, fantasy, superhero, or nerd-related? Email the postman@io9.com! No question too difficult, no question too dumb! Obviously!