Wednesday, July 20, 2011

OK guys, site's back on an--oh what the Hell?

OK, guys. Looks like we can put the gear away, the project's finally ov--
Oh dammit, NOT AGAIN!

OK guys, it's time we had a little talk.

No, not that talk. I'm going to trust you all know that Santa Claus isn't real and that babies come from your parents doing things you don't want to think of your parents doing.

No, this is less one of those 'life changing talks' and more just a general discussion.

That's right, I'm taking time out of the oh-so-busy backlog of reviews (God, even in text the sarcasm here is palpable) to discuss a recent series of announcements regarding one particular film project. The film is not out yet, and at this point, we don't even know if it will be.  But for the path it's taken, I feel sounding off on it is in order.

Now then...chances are, by this point, many of you out there have, at least to some degree, been hearing word through the tubes about the proposed live-action adaptation of Katsuhiro Otomo's comic and concurrent cult hit movie Akira. The American version of the film has become a veritable who's who of people.  Mostly in the sense that they have been attached and then drifted away from the project.

Meanwhile, audience reception has been...shall we say less than warm. Fans of the comics feel the proposed films, which it has been confirmed will transplant the location from war-scarred Neo-Tokyo to American soil with a cast of white leads, are missing the point and will likely water down the books' surprisingly intricate story.  On rereading them, I'm kind of inclined to agree here. Each volume is practically a movie to itself. Warner Brothers wants to then try and fit three of these each into two films. Nice to see the lackluster box office performance for Watchmen taught them something.

Outside of the direct fanbase alienation, the film has been under fire from another group - Asians feeling displaced by the fact the location transplant has altered the casting call considerably, both racially and age-wise.  Fresh on the heels of the earlier controversy over Shyamalan's 'The Last Airbender' several prominent members of the Asian community finally put their foot down, most famously with George Takei speaking out on the web and rallying for people to call for Hollywood to reconsider their casting decisions.  For the record, I'm with Takei on this.  For one, there are talented Asian actors out there, for another, fan of the books, and for a third reason...seriously, all respect to some of the actors picked, but why the Hell are they picking 20+ year old white actors for what's supposed to be a gang of juvenile delinquents? That's like doing a remake of The Shining where you cast Crispin Glover as Danny Torrance. Sure, it'll be creepy...but not in the way it's supposed to be.

Anyway...we all thought maybe this had come to an end this Sunday when it was announced the project was considered dead in the water: acting director Albert Hughes had backed out and the project's status was basically deemed canned.

...until this morning when it was announced Warner Bros is apparently in talks to get Jaume Collet-Serra (best known for the movie Unknown) to pick up the torch.

Why am I writing all of this? Because at this point, I'm kind of kind of asking the question of 'why?' myself.

The web's response to this movie has been surprisingly negative, both from fans and just general people as info leaks. It's gained controversy, but not in the 'this has some risky new ideas' way that traditionally boosts ticket sales, instead leaning on the 'well, that was... ...kinda racist' way.  A route we saw last year, doesn't really fill seats terribly well. It's being regularly compared to two live-action adaptations that were largely considered flops and the project has turned into a veritable revolving door of people getting involved and then getting uninvolved just as quickly. why is Warner Bros so determined to see these movies made? From the sounds of things, the audience doesn't really want them (or at least, not the way WB is selling them) and it's not like the company doesn't have other pretty lucrative franchises it can always keep at (OK, so Harry Potter's finishing out and Nolan's run on Batman is down to one film but still...)

I just wonder what the burning incentive to to get this one out there all of a sudden after keeping it in limbo for the last few years is. Have they put so much money into it already they can't pull back?  Considering they're in talks for making this a $90M production, I'm afraid to see what's already gone into it. Are they about to lose the rights? Why is it, amid so much grumbling and general disinterest from alienated viewers, the studio is still so dead set on giving this to us? Hasn't the sadly unfortunate bombing of Green Lantern earlier this summer shown them what happens when you try to hammer out a film regardless of whether or not the fanbase is really interested (and the fans had a LOT of skepticism over that film as well, actually.)

Is there any chance Warner Bros will finally just admit this wasn't a terribly well thought out plan, cut their losses and maybe see about, if nothing else, at least shopping the rights around for a different venue?  I mean, for the sheer scope of the story, a series on one of the premium networks seems a better bet to get everything in without having to pull punches.

Or will this more than likely turn into another flaming train wreck the studios will learn nothing from and get treated as another on the already extensive scorecard of just why fans of foreign titles look at Hollywood adaptations and automatically think "Welp, this patient's lost. Declare time of death!" as opposed to "Maybe this'll work."?

I'd like to believe maybe, just maybe, it'll be the former. Given how some of these studios get when they've already dumped this much money into a project, however, I should really learn to curb my optimism.