The live-action adaptation of Akira has been through a multitude of directors (I’ve been writing about this movie since at least 2009 when Rurari Robinson was attached to direct), and it was getting close back in 2011 with Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows), but then that fell apart. Then Taika Waititi boarded the adaptation in September 2017 and it looks like his version might actually be happening. The director is putting the finishing touches on his latest film, Jojo Rabbit, but it appears he’ll then turn his attention to Akira. Warner Bros. has announced that the live-action version of Akira will arrive on May 21, 2021.
For those who are unfamiliar with the story, the anime takes place in Neo-Tokyo and follows the leader of a biker gang, Kaneda, as he teams up with a resistance member, Kei, and others to fight his friend Tetsuo, who is threatening to unleash his psychic powers on the city. It’s weird, visually impressive, and the last half of the film feels like Kaneda and Tetsuo just shouting each other’s names for a long time.
Will this be the version that finally makes it to the finish line? It’s hard to say! It’s also surprising that Warner Bros. keeps doubling down on Akira when live-action adaptations of popular manga/anime haven’t exactly been juggernauts at the box office. The live-action Ghost in the Shell made a paltry $40 million domestic off a $110 million budget. Alita: Battle Angel fared slightly better with $85 million except that its budget was $170 million (although a $404 million take worldwide certainly helped matters). I think Waititi’s a great director and I’m curious about his vision for Akira, but this is still an uphill battle no matter how much time and money Warner Bros. wants to throw at this project.
The only competition Akira currently has at that release date is John Wick: Chapter 4, which should be a formidable opponent at the box office.