Warner Bros. has been trying to get a live-action American adaptation of the manga/anime cyberpunk classic Akira off the ground for 15 years now, and we don't seem to be any closer to actually seeing a movie come out of it. Numerous writers and directors have been attached, everyone from Christopher Nolan to Justin Lin has had the project dangled in front of them, but no one's brought it home, and the efforts have sometimes faced criticism for whitewashing and other times faced criticism for attempting to Americanize Akira at all. It's one of the longest development hell sagas of the last 25 years, and it's not over yet.
On this week's episode of the Meet The Movie Press webcast, host Jeff Sneider noted that the hunt for a director on the project is back on and that he's heard two names emerge: Life's Daniel Espinosa and Lights Out's David Sandberg. As Sneider notes, Sandberg is already attached to another big franchise gig thanks to the Black Adam movie, which leaves Espinosa, who's getting praise this week for Life's stylish execution in spite of its predictable story.
Now, it's important to note that this report is unconfirmed, and at the moment all that's apparently happened is that these filmmakers have taken meetings on Akira. The project still doesn't have a director, and even after it does it could be a long road to any real production moves as an entirely new script could follow, depending on the filmmaker. I'm sure there are plenty of people behind closed doors who have a better idea about the shape of this project than I do, but from the outside looking in Akira feels like a massive Gordian Knot of development, and the only way to fix it is to get a director with a sword sharp enough to slice right through it. Metaphorically, of course.
From a fandom standpoint, the question of whether or not we need this film at all still remains. It'll also be interesting to check back on this in a couple of weeks and view it in the context of how another high-profile anime adaptation, Ghost in the Shell, performs at the box office. This is entirely anecdotal, but I've never felt much of a demand for an American Akira (or, for that matter, an American Ghost in the Shell). Fans of this story prefer to experience it in the forms its creator originally devised, and though certain aspects of the design of the anime film might feel dated now, Akira itself does not. It's still finding fans, and I'm still questioning how big the box office demand for the Warner Bros. version could ever truly get.
That said, Warners doesn't seem deterred, so we'll keep you posted if this director search turns up any results.