Warner Bros. pumps the brakes on 'Akira' weeks before starting production
Budget and script issues rumored to be behind big case of studio nerves
At this point, I think Warner Bros. should ask themselves if there's any figure at which they truly believe audiences are clamoring to see a mostly-white live-action version of "Akira" made for a profoundly compromised budget.
I'm not sure there's any price tag that the film works at, frankly, because I'm still not sure who they think they're making the movie for. This has been a long development process, and I've read a number of different drafts of this as it's been winding its way through the studio system. It feels like every writer who's worked on it has tried hard to craft something that honors the spirit of what "Akira" is about, but little by little, most of the world-building, most of the rich detail that would make this something unusual or special, has been squeezed out, and what's left doesn't really work as "Akira," and it doesn't feel like it works as something new, either.
Ruairi Robinson almost made the film, and Albert Hughes almost made it as well. It looked like Jaume Collet-Serra was going to be the guy to finally get it across the finish line, and the film was announcing cast members, looking like a full-speed-ahead green light…
… only now it's not. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the production office in Vancouver has been closed down and everyone's been sent home. They report that the producers and Collet-Serra are working with the studio now to bring the budget down from around $90 million to around $60 or $70 million.
Those economics are scary. Even if the film costs $90 million, Collet-Serra hasn't really shown off any particular FX wizardry in his films so far, nor any inclination towards building larger worlds in his films. His movies "House Of Wax" and "Orphan" and "Unknown" are fascinating because both scripts are sort of deliciously ridiculous, and Collet-Serra shot them both with a sense of tone where you're not quite sure if he's in on the joke or smarter than the joke or the butt of the joke… and it's kind of intriguing. I would not call those particularly good movies, but they are skilled at being insane. And that might be what "Akira" needs.
But if Warner is so worried that they're looking to shave even more money off the budget up front, why bother making it at all? I can save you $90 million on it, Warner Bros. Pull the plug. If you can't be sure that people will want to see it, trust those instincts. Believe in what your gut is telling you. A big budget live-action "Akira" sounds like a total gamble, right? It is. And it's not a good kind of gamble, either. It's more like one of those "end of a 36 hour losing streak/bet your wife and your house on a hand of blackjack" gambles. If you win, yes, you walk away with a fistful of cash.
But do you even want to risk losing on this one?
We'll see what happens in the next few weeks, but for now, I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for this to hit my local theater.
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