The original Akira has one of the best openings of any sci-fi film ever made, anime or not. It's a vertical pan over an ultrawide view of Tokyo with city sprawl as wide as the eye can see. Suddenly a black sphere bubbles out of the center of the city, growing into a full explosion, the shockwave sweeping out over the cityscape before turning one of the most densely populated metropolises in the world into a smoldering crater.
Not only is that a bold opening for any movie, but a nuclear explosion at the heart of a country is particularly audacious for a Japanese film. Naturally that means an American remake would shy away from such striking imagery and implications-- though James Cameron did make great use of it using an eye-level version of it in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
We already know that Warner Bros. had intended on whitewashing the Japanese film about government experiments and psychic powers with an American cast. A number of young actors were attached to the film, which would swap Tokyo for New York City while keeping the distinctly Japanese character names like Kaneda, Tetsuo, Ky and Akira, with the biggest names being Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart. Budget cuts have repeatedly kept the film from getting off the ground, though, so unless Warner Bros. can find a director who can pull it off on tightened purse strings (House of Wax director Jaume Collet-Serra was the last who tried), we'll probably never see it.
We have, however, already gotten a few looks at how the film might have turned out, and today brings another. This one is the most telling yet. They're storyboards that artist Jeffrey Errico (via ComicBookMovie) created for the opening of the film. It's unclear which director's version of the movie they were designed for, but either way they're telling of the film's intent. The Japanese version opens with the deaths of millions of people and the decimation of one of the oldiest cities on the planet. The American version would have opened with a guy riding on a motorcycle really fast until he came upon the wreckage of the city.
It's not a bad image for the movie, were it to appear anywhere else, that is. However, taking out the blast that creates Neo Tokyo (or Neo NYC, in this case) shows that Warner Bros. was already leaning away from some of the shock and power of the imagery of Katsuhiro Ohotomo's film. That's not to say a single shot would have damned the entire movie, it's just an interesting difference between the two. Japan, a nation who has seen firsthand what a nuclear explosion can do, addresses WMDs head on, shoving it right in your face. America, a nation who dropped said WMD on Japan, however, only shows the aftermath. Whether you were for or against a remake, it's a bit of a shame we'll probably never see what else might have changed.
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