Mark Beall over at Cinematical reports that producer Gerald R. Molen (Jurassic Park, Minority Report) recently got onto two major projects: one is a sports drama about baseball players in WWII and the other is Lupin the 3rd. The sports flick is scheduled to begin filming in Feburary while no date has been set for Lupin. This news made me think of previous and ongoing anime-to-live-action attempts.
Beall also wrote a post in his weekly column “The Geek Beat” about his feelings toward live-action adapations of anime. He has mixed feelings about the concept of American producers and directors handling and cites a few titles as examples of problems. He did manage to come up with four franchises he could envision in live-action: Vision of Escaflowne, Initial D, Witch Hunter Robin, and Cowboy Bebop.
If you remember back in April 2004, Sci-Fi Channel announced it would produce a live-action TV series of Witch Hunter Robin. The executive producers listed on the press release had been responsible for the American remake of “The Ring” and a former Star Trek writer would be doing scripts. However, by December 2005, it was announced the project had dropped from production.
Personally, I would have loved for the WHR series to have been made and actually aired. It probably would have worked with American actors as Robin and most of STN-J look caucasian. It could have been a moderate success given Sci-Fi’s success with its original series and with the general interest. They could have even filmed parts of it in New England! Argh, it pains to me to remember that this got canned…
Meanwhile, the as-of-yet-still-untitled WETA-Evangelion project is still without a director. No official storyline has been announced but there has been fan speculation that it will be based on the first 6 episodes or that the focus would be less on Shinji and more on Asuka [wiki link]. ADV has told fans to expect a major announcement (probably who’s directing it) this fall so this project isn’t dead yet. They probably still a couple years to finish raising the money needed so maybe it’ll be done by 2008 or so.
Finally, the live action adaption of Monster is still tenatively scheduled for 2007. Josh Olsen, whose adaption of A History Of Violence earned him an Oscar nomination, is writing the screenplay for New Line Cinema and the script for the second one. Rumors are that there will be a trilogy which could match the three 26-episode parts of the anime. I downloaded the first twenty-six episodes a couple months ago but haven’t gotten around to watching them.
Beall, himself an anime/manga fan, describes anime’s status as a “highly stylized art” as the main concern when Hollywood tries to adapt anime for the silver screen. He fears that cultural differences would get lost in translation, so to speak, and sets up the best albeit unlikely situation of an eastern director working with a western budget and SFX companies.
I share his concern of the original style being lost or being dumbed down for American audiences. But I want to point out that “more Western” anime like Monster or Trigun are likely to suffer less problems than, say, Rurouni Kenshin or Naruto that have many cultural elements.
Looking at the success of manga sales in America over the past couple years, I suppose it’s only a matter of time before more studios do big budget adaptations sourced from Japanese visual media. Hopefully, these current and potential future ones will follow the path of recent comic-book movies such as Spider-Man or X-Men (i.e. good stuff) and not of video game adaptations like Doom or Resident Evil (embarrassing). Though, something like Silent Hill would be a good start.