Otaku Obsession: Live Action Adaptations

People might hate on you, Michael Bay, but I can't help but think you're awesome.

You proved me wrong, first off. Although, your resume showed that you were capable of directing explosive popcorn summer blockbusters, I thought your abilities would fall short of bringing one of the beloved animated series from my childhood to life and into the world live-action adaptations. Hard core haters and trolls will still continue to despise your rendition of "TransFormers" (out of principle), but I can't help but admit that I had a blast watching it several times in the theaters and I can't wait to catch the sequel next summer, which is shaping up to be pretty dope. How couldn't it be, since EVERY big movie slated for the fall seems to be rescheduled to Summer 2009.

That's right; I'm looking at you Harry Potter, Game, and Star Trek. What's next? Bond?

Now that Bay has successfully adapted TransFormers to the silver screen, it appears that Hollywood is looking at every anime franchise - and studios have even announced a few for the coming years. Among those announced are:

- Cowboy Bebop
- Ghost in the Shell
- Voltron: Defender of the Universe (King of the Beasts GoLion)
- Robotech (The Super Dimension Fortress Macross / Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross / Genesis Climber Mospeada)
- Dragon Ball

My desire to see these renditions vary greatly. While my expectations for Bebop, Robotech, and GitS are running wild, I'm very wary of how Dragon Ball & Voltron might end up depicted. But they all run the risk of sucking of being fun romps that make us wonder why it took them so long to debut in the first place. Quick impressions of my thoughts on each:

- Cowboy Bebop:
The potential for this to rock is grandiose, with a director with vision and a love for the source. Bebop is beloved by many fans around the world and has fans from all walks of life. Even non-fans of anime enjoy this series, the the audience for this movie could easily span across many demographics if marketed right, especially from the variety of stories in Bebop's episode count. A must for this adaptation is that Yoko Kanno and her Seatbelts HAVE to do the soundtrack. Keep you're overpaid sound-alikes, Hollywood, if she and her gang aren't on board, the score will only sound second-rate.

Originally, I pooped all over the choice of Keanu "Ted" Reeves playing the iconic role of Spike Spiegel, but seriously speaking, who else could play him. He's not that much of a talker, and although the character does experience his own world of anguish and drama, he keeps most of it inside. The man speaks more through his actions than he does through his words.

The only other actor I'd consider would be Oded Fehr, (who is an overall badass and Jewish to boot, which I know is a controversy all it's own about Spike's heritage, but what else could he be?), but in my opinion doesn't look as much like Spike (physically) like Keanu does. I'm also in agreement with many other when it comes to the amount this film will be bankrolled with a money maker like Keanu being in it. God knows how much of a budget it'll get if Will Smith is cast as "Jet Black".

I've got my fingers crossed for Bruce Willis. ^_^


- Ghost in the Shell:
Don't know what series this will be based upon, but it's my guess that the manga will be the main source of inspiration. I'd personally like to see it be an amalgam of the manga and animated universes, especially involving stuff from "Stand Alone Complex".

The best news about this adaptation is that Spielberg himself wishes to helm this project. Hopefully that means that he will be the director, and not the producer, although that was the arrangement on TransFormers and that turned out well. What worries me most is that the upcoming adaptation has been confirmed to be in 3-D I don't know if this means that it will all be rendered in 3-D animation like a Pixar flick, or if this is intended to be more like the style presented in "Journey to the Center of the Earth", but I'm predicting the latter of the venues.

Again, Yoko Kanno will have to be drafted to do the soundtrack for this one as well, although others have provided music for other GitS in the past. She, however, has produced the best one to date. Although, most folks are predicting this, both Neo & I WANT to see Angelina Jolie play the Major. Even if she in "spirit" is supposed to be Japanese, her body is completely artificial, so the switching of her character's appearance to Caucasian is not too far off the mark. I don't care if you think this casting choice is played out - there is NO ONE else that can pull this role off better than she can. Angie was born for this.


- Voltron: Defender of the Universe:
My expectations will stay suppressed for this one. Although if they play the camp factor with this, it could turn out to be a fun movie. For those looking forward to this, expect it to be loosely based in the beloved anime series you grew up with. First off, it will take place on Earth, and either in modern times or the not so distant future. The spirit of the show will remain intact, but if your a die-hard fan, you might as well get ready to flame now.

With renewed interest in this property, another studio has picked it up and will produce it with a lower budget than first projected. That's the bad news. Good news is that it's expected to save production costs that the same process used to enhance visual look of "300" will be utilized in this movie as well. This could end up giving the movie an overall cool look, Whoever is behind those effects it better consult with Zack Snyder's tech wizards otherwise those this flick could look worse than speculated.

No predictions on cast, but they just better form blazing sword in this, otherwise this movie automatically fails.


- Robotech:
Hell, yes, I'm looking forward to this! But as previously stated on Gundamn! as well as many other websites and podcasts, fears are that this movie will be dramatically different in the way it looks due to the legal dispute pending with Studio Nue vs. Big West vs. Tatsunoko vs. Harmony Gold vs. everyone else.

Much like Voltron, this film will be adaptation with several story elements changing to move it to a future setting. I gotta agree with what Tommy Yune said at the Robotech panel we attended at Comic Con 2008 about pushing up the timeline, since it will kind of be silly to have this take place in 2009, as originally told. However, I want the "Veritechs" to still look like "Valkyries", dammit. Even if they're jazzed up and redesigned to look more futuristic, they should still resemble the mecha I remember, like the evolution (and devolution) of the Valkyries throughout the many series of Macross. From what I hear, the aesthetics we know and love from the Macross Saga might all have to be change dramatically due to the ongoing legal dispute that currently prevents any other new Macross properties from appearing on American screens.

My man, Tobey "MTV Movie Award Winner for Best Kiss" Maguire appears to be a big fan of this series and hails from my generation. Like i was with Robotech, he was probably glued to his TV every weekday in anticipation about what would happen next. To be honest, I never thought that I'd hear talk about an adaptation of Robotech in my life time, but if Tobey happened to watch it as a child, it makes me wonder who else came up in Hollywood that happend to catch this series when it initially aired or when it repeated on Sci-Fi in the early 90's or on Toonami later on in the decade. For Tobey, with as much clout he has nowadays, for him to pursue Robotech as his next project is a bolt out of the blue as well as shows that he's possibly a fan of the series. Here's hoping anyway.

When it comes down to directors, above all else, a visionary one needs to be chosen. Once who cares about what he's adapting as opposed to either a Bryan Singer (who could care about the core audience) or Brett Ratner (who'll only streamline the soul of the project and dumb it down for the audience). To land someone with some passion to direct something as multi-layered and consisting multiple genres like this story (assuming that this movie will take place during "The Macross Saga"), it's going to require on hell of a talented person, and outside of some obvious choices (Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Ridley Scott, James Cameron, and as of recently Guillermo Del Toro & Snyder), the options of known directors suited for this don't amount for many. I'm hoping it will be one of the aforementioned, but if it turns out to be someone unknown but hella' capable, I'll be fine with that too.

Then there's the cast. As much as I commend Tobey for producing Robotech, and also the fact that he looks young for his age, I always envisioned the lead of the Macross Saga, Rick Hunter, to be played by someone younger. It's really a minor gripe, however, and if he ends up with the role, I'm certain he'll be gangbusters when it comes to playing him. I'll reserve my other choices for key roles when more speculation emerges about who might be playing who.

I will say this though, I'm all for Edward James Olmos to play Captain Gloval. There is no one else that could do it better.


- Dragon Ball:
With this movie being the closest to debut, what can I say that already hasn't been said? I honestly believe they took the right approach, story-wise, by starting this movie off in Goku's younger years, but they've shaved off so much of the plot (not that DB was intricate to begin with) that I was turned off on seeing this.

Nothing against Justin Chatwin who plays "Son Goku". Even though his character in "War of the Worlds" had no business surviving and was a punk for most of a film, I could believe he was Tom Cruise's son. When he appeared in the pilot episode of "Weeds" as the closeted son of Councilman Doug and as the ATF agent in one of Locke's flashbacks in "Lost" he delivered solid performances and made me take note of whatever else I spotted him in. Then when he landed the role of Goku, I had scratched my head initially, but eventually warmed up to the idea after remembering what I had already seen him in. Things went up a notch when Stephen Chow was confirmed to be the stunt coordinator in this movie, which meant that if anything, the action scenes in this adaptation would be nothing short of entertaining even if the down-time between the set-pieces may not be.

However, when news struck that they would be removing my man "Krillin" from the story line, my heart literally sank. Almost everyone from the original cast of adventurers in Dragon Ball would make it in the film, but the best friend of the protagionist won't? The guy that's like a brother to Goku? What the hell was the script-writer thinking? If this becomes a franchise, then eventually they'll be moving on into "Z" territory, where Krillin plays a crucial role in some of the earlier conflicts and spearheads a great deal of the character development of Goku. Without him there, it assures that where ever this movie series will head, it will continue to be unfaithful to the source material.

If this adaptation becomes it's own universe, so be it. Personally, I had hoped to see the barometer to how powerful the Saiyans become compared to how weak humans are. Also since Krillin became the strongest human in the Z crew, it would have been cool to see him come into his own during the do or die situations he'd get thrown into.

I guess between Saji Crossroad, Rivalz Carmonde, and Krillin, it's highly obvious that I'm a sucker for the hard-luck/unlucky everydudes in anime. Guess I relate somehow, after all, Krillin is my "spirit animal".
:P

UPDATE: Shortly after writing this, it turns out that Dragon Ball might never see the light of day. Apparently, word on the street is that the big-wigs at 20th Century Fox are not too keen on how the movie is shaping up, and they might decide to cut their losses. If it's true, can't say that I didn't see this coming.

Now with that out of the way, there a several mecha anime series I would love to see adapted into live-action in the future. Especially since after the release of TransFormers showed that special effects technology has advanced far enough to make these movies possible and believable.

- Aura Battler Dunbine:
Not only would this attract mecha junkies like myself, but this movie (series) might pull in the fantasy/"LotR" audience as well, since this story is kind of "The Lord of the Rings"-meets-"A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court"-meets-"Mobile Suit Gundam". Well, kinda. ^_^

The only drawback is that Hollywood has a tendency to want to Americanize foreign stories. No doubt, whatever studio would not only change "Show Zama" (series lead) from Japanese to a bankable American actor, but the suits would probably want to soften Dunbine's tumultuous ending ending to something less tragic. If they did it to "The Count of Monte Cristo", what's to prevent them from switching up the ending on this also?

All in all, ABD has outrageous potential to be a blockbuster movie (or movies) and I'd love to see it done right someday.


- Neon Genesis Evangelion:
Most of you cats will groan at this one (Chris & Neo included), but I'm all for seeing this series be brought to the silver screen. Yes, there are more adaptations of this series than colors in the spectrum, but with the fantastic premise and technology presented in Evangelion, I'd still would enjoy seeing that brought about in live-action and how this universe would be presented with actors and top of the line CG.

Back before financial troubles hit ADV, they couldn't help but make a big deal of the fact that they had this adaptation in development. And I, for one, was excited, especially after seeing the sketches the WETA Workshop had cooked up. Lately, though, I haven't heard much, despite the fact that after TransFormers has done so well, that there is more profit potential with a franchise like this now than there ever has been.

I'm not the biggest Eva fan out there, but I do realize the impact that it had on fans and the anime industry in the late 90's, and despite it's many versions and it's unconventional endings. I'd also like to see what havoc this series' plotline would have on the minds of all that are baited to see the live-action version. The critical blow-back would be greater than what happened after folks went to see "The Matrix Revolutions".

Then again, with knowing Hollywood's track record, the ending to this Eva might end up being shiny and happy one. I'd hate to agree with the suits, but this is the one adaptation just might need it in order for it to succeed overseas.


- Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion:
I'm not sure why Tinsel Town is sleeping, but this is the best mecha-based I.P. to come out of Japan in ages. For those up to speed with the series, it's a roller coaster ride of twists and turns, and suspense around every corner. With it's commentary on recent events along with it's skewed/alternate historical time-line, it makes for interesting backdrop to bring into the world of film, especially since Geass takes place in the not-to distant future.

The hardest thing about excuting this adaptation is to find young actors worth their salt in order to portray the cast of Code Geass in a believable manner. If above all else, this series driven by character development and an intricate plot, and to throw a bunch of bankable teeny boppers in this would just ruin it outright. If I was behind the casting choices, I'd definitely go with unknowns (or next-to-unknowns) for all of the principal students at Ashford Academy (and any other youngins'), while placing more well-known/bankable actors in the roles of the older supporting cast. Right now, I have no idea who could do a magnificent bastard like Lelouch Lamperouge justice,

Out of the properties I've suggested, this one to me has the best chance of making it big, but only if some savvy producer strikes while the iron is hot and gets to work a "Code Geass" movie, stat. Giving the state of the wold now, this movie would stir the audiences imagination and prove to be as provocative as it is entertaining.


- The Big O:
Holy $h!t, would this be pure awesome or what? After seeing the Dark Knight and how Batman was presented, to see a perfect blend of that and the spirit behind something like the original Mazinger-Z, the equation might add up to something fantastic. If they gave it a film noir look to boot and the cast and crew play off the strengths of the story's superfluous nature and the mystery behind, it coudl be an engaging film filled with action packed set-pieces.

The ending of this series always felt a little bit rushed and incomplete. Hopefully, a live-action will clear up some of the plot-holes and unexplained plot threads of the last act, if it ever comes to fruition.


- Armored Trooper VOTOMS:
As gritty as this series is, VOTOMS practically begs to be adapted into a screenplay. I know Chris and I sit on opposite sides of the coin when it comes to this series becoming a live action movie, but it has all of the elements to make it and excellent property for transition. Plus the story is separated into 4 main arcs that can be adapted one at a time into four individual films.

The technology presented VOTOMS, although futuristic, displays a hard edge and a realistic touch that makes it all seem possible, given a few decades. The lead character, Chirico Cuvie, is a multi-layered badass that I'm sure the audience would be interested in getting to know over the course of the series. Not to mention, how he survives every crisis he ends up facing.

Too bad we don't have someone like a young Steve McQueen or Paul Newman at the moment. Someone like that would be perfect in playing Chirico. Guess we'll have to wait a little while longer before the right guy shows up...


- Mobile Suit Gundam:
Didn't see this one coming, did you? 0_o

Out of the series that I've wish-listed, Gundam tops them all, but from the looks of thins, it's probably the last on the list of properties to adapt. Gundam might be a household name in America in some circles, but since a great deal of folks first & only exposure to the franchise is "New Mobile Report Gundam Wing". Since to most of the public their idea of Gundam was what was presented in Wing, adapting MSG to live action might put off anyone who might be expecting it to be the version of the franchise that they are most familiar.

Marketing this movie would prove difficult, but not impossible. After all TransFormers wasn't exactly the story we remembered as children, but in it, there were enough core elements presented that kept the movie recognizable to it's animated counterpart. Plus, believe it or not, there are a few folks that know that the franchise had to start from somewhere, actually catching the original series in one form or another. If "the powers that be" plan to make a movie based on the series that started it all, they will have to find a way to reintroduce that story to the world in a way that will have the rest of the world outside Japan, excited for the thought of an live action film.

Hopefully, Sunrise has something to planned to do just that for Gundam's 30th anniversary next year. They've said in the past that they plan to present a series/movie/OVA/something that will takes place in the original "Universal Century" time-line. However, for an occasion like this, I can only speculate that not only one project is currently being worked on, but several other ones are in development and will be released throughout the year. This can also mean video games, manga, and other forms of media, but if anything, I have a feeling we'll be getting more than one anime production.

Of course, I can be way off-base with this conjecture, but 30 years is a big deal, and for a franchise as robust with hours of entertainment as Gundam, I'm certain that Sunrise (nor Bandai) will let 2009 come and go without making it a memorable anniversary. This is where the opportunity lies to re-release MSG in an updated form in animation. Sure, the beloved series and movies are regarded as irreplaceable treasures in Japan, but the remainder of the world may not see them as classic anime that was ahead of it's time like we, the fans, do. It's no secret, that the original MSG was a ratings bomb when it aired domestically on Toonami back in 2001, and without a more updated form of the first series to present to people, new potential fans may never be interested in anything UC.

Some of the hard core UC fans could care less if OG Gundam attracts new blood, but I for one hate to see something so excellent become stagnate and never be appreciated by audiences outside of the country it first aired. That kind of thinking will never benefit the growth of Gundam however, and keeping it "our best kept secret" might just kill any chances of receiving the complete library of the franchise domestically. This is why hope that Sunrise presents the genesis of this franchise to audiences again. If it were up to me, I'd choose to animate "Gundam: the Origin" which is the manga currently printing in Japan that already retells "Mobile Suit Gundam" in a more modern context. If Yoshiyuki Tomino was interested in returning and directing (or, at least, consulting) this along with the manga artist and original lead animator/character designer, Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, this would make for an epic set of animated movies. In a fitting way, it would also allow everyone in Japan who worked on a Gundam series, was inspired by the franchise or just grew up with Gundam, to come full circle and reflect on how it all began. Another boon with creating the remake is that it could be introduced in foreign markets and used as a gateway for new fans to discover what follows afterwords.

Now, I can finally return to my point - the live action movie. If the animated movies spark a renewed interest with the viewing public, there would be a great deal more interested in seeing a film based on MSG than there is now. Maybe for it's 35th or 40th anniversary, the film version could be the project that commemorates this series, and with any luck it will just as compelling as "The Dark Knight" and even more visually stunning than "Transformers" or the upcoming sequel. As much as I've run off on a tangent on how to reintroduce Gundam to audiences in order to justify a live action movie, I'll save you my speculation on who-should-play-who, or who should direct. Right now, all I can ask are for three things:

01. That the movie be filmed in a realistic-guerrilla style. It would be take to long to describe this, so instead think of it's visual style looking like "Saving Private Ryan"-meets-"Starship Troopers" (the novel version) and you might have an idea what I mean. (Then again, maybe not...)

02. That the novel of "Mobile Suit Gundam: Awakening, Escalation & Confrontation" is the basis for which the screenplay is adapted from. Although, it's not the most recent retelling of this story, it is the most realistic and believable, especially when it come to explaining the NewType experience. However, I would alter then ending to be more like the animated continuity, just in case this movie franchise proves popular enough to branch on into Zeta Gundam territory.

03. That the cast (whether consisting of familiar faces, unknowns, or both) be spot-on and true to the original characters that they will portray, and that the director & creative team behind this eat, sleep, and breathe Gundam. I know Neo isn't big on Peter Jackson, but I can't help but respect how much love and care he and his team put into adapting "The Lord of the Rings" for the screen. The same energy and adoration is what drove Nolan to adapt Batman so well and Rodriguez to defy convention and bring on board the artist of the comic as a co-director when he started making "Sin City". That's exactly how much attention to detail I want going to this movie (series).


"Mobile Suit Gundam" deserves it, and so much more. Just don't put Michael Bay on it. He's done great work with TF, but God save the Queen if he goes after Gundam.

These fanboy ravings come fresh from the Desk of Your Neighborhood Newtype,
Soul Bro Ryu
SBRmahq@gmail.com