By Arturo R. García
When last we left the American Akira, the racebending had barely started: Garrett Hedlund was only being courted to play the lead character, Kaneda.
This week, thanks to Geek Tyrant and other sites, we got some more disturbing pieces of the puzzle, when this casting call for extras and stand-ins listed Twilight‘s Kristen Stewart stepping in as “Ky” – possibly because the character’s original name, Kei, was just too long for somebody’s tastes – and Helena Bonham-Carter playing Lady Miyako.
The casting call also shed some light on how the new version’s vision of “Neo-Manhattan” might play out. As “adaptations” go, it sounds like this Akira could hew as closely to this Akira as Jesus Christ Superstar did to the Gospels. Spoilers are under the cut.
Here’s a transcript of the plot summary:
Kaneda is a bar owner in Neo-Manhattan who is stunned when his brother, Tetsuo, is abducted by government agents led by The Colonel.
Desperate to get his brother back, Kaneda agrees to join with Ky Reed and her underground movement who are intent on revealing to the world what truly happened to New York City thirty years ago when it was destroyed. Kaneda believes their theories to be ludicrous but after finding his brother again, is shocked when he displays telekinetic powers.
Ky believes Tetsuo is headed to release a young boy, Akira, who has taken control of Tetsuo’s mind. Kaneda clashes with The Colonel’s troops on his way to stop Tetsuo from releasing Akira but arrives too late. Akira soon emerges from his prison courtesy of Tetsuo as Kaneda races in to save his brother before Akira once again destroys Manhattan island, as he did thirty years ago.
Depending on how many “liberties” are taken with the source material, this incarnation of The Colonel could be more of an antagonist to Kaneda and company than the original. If the latest rumors turn out to be true, and Ken Watanabe actually does play the character, the only POC in a principal role could be playing the bad guy. As our friends at Racebending said on Facebook, “This doesn’t sound like a terrible rehash of Airbender at all.”
Besides that, this summary – again, if it is indeed the plot of the new version – points not only to a whitewashing, but to a PG-13 dumbing-down of the original: Kaneda and Tetsuo are brothers? An adult Kaneda with a job? Akira as a villainous force? This isn’t even reprehensible anymore, it’s almost laughable. Unless this unnerving theory by Cracked Magazine’s Robert Brockway turns out to be right:
With all of these factors considered — the change in race, age, and location — there’s only one thing this live action version of Akira can be about. The same thing every other “meaningful” Hollywood movie has been about since the day it happened: 9/11.
Think about it: There’s a city, emblematic of its nation, that undergoes a great hardship, but after many years of struggle, they finally rebuild. Then a group of friends, their gang analogous to a controversial real life group, ostracized and hunted by the government, somehow causes the destruction of said city. It was an important moment in our history, and of course it deserves coverage. But why choose Akira to talk about it? Well, because Hollywood believes that the only disaster Americans can relate to is 9/11, but sometimes work is hard and it takes a lot of time, and that sucks. So instead of setting to work on an original script, they’re just going to up and steal a movie that perfectly captured what it was to be Japanese in a tumultuous period of history, and make it all about white people problems instead.
And if that’s indeed the case, I hope this film makes Airbender’s box-office take look like Avatar’s by comparison.