Anime to film: 3 films that could be awesome (if handled well): Part 1

Anime.  It’s honestly a gamble.  On one hand, you could have captivating storytelling with incredible animation and a unique soundtrack.  On the other hand, however, you could wind up with some Japanese cartoonist’s kinky sexual fantasies mixed in with unbearably annoying characters and piss-poor animation.  In about the past 15 years or so (give or take a few), Hollywood has taken some notice of anime as potential for live-action adaptations.  Live-action films for animated television programs and comic books have been done to death at this point.  Hollywood has only skimmed the surface of anime, however, with the Matrix trilogy probably having the most inspiration from anime.

I am generally displeased with the fact that Hollywood has very little in the way of anything original anymore.  That being said, if the source material for a script is sound, then the end product is usually excellent.  Anime has much potential for great live-action films, if handled by the right people that is.  Since its a very distinct style of art, I believe going for a more avant-garde approach to anime converted to live-action would be the best approach.  What does that mean?  Keep Michael Bay and his cronies the hell away from these projects.  The action and violence in the following anime series I am about to mention would attract a no-talent-ass-clown like Michael Bay for direction purposes.  However, if one were to have a Gary Ross-Hunger Games approach, these potential movies could be phenomenal.

1)  Cowboy Bebop

Ever been looking for story-telling that combines the best elements of film noir, spaghetti westerns, old time jazz and bebop, and science fiction in the year 2071?  If so, Cowboy Bebop is the show for you.  In fact, what’s so great about the series is that it really appeals to a much wider audience than most animes.  The series may be about 14 years old at this point, and was discontinued after 26 episodes and one 90 minute movie.  However, this was because Shinichiro Wantanabe (the show’s creator), wanted to quit while he was ahead.  A wise decision, because the series has stood the test of time and is still adored by many anime and cosplay enthusiasts.

The series follows a group of bounty hunters aboard the Bebop, an old fishing vessel converted into a spaceship.  The star of the show is Spike Spiegel, a gangster turned bounty hunter.  He is a practitioner of Jeet Kune Do (the style of martial arts developed by Bruce Lee), adept with firearms, and a skilled pilot in his spacecraft, the Swordfish II (looks cooler than the X-Wing in my opinion).  Despite being a badass of the highest order, he is calm and collect, with a dry wit and a reluctancy to do anything productive in his off time.  While the series’ episodes are generally self-contained (meaning non-continuous in storyline), the series concentrates primarily on the characters’ pasts, primarily Spike’s.  I won’t go into details (because the series is a must-watch), but the story zeros in on Spike’s romantic history with a woman named Julia and the rivalry with his former partner in crime, Vicious.

Other characters include Jet Black (a cop turned bounty hunter who is world weary and battle hardened like Spike), Faye Valentine (a beautiful con turned bounty hunter with money issues and a feisty attitude), Edward (a young girl with a super eccentric personality and genius-level computer hacking abilities), and Ein (a Pembroke Welsh Corgi with a quirky personality of his own).  All in all, the cast is extremely colorful and has potential for something incredible on screen.

How I think it should be done:

I’m no film director, art director, screenwriter, or producer.  However, I can tell you that out of all the animes I am mentioning in this article, Cowboy Bebop would by far and away be the most difficult to convert to live-action.  That’s not to say it’s impossible to do right, but it could easily turn into some awful summer action flick with piss poor acting and way too many explosions.  It’s also a series that combines a plethora of themes and genres.  Thus, it would require the director and screenwriters to have a very high level of creativity, as well as a big budget.

I think the first key to doing Bebop the right way would be to make it a trilogy.  Ideally, I believe the first movie would introduce the crew of the Bebop.  I would introduce each crew member as they were introduced in the show’s episodes (watch the amazing series and you’ll know what I’m talking about).  The introductions may need some abbreviation, but I believe it can be done right.  I would primarily concentrate on the back stories of Jet and Faye.  Spike is obviously the star of the show, but because his story is the most deep and involved of the three, I feel it would be best to give the background stories of the other crew members first before concentrating on Spike and the story’s finale.  The challenge here is balance.  I wouldn’t want to make the first film only about Faye and Jet for a few reasons.  One is that it would confuse filmgoers into thinking the series is primarily about these two characters only.  The other is that the story is ultimately about Spike facing his past and his ultimate showdown with Vicious.  The key here is to give all the characters an appropriate amount of spotlight while keeping Spike the main attraction.  Another key to success here would be to have a good balance of character history flashbacks and present day moments, with the crew hunting down bounties.

Now for actors and directors.  I believe Adrien Brody would be ideal for Spike.  He has already proven his acting range.  From action adventure (King Kong) to his incredible Oscar-winning performance in the Pianist, he can give Spike the necessary variety of emotions that the character portrays in the show.  He resembles Spike as well, with a svelte physique and calm demeanor.  An honorable mention for the role would go to Joseph Gordon Levitt, which my sister once suggested.  While I personally think Brody would be a better fit, I believe Levitt could very well pull off the role as well.

Picking an actress to play Faye is difficult.  You need the right balance of sexy, feisty, funny, and smart.  After some thought, however, I have come to conclude that the ideal chick for the role would be Jennifer Lawrence.  She is not one of the typical young Hollywood actresses who believes that all she has to do to act is give a pensive stare at the camera for 20 minutes (I’m talking about you Kristen Stewart).  Lawrence has proven herself with an Oscar nomination for Winter’s Bone and the recent action smash hit, the Hunger Games.  She takes her craft seriously, and by doing so, I believe she would be able to compliment both the story’s light-hearted moments and it’s more serious scenarios.  Another actress who would suit the role well is Christina Ricci (another suggestion from my sis).  The fact that she actually looks a lot like the character helps significantly.  She also has a Golden Globe nomination under her belt for Monster, proving that she has enough range to pull off the role.

For Jet, Bruce Willis is a name that has been thrown around a lot.  However, I believe Hugh Jackman is the right man for the role, 100 percent.  Watch any of the movies in which he plays Wolverine of the X-Men.  Granted, I never thought any of them were that good, but the Wolverine side-burns make him look very similar to Jet.  On top of that, Jackman has proven himself as an actor in the past.  Just watch the Prestige and you’ll see what I’m talking about.  Also, Jackman has been known for his time on stage as a song and dance man before breaking into film.  This added experience could help him give Jet a somewhat damaged and cynical demeanor, while implementing his dry humor at the appropriate time.

For Vicious, you need someone who is supposed to be Spike’s doppleganger.  While he doesn’t look like Adrien Brody, I think Cillian Murphy would be great as Vicious.  He has a very creepy and ominous nature about him in many of the roles he plays.  He did a great job as Scarecrow in Batman Begins and even though he was the protagonist in 28 Days Later (my favorite horror movie by the way), he still gave the film just an unsettling an affect as the infected humans did.  Murphy could give a real-life Vicious the cold-blooded ruthlessness the character would need for the film.

As for the remainder of the cast, I feel unknown actors and actresses would be best.  I say this because I honestly can’t think of any big names to fill the roles of characters like Edward.  Also, with unknown actors and actresses, it gives the studios the opportunity to give new talents some needed spotlight.

Direction may be the most crucial success factor for the film.  It needs the right amount of style, a clever script, and a big budget.  I thought it would be hard to think of a director.  And then I remembered back to 2009’s Star Trek reboot by J.J. Abrams.  Abrams would be perfect for the Bebop franchise.  With Star Trek, he created a fantastic reboot that was accessible to everyone, but still had fan service and a kitsch style.  Abrams also has some extensive experience in the science-fiction and action genres, producing and directing numerous films like Star Trek, Super 8, and the last two Mission Impossible films.  Add-in  his connections in the film industry, he would be able to give the film the financial backing it needs to be an action masterpiece.

One huge factor that the studios must, MUST, keep intact is the music.  The music is one of the most lauded parts of the show.  It combines jazz, blues, rock, and pretty much every other genre under the sun.  It’s all thanks to composer Yoko Kanno.  Disregard Hans Zimmer or anyone other big name composer.  Kanno is the only one for the film.

While a Bebop project doesn’t currently seem to be underway, I think it is inevitably going to happen at some point.  Hopefully, when that time comes, Bebop is handled with the love and care it deserves.

Stay tuned for part 2, when I review Akira and Big O for possible live action adaptations, and tell you how NOT to do an anime to live action film (Dragonball Evolution).