On the Cowboy Bebop Live Action Movie (and Akira, while we’re on about it)
All “anime” fans have heard the news already, as have Keanu Reeves devotees. For the uninitiated, Reeves is planning a live action version of the fabled animated series from Japan, “Cowboy Bebop,” which aired in the US on Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim.” (and still does). The series, which involved three bounty hunters who could zip around future Earth and a Western milieu, blended hard boiled detective fiction, the French New Wave and jazz.
Of course, the fandom is all anxious about the movie, especially with Reeves spearheading the project and starring as the series stud Spike Spiegel. I understand that and empathize. I don’t hold high hopes, even with the recent announcement that some members of the series’ creative team has been brought on board the project (or at least given titles and a salary). What can Reeves and a Hollywood production team do in two hours what it took two seasons to build?
I also understand that, no matter how much Reeves likes the show, he and the studios are not making the film for “us.” The show wont feature Watanabe’s Spiegel, it will be Reeves’ Spiegel. The movie is going to be featuring “the star of the Matrix” as its selling point, not that its based on a cartoon with cult popularity.
I don’t really understand the need to make this film, aside from Reeves’ need to keep making summer blockbusters. I mean, why a movie that boasts that it’s based on “Bebop.” Why not just do what Joss Whedon did with “Firefly” and liberally steal from “Bebop,” but make something (legally) different?
Maybe its the the same old copycat Hollywoof mentality. Reeves’ Bebop got going as the same time
as Leo DiCaprio’s Akira remake project did [ED: Apparently the project is dead, according to a background-sourced report from Bloody-Disgusting.com. Cheers], and both soon after the Wachowski’s Speed Racer started production. (and let us not forget James Cameron’s “Battle Angel” project or the live action Neon Genesis Evangelion project, which have been in pre-production for years, both are now moving forward I hear).
I’m not really interested in live action remakes of animated films and series. The animation is part of the art, part of the storytelling, part of the appeal. Though I suppose CGI is blurring lines between “live action” and animation, I don’t think bringing photographed people into the project is going to add anything.
And though this is less about cultural appropriation than art, I don’t think a Western vision is going to add anything either (nor translate any better than subtitles already have).
So, yeah, as I was saying, commerce is what’s driving these projects, but it’s also fandom (maybe with the exception of the Cameron project) that drives this as well. If you bother to peer at any forum for any popular-at-the-moment comic or animated series, you always see threads speculating on who should play this character or that in a movie. That’s the other part I don’t get; why we feel a need to see comics and animation interpreted by live actors. We’ve already come to enjoy the vision of the artists and writers. Why isn’t that enough?
It’s cultural, that’s my thinking. Film (and television) legitimizes a form of entertainment perceived to be for the young in much of the West (and, contrary to popular belief, even Japan). Not even otaku want to be otaku forever. Even now that the animated arts are more popular and more respected than at any time I can recall, we still want the popular kids to acknowledge this. And who is more popular than Leo or Keanu or Cameron?
I am of course not above any of it. I’ve dreamed of doing a script for a live action version of FLCL starring Shiina Ringo.