The movie poster for Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln”.
Last night, I went to the movie theatre to see Lincoln. It was fantastic. It was epic. It was brilliant in virtually every regard.
And over the course of the film, I watched three separate groups of people in the already sparse audience get up and walk out of the movie.
I’m not going to spoil the movie (although a lot of the film’s events are in your average American history book, and the whole movie is based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book “Team of Rivals”). But I can tell you that the movie is beautifully written and paced, and the cinematography was incredible and appropriate. The portrait that the film paints of Lincoln is at once intimately human and reverently historical. The plot is intricately political and demands the audience to rise to the challenge of following the intrigue rather than dumbing down the parties involved. “Lincoln” is a story about Abraham Lincoln; but it is also a story about the Thirteenth Amendment and about a divided Congress and about a vision of America that seems timely for the political circumstances of today.
It goes without saying that the acting is dead-on. Tommy Lee Jones performs capably (as he often does).
Batman Forever notwithstanding.
Sally Fields hits the right notes with her depiction of the unstable, grief-stricken Mary Todd Lincoln. Joseph Gordon-Levitt cements his rising star status as a young Hollywood actor who can actually act in his portrayal as Lincoln’s eldest son Bobby. Jared Harris steals every scene he’s in with his subdued and nuanced performance as Ulysses S. Grant.
And, it goes without saying that Daniel Day-Lewis is a freaking force of nature. He doesn’t just portray Lincoln; he simply is Lincoln. He will win an Oscar for this performance.
There are no words for how incredible Daniel Day-Lewis’ portrayal of Abraham Lincoln is.
I fundamentally believe that everyone — and I do mean everyone — should see this movie.
And, I reiterate, three separate groups of people walked out of my showing of Lincoln last night.
The problem, I think, is that Lincoln doesn’t speak down to its audience. It expects its viewer to be smart and engaged in the movie’s subject material. It expects its audience to be entertained by the political twists of its story.
And, I think maybe it’s expecting too much.
Lincoln opened the same weekend as Twilight: Breaking Dawn 2, an insipid tween fantasy about ridiculously good-looking glittering immortal vampires that fall in love with 17 year old girls. Lincoln shared theatre space with Skyfall, which is a great Bond movie — which is to say, it’s a fun romp alongside a bad-ass British guy whose singular interests involve guns (lots of guns), martinis (lots of martinis) and vagina (lots and lots and lots of vagina).
Now, don’t get me twisted. I love me some low-brow eye candy movies. I was there on opening night when Expendables 2 came out.
But, I wonder if Lincoln just can’t compete when the movie-going audience now expects epic CG action scenes strung together by the thinnest excuse of a plot. I wonder if Daniel Day-Lewis is wasted on a movie-going audience that squeals over actors whose chief talent is the ability to read lines on-camera while sparkling.
Yes, Robert Pattinson, I am talking about you.
Lincoln likely won’t do well in box offices this year. I doubt it will do much more than recoup its $65 million production costs. It will cater primarily to parents escorting their tweens to the mall to go see the glittering vampire movie.
And this will not be a failing of Lincoln. Lincoln is brilliant.
It will be because moviegoers are apparently bored by any movie that doesn’t treat them like idiots temporarily attracted by shiny things. It will be because moviegoers can’t get engaged by a historical bio-pic about one of the country’s most influential presidents.
In short, it will be because moviegoers lose interest in movies unless it’s got vampires in it.
Which means there could be an entire generation learning about the Lincoln presidency through THIS movie.
The victims of the Aurora shooting are pictured above, courtesy of KWGN, local Colorado news. They are (left to right, top to bottom): Alex Sullivan, 27, Alex Teves, 24, A.J. Boink, 18, Gordon Cowden, 51, Jesse Childress, 29, Jessica Ghawi, 24, John Larimer, 27, Jonathan Blunk, 26, Matthew McQuinn, 27, Micayla Medek, 23, Rebecca Wingo, 32, and Veronica Moser-Sullivan, 6.
My first reaction to the news was one of shock, horror, and sadness. Not only had 12 lives been snuffed out violently and senselessly, but Holmes had chosen to commit his crime here, like this, at this: at a midnight showing of a comic book movie.
The murder of innocence
Like most fanboys and fangirls, I’m a regular at midnight showings. There’s a certain magic that comes from staying up until midnight to be one of the first people in America to see a movie on opening day. There’s a camaraderie shared as you and other moviegoers collectively embrace the insanity of waiting over two hours in line so that you can ensure that you have one of the best seats in the house. There’s an innocent joy and devious mischievousness – like children who have joined forces to stay up way past bedtime at a sleepover party. Midnight showings cater almost exclusively to my demographic: mid-to-late twenty-somethings who are escaping the reality and responsibility of adulthood, and instead are recapturing part of our youth by indulging in an almost child-like wickedness. Midnight showings are small, intimate, spontaneous comic-cons; they are gatherings where we can fly our nerd flags proud, where we can wear our vintage Batman t-shirts and collector’s edition Star Trek communicators without shame, and where cosplay is acceptable outside of San Diego. We are the comic book and video game and Saturday morning cartoon generation, and at midnight showings, all of those things we were supposed to have grown out of are, for the briefest of hours, “cool” again.
A shooting spree at a midnight showing of a comic book movie strikes home not just because of the senselessness of the violence and the death. James Holmes did not only (allegedly) murder 12 innocent lives and forever scar 59 others, but he also murdered the very innocence, wonder, and magic of the midnight showing.
I attended a 10:30pm showing of The Dark Knight Rises last Friday evening, less than 24 hours after the Aurora shooting. We were second in line, behind another couple who arrived just as we did. The four of us joked and laughed about waiting for two hours for a movie, made small-talk with the frazzled theatre manager, and jokingly cried out “earmuffs!” and collectively covered our ears as the previous showing let out so that we could avoid hearing spoilers. And yet, I couldn’t help but feel some apprehension as I waited in line. I surreptitiously scoped out the emergency exits, and confess that I experienced some relief that the Milford police department had stationed a uniformed police officer right outside the IMAX theatre for our late-night screening.
However, I remain skeptical of those claims because anyone who follows the bat mythos would know that the Joker's hair is green; no one identifying themselves in absolute terms with the Joker would dye their hair red.
However, I think it’s dangerous to draw a causative relationship between the actions of a certifiable mad man (and any man would have to be insane to commit this kind of crime) and The Dark Knight Rises and the Batman mythos. Holmes didn’t burst into a screening of Happy Feet Two, but he very well might have. He didn’t choose to target a screening of The Dark Knight Rises because of the film’s violence or modernity; he targeted a screening of The Dark Knight Rises because he is insane.
There is simply no sense in trying to draw a specific a priori connection between Holmes’ actions and the movie he chose to target. That would be attempting to apply rational thought to irrational behaviour. Trying to blame Holmes’ actions on the Batman movies is about as meaningful as trying to blame Holmes’ actions on the pursuit of a doctoral degree in neuroscience, or on the use of cheap red hair dye.
That being said, I think there is value in trying to draw post hoc parallels between the Batman mythos and Holmes’ connections. Because, like it or not, the Batman story is highly relevant to the events that unfolded in Aurora Friday evening, and the months leading up to it.
For example, there is one relevant passage in the Nolan Batman mythos that I think is worth invoking here: in The Dark Knight (the second installment of the Nolan Bat Trilogy), Alfred recalls the story of a crazed bandit that he fought in his past, and whose motives cannot be fathomed. There is no rhyme or reason to men such as this. They cannot be pleaded with, negotiated with, or understood. There is no logic to their psychosis.
Without glorifying James Egan Holmes or his actions, these words nonetheless resonate: some men just want to watch the world burn. And they would be just as satisfied lighting their match at a screening of Dark Knight Rises as at a screening of Happy Feet Two.
Gun Control and the Bat
In The Dark Knight, the Joker speaks of the unique power of murder that go against a larger social “plan”; how the life of a gang-banger is not seen as equal to the life of a politician.
These words ring true. The last few years have seen mass killings that have struck a particular nerve within the mass consciousness — 9/11, Columbine, the Virginia Tech Massacre, the Tucson shooting of Gabby Giffords, the Norway shooting spree, and Aurora. In the wake of those massacres, this nation (and other nations) have been preoccupied with asking the question of why — why would anyone kill these people?
Had someone been prepared and armed they could have stopped this “bad” man from most of this tragedy. He was two and three feet away from folks, I understand he had to stop and reload. Where were the men of flight 93???? Someone should have stopped this man. Someone could have stopped this man. Lives were lost because of a bad man, not because he had a weapon, but because noone was prepared to stop it. Had they been prepared to save their lives or lives of others, lives could have been saved. (emphasis added)
Early Friday morning, in Aurora, Colorado, James Egan Holmes burst into a packed movie theatre which was screening a movie about a man whose life was forever changed by gun violence. Holmes wore state-of-the-art military-style body armour, and he brandished weaponry that (as far as we can tell) were all legally purchased. He fired countless bullets into the theatre using predominantly an AR-15 assault rifle and nearly 6000 rounds of ammunition.
This is what an AR-15 looks like.
His bullets killed and wounded more than 70 moviegoers, including audience members in a neighbouring theatre. Would an armed audience have stopped Holmes? Or would an addition of more guns to an already chaotic scene of panic, assault rifles, and tear gas have only added to the bloodshed?
In the wake of this tragedy, this country has discouraged a politicizing of this massacre. But, I disagree with this point of view: how can it be respectful to the victims if we are willing to mourn them, but unwilling to face the ugliness that led to their deaths?
In our shock and grief following such tragedies, we must nonetheless strive to hold ourselves to a higher standard: to let rationality prevail over emotion and bloodlust, to respect the lives of the victims rather than glorify the acts of their killer, and to ask ourselves whether the protecting the rights of a madman to legally purchase an AR-15 — which has no purpose other than the taking of human life — is in the spirit of the Second Amendment. Perhaps, in our shock and grief, we should not shy away from the political discussion that surrounds this horrific crime, but instead face it head-long. The twelve young lives lost Friday morning didn’t just die; they were killed, coldly, brutally, and heinously by a madman wielding a legally purchased gun.
We owe the victims of Aurora the courage to face this truth.
Then I get messages from seemingly decent and intelligent people who offer things like: @BrooklynAvi: Guns should only be banned if violent crimes committed with tomatoes means we should ban tomatoes. OR@nysportsguys1: Drunk drivers kill, should we ban fast cars?
I’m hoping that right after they hit send, they take a deep breath and realize that those arguments are completely specious. I believe tomatoes and cars have purposes other than killing. What purpose does an AR-15 serve to a sportsman that a more standard hunting rifle does not serve? Let’s see – does it fire more rounds without reload? Yes. Does it fire farther and more accurately? Yes. Does it accommodate a more lethal payload? Yes. So basically, the purpose of an assault style weapon is to kill more stuff, more fully, faster and from further away. To achieve maximum lethality. Hardly the primary purpose of tomatoes and sports cars.
In our race to draw parallels between Holmes’ actions and the Batman mythos, why can we not draw a lesson or two from Batman himself? Rather than to link Holmes to the “dystopic modernity” of the Nolan Bat-verse, perhaps we can instead strive to learn from the Batman character, and his perspective on guns? Would this not be a more meaningful parallel to make, if we must make one?
Like a young Bruce Wayne, a senseless, horrific shooting robbed us of human life, but of our innocence. For the rest of his life, Bruce seeks to come to terms with the scars obtained after a mad-man uses a gun that murdered both his parents, and his childhood.
This iconic scene, where a young Bruce Wayne kneels over the bodies of his parents, killed by a gun-wielding madman in Crime Alley, fundamentally shapes the Bruce Wayne/Batman character and has been recreated in every iteration of the Batman. The story of the Batman is a story of gun violence.
In Batman Begins, Bruce succumbs briefly to a need for blood and vengeance. He arms himself with a small handgun, intent on shooting his parents’ murderer at a parole hearing. But, he soon comes to the realization that the gun he holds in his hand will not protect him from killing and death, and will not assuage the pain he feels after his parents’ murderer. He realizes that no one, not even he, should hold the destructive power of life and death in their hands. In the years following, Batman frequently underscores his abhorrence of guns.
This theme of the destructive power and responsibility of guns is a powerful undercurrent in the Batman mythos, and appears also in The Dark Knight Rises (don’t worry, no spoilers here). Batman’s story advocates powerfully for greater gun control, not only through the devastating impact that a single handgun had on the young Bruce Wayne’s life, but also through his subsequent rejection of guns in his fight to rid his city of criminals, and the crimes they commit.
The Batman/Catwoman graphic novel "Trail of the Gun" deals specifically with the destructive power of guns.
While there is no immediate answer to “why there”, Holmes’ choice of “there” necessarily invokes the anti-gun message of the Batman mythos. In my final reaction to the Aurora shooting, I can’t help but wonder: how many people have to die before this nation is willing to have the real, and difficult, debate over guns and gun control? Further, I cannot escape the simple fact: had James Holmes been armed with tomatoes on Friday morning rather than an AR-15, there are 12 young people who would likely still be alive today.
In the year 2093, a small group of scientists and mercenaries engage on a manned, multi-billion dollar, multi-year space voyage in an unarmed exploration vessel hurtling towards an arguably arbitrary point in space in hopes of finding the aliens who seeded life on Earth millions of years ago.
Forgive me for saying this, but that is some White people shit.
Disclaimer: First of all, spoiler alert. This post is about the recent movie ‘Prometheus’; it will spoil major plot points, so please do not read any further if you plan on seeing the movie first. Secondly, I haven’t seen the ‘Aliens’ trilogy, so this post will treat ‘Prometheus’ as a stand-alone movie. I know, I know — I’m a terrible geek.
Okay, so, I’m not really saying that White people in general do some stupid shit. But, that does seem to be the take-home message of “Prometheus”. From the movie, we can conclude a couple of things about Earth in 2093: 1) the world is decidedly not post-racial, and 2) White people have the leisure time and resources to do some pretty stupid shit.
So, the whole mission starts when a couple of scientists are excavating the Isle of Man and they discover some cave paintings of a really big man pointing at a cluster of six stars. This supposedly matches other artwork done by other ancient cultures. This prompts our protagonists — archaelogists Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her beau, Dr. Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) — to make the most breath-taking and spectacularly unscientific conclusions about their data that has ever occurred in the history of science, real or imaginary. They decide that the multiple instances of these images in distant ancient cultures can only mean that 1) a band of gigantic, humanoid aliens created human life on Earth, and 2) that the images are an “invitation” for humans to journey to a single spot in the universe where six stars resemble the configuration in the cave painting, where they will presumably find our extraterrestrial Creators, alive and eagerly awaiting our triumphant return.
Because there's absolutely no way that this is a cave painting of a guy throwing some rocks at a dingo. Or learning to juggle at a Neanderthal circus. Or reaching onto an upper shelf to get some salty fish snacks while a dog takes a nearby dump. No, it's clearly an artist's depiction of the gigantic Creator Alien who seeded life on this planet, now pointing to a star map.
Understandably, our two archaelogist heroes couldn’t get public funding to mount an excavation to the stars. (The accompanying scene where they get laughed out of the national science academy will probably be included in the special collector’s edition on Blu-Ray.) But luckily, a private industry mogul named Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce aged to about 357 years old using latex prosthetics and the magic of Hollywood) gives our scientists a bajillion-quadrillian-googlezamillion dollars to basically do whatever they want in pursuit of these alleged Creator aliens.
If only real science worked this way...
Anyways, so now our fearless scientsts are armed with more money than there are bathtubs in the world to put them. And so they undertake the task of figuring out what to do with all that cash.
I'm sure at least one afternoon was spent doing this, though. All in the pursuit of science, of course.
After an undisclosed amount of time, the design of their mission is presented:
1) Despite the fact that there are literally billions of stars in our galaxy, and the fact that they are moving, our scientists are somehow able to pinpoint a single spot in the galaxy that they believe corresponds to the star configuration depicted in their pictographs.
Which is about as scientific as this strategy.
2) The Creator planet is Really Fucking Far Away ™. Like, lightyears away far. So, rather than to opt to launch an unmanned probe to this unexplored, potentially dangerous region of space (thereby rendering the intervening three years of space travel a productive time), our hapless scientists decide that a manned mission — with a built-in minimum 6 year commute time to and from this point in space — is a completely reasonable first stab at this project. Further, this manned mission will be conducted on an “exploration vessel”, which lacks any form of weapons, whatsoever.
3) Mission crew will be placed into suspended animation for the 6 year travel time to the Creator Planet, a process which is apparently extremely dangerous: standard recovery procedures include confusion and nausea, and apparently some loss of life is expected. Yet, despite the high mortality rate associated with the suspended animation process, and despite the fact that our crew is travelling Really Fucking Far Away ™ from Earth, and thus away from all other humans, the mission opts to staff itself with only seventeen crew members (and no redundancy within their staff). Need a geologist? Let’s hire one. Need a xenobiologist? Yeah, we only need one. Medics? I’m not even sure the crew even had one trained doctor. If one of them dies? Oh well, I guess we won’t need a replacement goddammed xenobiologist on this mission to an alien planet!
As for non-scientist personnel on the crew, we have Michael Fassbender as David, an android, and Charlize Theron, playing the supremely bitchy (and I mean it, they made her character completely unlikeable) Meredith Vickers (daughter to Peter Weyland), who we know is supposed to be a hard-ass because the first thing she does when she wakes up from suspended animation is push-ups. Badly.
And then, we have the ship’s piloting crew: mercenaries who include the captain of the ship Janek (Idris Elba) and his bridge crew, Ravel (Bernard Wong) and Chance (Emun Elliott).
So, let me get this straight, in the world of Prometheus, the highly-trained scientists look like this:
Our crackpot team of "brains".
The wealthy Weyland staff members, Meredith Vickers, and her pet robot, David, who are basically in charge of the mission (because they hold the pursestrings), look like this:
Our well-to-do, poised moneymen and mission leaders.
And the underpaid, low-brow mercenaries whose main job it is to keep the ship pointed in the right direction, look like this:
Our grunts (aka, the guys I was actually rooting for).
There are 7 other crew members, but they basically look a lot like this.
Our cannon fodder.
In the world of Prometheus, the upper echelons of society, which include its academics and CEOs (Vickers stands to inherit Weyland Corp after her father, Peter Weyland, has died)) are exclusively White. Even the android, David, who was built in the image of the human ideal, is unflinchingly Aryan in appearance with a perfectly coifed helmet of blonde hair and stunning blue eyes (which was also to create a familial resemblance between him and his “sister”, played by Charlize Theron).
Meanwhile, the ship’s bridge crew — the only mercenaries who are named and granted any sort of dialogue — are predominantly non-White. They are clearly of a lower-class than the scientists: Ravel and Chance have a running gag wherein they are taking bets about what the purpose of their mission is. This suggests that they, along with their captain, are basically muscle-for-hire who have done many of these sorts of missions before, and are rarely intellectually invested in their mission goals. Further, it’s clear that they aren’t considered important enough to have received any pre-mission briefing, and are instead most interested in how much money they will earn.
(And yes, I realize that Emun Elliott is White; however, he’s only one out of three named mercenaries in the movie. Further, I wasn’t familiar with him, and he was made up to be fairly swarthy-looking in the movie; I actually thought he was non-White until I checked IMDB and Wikipedia for his biography).
In other words, the world of Prometheus is decidedly racialized. In the world of Prometheus, the White people are in charge. And, in the world of Prometheus, the White people do some really dumb shit.
This dumb shit includes (but is not limited to) the following, listed in no particular order: 1) wandering aimlessly through an alien tomb, in total darkness, even though the tomb has yet to be fully mapped; 2) taking off one’s helmet because there’s enough oxygen in the atmosphere, with complete disregard for the possibility of super-duper space germs; 3) touching everything in the alien tomb when you don’t know what it is, and bringing alien artifacts back to the ship; 4) throwing oneself into a deadly alien hailstorm that nearly rips you to pieces so that you can rescue a desiccated thousand-year old alien head that is just as likely to still be outside on the ground when the storm passes; 5) “resurrecting” a dead alien corpse, because it might be able to talk to you; 6) running around just hours after major abdominal surgery to remove an alien parasite; and, 7) consciously choosing to leave security personnel and weapons on your ship instead of bringing them on your first expedition onto an alien planet, because the Creators might interpret that as “hostile”.
But there's no way that the Creator aliens will interpret the act of showing up on alien soil COMPLETELY UNARMED as an act of sheer idiocy.
Soon, all of the scientists are killed when it turns out that — surprise, surprise — the Creator aliens aren’t actually peaceful, happy-go-lucky, benevolent gods. Actually, they’re sociopathic killers.
Incidentally, if we needed more proof that the premise of Prometheus is that White people do some dumb shit: the Creator aliens’ master plan is to destroy Earth. How are they going to do it? Well, despite the fact that they have almost unfathomable alien tech, and could probably just nuke the entire planet into oblivion, they — inexplicably – choose to destroy Earth by sending a small ship with a cargohold of mysterious black goo that causes organic matter to hyper-evolve.
In other words, this advanced species of aliens’ master plan for the destruction of mankind is to evolve us to death.
That is some dumb-ass shit that is almost guaranteed to backfire. And when it does (resulting in the death of virtually all of the Creator aliens on the planet), the lone surviving Creator alien decides… that he’ll just try again! ‘Cuz it worked so well the first time!
Oh, and by the way, what do these Creator aliens look like?
The Whitest people you know.
It turns out that in the entire movie, the only people who aren’t stupidly rushing headlong into unnecessary danger are — you guessed it — the mercs. Janek and his crew spend most of the movie bemusedly watching everyone else go down onto the planet’s surface, while they conduct ship’s duties on the bridge.
About an hour and a half of frantic running-for-their-lives later, only Dr. Shaw, David, and Meredith Vickers are still alive… and, of course, the entire band of mercenaries.
As the surviving Creator alien blasts off in Earth’s direction with a cargohold full of deadly black goo, Janek and his crew are faced with a difficult choice: 1) head home, or 2) ram the alien vessel with the human spaceship and blow everybody up.
Guess which option is chosen?
In summary, Prometheus is a movie where the White people are rich, well-educated and intensely stupid. In fact, they aren’t just harmlessly stupid: a select cadre of White people rise above a level of mediocre stupid to achieve an unending cascade of collosal stupid that triggers both the possible destruction of the planet Earth at the hands of the Creator alien, and the birth of the man-eating alien species of the Alien Trilogy.
And Prometheus is also a movie where the Black guy, the Asian guy, and the swarthy-lookin’ Scottish dude save all of mankind as we know it. With ramming speed.
But, as I was at work today, I got to wondering what an all-Asian/Asian American cast for a live-action Akira might look like. I was further inspired by a Tweet by Greg Pak to try and put together an Akira dream cast.
Keep in mind, it has been about a bazillion years since I’ve seen the original Akira anime, so I’ve had to do some background reading to remind myself of the characters. But, here we go:
Sung Kang as Kaneda
Sung Kang as Kaneda
We’ve seen Sung Kang demonstrate an impressive breadth of talent in the many roles that he’s taken over the years, and I think he’s perfectly equipped to tackle the role of Kaneda. In particular, as Kaneda, Kang could draw out the subtle nuances of a character who would otherwise devolve into being a dumb jock with a hero complex. I also think Sung Kang has the right look (I think they call it ”gravitas”) to pull off “post-apocalyptic biker”, even if his action film resume is a little thin. Physically, he’s got that right square jaw look to be a believable Kaneda; now, we just might need to convince him to cut his hair for the role…
Ken Leung as Tetsuo
Ken Leung as Tetsuo
This is a hat-tip to Greg Pak: Ken Leung is a dead-ringer for Tetsuo. He’s cunning but retains a boyish, innocent quality that lends itself well to Tetsuo, and his natural snarkiness could add humour to an otherwise heavy-handed script. Leung has played a few super-powered characters in the past: a mutant with porcupine quills in X3 and Miles, who boasted the ability to talk to dead people, in Lost. A grossly over super-powered Miles who loses his mind and goes on a murderous rampage? Scary.
Moon Bloodgood as Kei
Moon Bloodgood as Kei
This one gave me a little trouble. It’s been so long since I’ve seen Akira that I barely remembered Kei, except as a bad-ass terrorist who handles herself in physical, violent situations remarkably well. Sadly, there are few Asian American actresses who are popular today, and even fewer who could credibly survive in a war-torn, futuristic Tokyo. Then, I realized that there was one Asian American woman who has already played a bad-ass, post-apocalyptic terrorist: Moon Bloodgood in the latest Terminator. And, whoo boy, could she kick some butt. So, I’m calling upon Ms. Bloodgood to lend her talent here, and make Kei more than just some dippy Hollywood love interest; let’s make her a true, gritty, post-apocalyptic heroine.
Daniel Dae Kim as Colonel Shikishima
Daniel Dae Kim as Colonel Shikishima
Originally, I wanted to cast B.D. Wong as Colonel Shikishima, because I think Wong is incredibly talented and could play this villain-turned-hero character really well. Unfortunately, Wong simply doesn’t have the appropriate physique, especially compared to the other actors I’ve cast in the roles of the protagonists. So, I’ve opted to put in Daniel Dae Kim as the Colonel, who would obviously need to grow a moustache and be aged (via the magic of Hollywood) to appear a little older than he is. Kim needs to be forthright, severe, and physically intimidating, but ultimately a sympathetic figure who has the best interests of Tokyo and the Esper children in mind. With the way that Kim made Lost‘s Jin a heroic figure, when he was initially introduced as an abusive husband, I think he’ll be able to handle the Colonel remarkably well. And, I think we can probably forgo the Mohawk.
James Kyson Lee as Kai
James Kyson Lee as Kai
Kai is a member of Kaneda’s gang, normally quiet and shy, but a capable fighter and biker. I think James Kyson Lee, if he grew his hair out a little, could probably play Kai ably. As he showed in Heroes, he’s capable of carrying a scene on his own, while also sharing a scene with another character without taking away the spotlight. On an unrelated note, have you ever Googled images of James Kyson Lee? I had no idea he was so ripped… Mamma mia…
Jamie Chung as Kaori
Jamie Chung as Kaori
Any actress who plays Kaori has to fit two simple criteria: young and good-looking. And, whether we like or we hate Jamie Chung, she fits this bill pretty nicely. Kaori is the Ophelia character in Akira, who pretty much runs around helplessly, angst-ing over her boyfriend Tetsuo’s transformation into a villain, until she is ruthlessly (and graphically) killed. Jamie Chung’s profile has been rising lately, with her recent casting in Sucker Punch, but her acting chops simply haven’t been tested yet. Given that Kaori’s role is neither particularly demanding, nor particularly important, Chung’s as good a choice for Kaori as any (as long as she can act morose enough, since Kaori spends most of her time unspeakably, irritatingly sad). As an added bonus, Jamie Chung recently starred in Dragonball: Evolution, which already makes her a veteran of the anime-turned-live-action movie genre.
And there you have it — my dream casting of a live-action, all-Asian American adaptation of Akira. I’ve decided not to cast the roles of Akira or the Espers, because the Espers would probably be child actors with CGI faces, and because Akira should be played by an unknown actor who is significantly younger than most of the high-profile Asian American actors today. It’s also a pretty small role, anyways.
What do you think? Think you can do better? Post your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.
While there’s a collective sigh of relief being heard all over the Internet with this latest news, it’s not as if we’re going to see an Akira remake that actually includes Asian/Asian American actors. Phil, over at Angry Asian Man, notes that the upcoming Akira remake is intended to take place in a war-ravaged Manhattan, not Tokyo, thus freeing all of the characters up to be played by “American” (re: White) actors.
Personally, while I think Akira is a ground-breaking anime film, the more I think about it, the more I think it simply cannot be translated into live-action for American audiences. The Akira film is genre-redefining, but may ultimately be too fantastic for a live-action screen. Anime provides the perfect medium to blend the real with the unbelievable, because the entire world is, ultimately, an artistic reconstruction where anything is possible. Live-action grounds stories in a need to be believable; is there any way to show the final scenes of Akira without having it devolve into impossible, and laughable, camp?
Akira may be doomed to failure from the get-go. All race-bending issues aside, this may be one project where Hollywood should know well enough to leave it the hell alone.