Live-action comic book movies are a big deal these days, with four of the 10 highest-grossing films in the U.S. hailing from that category in 2014. All four of those are Marvel properties, though, and while American rival DC Comics has found sporadic movie success in the past, Western adaptations of Japanese manga haven’t even fared that well.
Still, it looks like one studio is getting ready to roll the dice again, and the dice don’t get much bigger than Japan’s most exalted manga of all, as Australia’s Animal Logic Entertainment has announced its plans for an Astro Boy live-action movie.
The Sydney-based visual effects studio has previously lent its talents to creating the vivid looks of films such as "The Lego Movie," "The Great Gatsby," "Sucker Punch," "Moulin Rouge!" and "300." In 2015, movie-goers will get to see even more of Animal Logic’s work in "Avengers: Age of Ultron," but Iron Man’s appearances in the highly anticipated sequel won’t be the last time the studio works with a flying metal hero.
Zareh Nalbandian, who served as executive producer for "The Lego Movie" and has been announced as the live-action Astro Boy’s producer, even sees some similarities between Tony Stark’s alter ego and God of Manga Osamu Tezuka’s most famous creation, saying that Atom, as Astro Boy is known in Japan, is “in the same league as an Iron Man.”
As a matter of fact, Nalbandian is looking forward to the opportunity to depict Astro Boy as never before, saying that while the robot boy’s many fans have enjoyed his adventures as a manga or animated character, the live-action project will be their first chance to see Astro Boy as a super hero.
Nalbandian’s comparison with the breakout Marvel character seems to indicate that Animal Logic is hoping its live-action Astro Boy will be an all-ages hit, or at least appeal to more than just very young children. Lending a little more weight to this theory are the resumes of the film’s two executive producers, Mike Callaghan and Reuben Liber, whose prior credits include such action/thriller fare as "6 Bullets," "Assassination Games," "One in the Chamber" and "Meeting Evil."
If all of that makes you feel a little uneasy, you’re not alone. While Tezuka’s Atom is a mighty robot, he resolves plenty of crises in non-violent ways, and considering the poor track record Western live-action manga and anime adaptations have (how man unlucky viewers are still trying to get the taste of "Dragonball Evolution" out of their mouths?), many Japanese Internet commenters aren’t getting their hopes up.
"I’ve got a seriously bad feeling about this.” “Even if it’s being made overseas, I wish they’d drop the live-action thing.” “Huh? What do you morons think you’re doing?” “I’m guessing he’ll have a pointlessly complicate design and a stylish sequence of his weapons being developed.”
But as some fans pointed out, the very first Astro Boy adaptation was live-action, in the form of a black and white Japanese TV series that premiered in 1959, a full four years before the franchise’s first anime episode.
Still, Animal Logic’s decision to go live-action and the emphasis of a “super hero” tone, are a little jarring. Given that neither the hand-drawn nor CG Astro Boy animation that’s made its way to the west have become huge, sweeping successes, we can understand the studio wanting to try something new, but we’re hoping that Animal Logic uses good judgment in deciding which aspects of the original character to include, and which to cut for its live-action film.
Sources: Nico Nico News, First Showing
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