We've gotten a lot of different types of adaptions from Hollywood over the years. Book-to-film adaptions like [Harry Potter](tag:1523709) and [The Hunger Games](tag:44466), game-to-film adaptions like The Super Mario Bros Movie and Street Fighter: The Movie, and even toy-to-film adaptions like Transformers and G.I Joe! But the market Hollywood doesn't seem to visit very often is the anime/manga-to-film adaption.
That's because, to put it simply, most if not all live-action adaptions of anime or manga have been really, REALLY bad! For those who don't know, "anime" is the Japanese word for animation, and that's really what they are; Japanese cartoons meant for kids, teens or adults, depending on which one you're talking about. A manga is basically the book or graphic novel form of that.
Like I said, Hollywood hasn't done as much films based on anime as they have other forms of source material, because every anime-to-film adaption that's come out has been a huge flop. Just look at films like Dragonball Evolution or The Last Airbender for a good example of a terrible movie. And yes, I'm aware that The Last Airbender is based on the American series, Avatar: The Last Airbender. But the show had so much Asian influences and themes, it's considered by many to be a Western-born anime. And the film did it absolutely no justice.
Pretty soon, we'll be subjected to yet another film that probably won't make the show, or the fans proud - Naruto: The Movie.
A recently announced project by Lionsgate, the movie doesn't have any cast or crew members yet, but Lionsgate is eyeing visual effects/animation artist Michael Gracey. The film does not yet have an official title either, but most likely, it will be called Naruto, Naruto: The Movie or My Childhood: Ruined (Part VI). I love Naruto, it and Dragon Ball Z were the first anime I ever watched. They simultaneously got me hooked on anime, manga and the entire Japanese culture!
It's the very reason why I'm learning Japanese, so a Naruto movie should sound pretty great to me right? Sure, if it was animated like the others. I have nothing against Lionsgate, they're a great film studio, and a live-action Naruto movie was all I dreamed about as a child. But all that dreaming ceased as soon as I watched Dragonball Evolution and The Last Airbender.
I know I talked about them already, but those movies were the absolute worst. They took everything about the shows they were based on—the relatable characters, the incredible visuals and the wonderful premise, and threw it all in the trash. Replacing them with dry and boring characters, lame CGI and the worst storytelling known to man.
So of course, I'm more than a little worried about the possibility of a live-action Naruto movie. I just really don't want Hollywood taking something I love so much, and subjecting it to the dreaded anime-to-film curse. Still, it's way too early to start judging the film. Right now, it's only an idea, with not enough behind it for me to criticize.
That being said, as a fan of the show, and a poor soul who had to witness two of his other favorite shows transformed into live-action nightmares, I've decided to list off some things that I think the Naruto film needs to do to succeed. Now, this isn't me saying "do all of this and then you'll be perfect", this list is just so the live-action Naruto movie hopefully doesn't have to go through what all those other anime films had to go through. So, let's begin, shall we?
See the two posing characters above? Take a guess at who they're supposed to be. Ok, due to the Buddhist monk getup and the forehead tattoos, you can probably tell that that's Aang from The Last Airbender. What about the guy on the right? Well, that's Goku from Dragonball Evolution. But if you're a fan of the original Dragon Ball anime, and had never seen any promotional material for the live-action film, you wouldn't know that. Why? Because he looks NOTHING like Goku!
And look, it's not the fact that the actor literally doesn't look like Goku, because where in the world are you going to find a guy who looks like this?
I doubt there are many folks out there with egg shaped eyes, a nostril-less nose and hair that's clearly been given all the shaping gel. But that doesn't excuse how wrong both of these movies got their casting. The Last Airbender tried to capture the Ancient China/Eastern cultured feel of the clothing, and to their credit, they did a good job. The clothing, though not exactly like that of the show, still had that Eastern Mythology feel to it. It was the characters themselves that suffered. All the actors must have met up before filming, and decided that they would act like the complete opposite of how they're characters are supposed to be. It was like they had no direction at all.
Aang went from a brave yet humble hero, to a confused looking kid who was always trying to speak in protagonist cliches. Katara went from the strong-willed leadership type, to a exposition spouting character who sort of whined a lot. And Sokka went from the hilarious comedy relief, to the guy who just bums everyone out with talk of no hope and impending doom.
Sure, they looked a bit like the characters, mostly clothing wise. But whoever they were portraying, it certainly wasn't the cast of the show. Dragonball Evolution not only gets the attitudes and feel of the characters wrong like TLA, it gets everything else wrong about them too. In the original Dragon Ball anime, Goku is a little kid who wears an orange Japanese martial arts gi, with a tail and a red staff that he carries on his back. How much of that can you see in the image of live-action Goku above? Absolutely none of it!
Dragonball Evolution's Goku is an 18 year old high school graduate with the normal getup of a T-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes. It's not just how he looks either, it's how he acts. Instead of being an innocent kid with no knowledge of the city life, DBE Goku is a normal teenage guy who loves girls, fast cars and pretty much all of the cliches of being an 18 year old high school graduate protagonist.
He had more in common with Andrew Garfield's version of Peter Parker than he did Goku! It's like they found some random guy on the street, handed him a script and said "Here, be Goku!" and when he asked for some source material, they just laughed in his face. I'm all for changing up a few things for newer adaptions, but they changed it up so much that it isn't even an adaption anymore.
Hollywood, if you're going to make a Naruto movie, please make sure you get the right people who can both bring life to the character, and actually act like the character they're portraying. Which brings me to my next subject:
Make Sure The Director Knows His Stuff
Like I said, I'm okay with some changes that the film will inevitably make. Little changes, because otherwise, you're just going to the theater to see what you've already seen or read before. But this isn't something like the Marvel universe, where there are multiple stories and versions of the character that you can draw inspiration from. There's only one story, the story of Naruto, and it would make no sense if you made a movie about the story of Naruto, and didn't know anything about it.
One of the problems The Last Airbender faced was that it was pretty clear that nobody watched the source material. And yes, I know that I keep going back to either this film or DBE, but they were honestly incredibly bad films! Seriously if you haven't seen them yet, you lucky person.
Anyway, the film got so many things wrong, things that you shouldn't have been able to get wrong; unless you skipped the source material. M. Night Shymalan insisted that he and his family sat down and watched the entire series start to finish before working on the film, but...no, no they did not. It wasn't just stuff that meant he could have easily seen the show and then ignored it, like the characters or the fact that it took twenty benders to move a pebble.
It was stuff like NAMES too! In the show, Aang is pronounced like "Hang" minus the H. But in the film, it's pronounced like "Gong" minus the G. It's like this for almost all of the characters! Sock-Ka (Sokka) becomes So-Ka, Eye-Row (Iro) becomes E-Row. I know this sounds like nitpicking, but it's stuff like this that makes it so blatantly obvious that nobody, not even the director actually took the time to study what they were adapting. Imagine Harry Potter, but everybody kept calling him Heyrry Pooter: The Guy That Survived.
Anyway Hollywood, please make sure that whomever you get to direct this live-action Naruto movie actually watches the show or picks up a manga issue. He doesn't have to be a huge fan, but at least make sure he has the knowledge to give the fans what they want.
Please Don't Try To Do Too Much At Once
Ok, listen, I'm going to talk about The Last Airbender and Dragonball Evolution AGAIN. There have been other live-action anime/manga adaptions, but they aren't as big or as noteworthy as these two terrible films based on two pop culture giants. Unless you're talking about Edge of Tomorrow, but that was a pretty good movie.
The Last Airbender and Dragon Ball Evolution have one very common flaw. They try to do too much in a single, two hour film. TLA is based on the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender. A season, by the way, that was 20 episodes long! Instead of making at least two films based on that, they decided to make one film and stuff as much of season one into the 2 hour time slot as possible. The story felt rushed and condensed, and because of time constraint, it never stayed on one focus for too long. The result was a bunch of five minute subplots that felt like they were only there to bridge the gap between the first scene and the final battle. Even the final battle felt rushed and ridiculous.
All of that stuff in the film actually worked in the show, because it had time to flesh out the characters and the plots. Dragonball Evolution tries to do the same time constraint plan, but on a much wider scale. Instead of cramming 20 episodes worth of content, it fits an entire series worth! 153 EPISODES were stuffed into this two hour horror show, resulting in one of the worst adaptions of all time. Because it bit off more than it could chew, DBE had to get rid of story arcs, plot elements, and even important characters just so it could be 2 hours long.
Naruto has 220 episodes to cover, and that's not even counting the filler episodes, or the sequel series Naruto Shippuden! Hollywood, Lionsgate, Michael Gracey, PLEASE take your time with this! Don't try to cram an entire series into one movie. I understand that the rules of filmmaking dictate that every good movie has to have a spectacular beginning and ending. But there's enough content in Naruto for you to make at least five good, non-rushed films! You can have the first film focus on the Zabuza Arc, and the have the second and third focus on the Chunin Exam Arc (it's a long arc), and continue on until the saga has concluded. If we can handle 6 (so far) Star Wars movies, and 8 (so far..sort of) Harry Potter films, having that many, if not more Naruto films wouldn't be so bad. As long as it meant we were getting some good movies out of it.
There's enough fantasy, action and story in the first season alone to make into an epic live-action film. If this film does a good job, it has the potential to show everybody else out there, trying to adapt an anime into a live-action film, that they can actually be good, enjoyable films.
I'm not saying it has to be perfect, or better than the original. I'm not expecting it to be. But if you're going to take up the task of adapting an iconic series, at least try to make it something worth watching. Well, that's all for my rant. I suppose now, we'll all just have to wait and see what Lionsgate does with this adaption of theirs.
What Do You Want To See In A Live-Action Naruto Film?