I'm not the world's biggest anime fan, but I know and love a few films and series. Nothing too obscure or weird, really -- just the obvious stuff like Akira and Robotech (or Macross, if you prefer -- I saw it on American TV ages ago, so it'll always be Robotech to me). The same can be said of American animation. I loved me some GI Joe as a kid, and while I never got quite as into the Transformers, I generally liked the franchise. As such, you'd think I'd be a near perfect target audience for the ever-growing barrage of animation-to-live-action adaptations that have emerged and/or been announced in the recent past.
After all, I'm a fan, but not a fanboy, meaning I'm likely to want to check out the adaptation, but not likely to kill the producers if they change a character here or there, or drop an obscure plotline to make the overall film experience a bit more accessible. Yet in reality, when we get a bunch of announcements like the recent reveals that live-action takes on both Astro Boy and Robotech are in the works, my reaction falls somewhere between disinterest and exasperation. I don't want to know who's making it, or who's starring in it, or even what the new toys are going to look like (of course there will be new toys). All I want to know is ... why?
Yes, yes, I know why -- money. I get that, and I am okay with that. As long as we live in a capitalist society, the "why" is nearly always going to boil down to money. No, the "why" I am interested in is why anyone cares enough to go see them in the first place.
There was a time when animation was not considered a serious medium, nor one that could make money, but hasn't that time passed? Television is full of fantastic, popular and well-regarded animated shows, from The Simpsons to Archer. Pixar is one of the biggest studios in the world, and while it ostensibly makes "kids' movies," those films are nearly as popular with adults as their official target audience. It's true that there aren't a lot of great animated features being made strictly for an adult audience, but this seems more of a failure of Hollywood's imagination than an issue with the medium itself.
Is there something animated films can't do that live-action films can? (I mean besides cast Tom Cruise in the lead role, of course.) Hardly. If anything, it's the opposite. Something like a giant, semi-anthropomorphic transforming spaceship-robot really only works in animation. Hell, the god-awful Transformers movies used so much CGI, it's arguable whether it's even appropriate to call them "live action" when you come right down to it. Properties that are easier to film, like GI Joe, tend to suffer just as much. Hell, the old GI Joe is really just a cartoonish take on action movies, and by the time the live-action film debuted, action movies had become so cartoonish, anyway, that there was no reason for a GI Joe film to exist.(Seriously, the physics of the old cartoons were at least as realistic as those in, say, the last Fast and the Furious movie.)
I'd consider my concern simple nostalgia if not for the fact that most of the original fans end up hating the live-action remakes (the next hardcore fan of the Transformers cartoons I meet who doesn't want to murder Michael Bay will be the first). And most of these properties aren't even that popular -- yes, Akira is known by basically everyone, but even something like Robotech is a pretty niche property once you get out of the realm of hardcore geeks. And who, in America, is nurturing the kind of nostalgia for Astro Boy that it would take to propel the series to massive, mainstream success? It just doesn't make a lot of sense.
Personally, I'd rather see those resources spent on extending or rebooting those properties in the animated realm. Better yet, why not make some new, kick-ass animated series and films to inspire a new generation of geeks? Animation is no longer a ghetto, where second-rate properties are marketed to stunted man-children (if it was, there wouldn't be any interest in adapting these properties, right?), so why are we still treating it like one? Until and unless there's some compelling reason to take something out of the realm of animation and into the real world, I'll keep ignoring these films, interspersed with the occasional eye roll. It'd be great if you all would do the same, and then maybe the madness would stop.
Find me on Twitter, where I tweet about geeky stuff and waste an inordinate amount of time: @casciato.