Hollywood loves adaptations — whether it’s a book, a comic, or a video game, adaptations seem to have an easier time getting a green light. For one thing, adaptations come with a ready-made fandom (that usually translates to a movie audience) and pre-existing characters and concepts that usually have been proven to work. One of the most popular genres to plunder for the big screen right now is manga and anime (Japanese comics and animated series), with multiple anime adaptations hitting screens in 2017. Ghost in the Shell is due for release in March, Death Note will be appearing at an unknown date in 2017, and multiple other properties are reportedly in the works (including Bleach and Akira).
Now, Warner Bros. have announced they are negotiating for the rights to Attack On Titan, the hugely successful manga that has already spawned a franchise, and the studio already has a producer in mind.
As reported by Deadline, the studio is in the process of obtaining the feature rights, and that (should they succeed) the project would be produced by David Heyman. Heyman is known for his work on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the Harry Potter films and Gravity, among others.
Attack on Titan is set in a post-apocalyptic world where surviving humans live behind high walls in an attempt to remain safe from the Titans — enormous, vicious monsters that eat humans. The series slowly reveals some truths about the Titans as the central characters battle for their survival. As well as the original manga, the series has been adapted into a series of novels, an anime (with a second season coming this year), video games, live-action films, and a TV series in Japan. Warner Bros.’ take on the series would be the first North American live-action adaptation, and would be the third anime adaptation in the works for the studio, in addition to the aforementioned Akira and Bleach.
This is big news for fans of the series, and suggests the anime-adaptation trend in movies could just be getting started. The incredible popularity of Attack on Titan makes it a fantastic choice for the studio, and Heyman’s experience with big franchises and fantasy worlds suggests he’ll be able to do this franchise justice. The studio may even decide to adapt the series into a larger franchise, rather than a single film, especially as the live-action version released in Japan was split over two movies. A successful adaptation could also pave the way for further live-action anime series and movies, or re-start the Akira project that has been languishing in development for several years now.
That slow-moving Akira project is also a potential cause for concern, however. Although Warner Bros. already has a producer in mind for Attack on Titan, no writer or director is attached (presumably because negotiations for the rights are on-going), and some fans may be concerned that Attack on Titan could suffer the same fate as Akira. There is also a concern with casting; Ghost in the Shell has been roundly criticized for whitewashing, and should the studio announce a predominantly white cast for Attack on Titan, it would likely draw similar ire. As of now, nothing is certain, and it is possible that the studio will not get the feature rights, so judgement can be reserved until more is known.