For the past few years, there were several releases of live-action movies based on Manga, Anime, and Video Games. It has been a hit-or-miss opportunity for every production wherein big budget doesn’t always equate to a great movie. Here, I’ll try to give my two cents on what it takes to translate these media properly. Just a disclaimer, I didn’t graduate from a film or literature related course. These are just purely my opinion, and I based them on the live action movies that I’ve seen so far.
It’s one thing to give an actor or actress a make-up and hairstyle to match the character that he or she is portraying, and it’s another thing to pick a cast member who looks just like the character, effortlessly. The latter is quite difficult to fulfill, but when the production pulls it off, it will leave a lasting impression to the audience. One best example I can think of would be Christian Howard who plays Ken Masters in Street Fighter Assassin’s Fist. One look at the guy, and you instantly imagine him executing a Shoryuuken. Beyond the looks, the guy can perform martial arts moves that are convincing enough to emulate the reference character.
Speaking of martial arts moves, picking Takeru Satoh was a perfect choice to play as Kenshin Himura for the Rurouni Kenshin movies. He’s a trained athlete, and he can do some insane acrobatics combined with elegant swordsmanship. You can see on his execution that he’s the guy for the job. Don’t believe me? Watch this video…
As for an example of a bad casting, you can look no further than Dragonball Evolution. Among other things that this movie had done, the casting alone was a complete mess for me. Watching on mute will leave you confused who’s who. Even Piccolo who can be worked around through proper prosthetic failed to deliver.
Loyalty To Story
One big reason that the fans got hooked with the source material was probably the story. There were events that made the series memorable, and they are looking forward relive these moments. Of course, there are parts that need to be changed or omitted due to the constraint that movies can only run up to three hours, but it should be done in a seamless manner. Kind of like what was done in Death Note. The events were modified, but it still made sense to the overall story. I actually think that the L in the live-action was quite smarter than his anime/manga counterpart.
Now, if only the Tekken movie did not happen. Seriously, the good plot of the video game franchise was murdered by this B-Movie. The monumental moment where Heihachi threw Kazuya on the cliff was not presented, heck even the story behind the devil gene was not there. Christie’s not using Capoeira, Marshall Law not using Jeet-Kune-Do (Blasphemy!), and the list goes on. The only thing that the movie did right was picking Lateef Crowder as Eddy, but hey, that’s for the Resembling Cast criteria.
It’s an awesome feat if you’ll be able to remember that shot that exactly captures the same image that you’ve seen in a manga or an anime. Such moments will give you nostalgic fun. Also, if the director can get a clearer view of highlighting the character’s resembling features and skills, it gives the viewers the feel that this medium had been loyal to the source material. Take a look at Rurouni Kenshin (yes, I really love the film, and I’m going to cite it more than once). You can see from the camera angles how Kenshin’s speed and agility were emphasized with beautiful rope works that enabled the actor to lean, bend, and high-jump like the original character.
I understand that the filmmakers have a certain liberty to play with a franchise in the way that they know best. However, I believe that it’s just proper not to ruin that franchise with such style. After all, it was the stuff that the source material was made of that gave it its popularity. Disregarding these factors may prove to be disrespectful to the fans. I hope they will learn from the indie and Asian movie scene on how to do things right. ‘Til then, I recommend the following movies for good samples of live-action adaptations. Enjoy! (~^_^)~
Good Live-Action Movies:
- Rurouni Kenshin Trilogy
- Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist
- Ashita no Joe (Tomorrow’s Joe)
- Shinobi (Live-Action for Basilisk)
- Kamen Rider The First and Kamen Rider The Next
- Garo: Red Requiem