You ninja fans out there might have to get your shuriken stars ready. A live-action Naruto film is coming.
Variety broke the news a mere hour ago. Production studio Lionsgate is in negotiations for the film rights to a Naruto movie, and they’re tapping visual effects artist Michael Gracey to direct the film.
Based on the Japanese manga written and illustrated by artist Masashi Kishimoto, Naruto tells the story of a village ninja who grew up alone and hated by all of the townspeople for reasons unbeknownst to him. Wanting to redeem himself in the eyes of the village people, Naruto trains hard, aspiring to become Hokage: the headmaster and leader of the village.
Being a fan of Naruto since high school, I couldn’t be more excited at hearing that a live action film is in the works. And yet, I have concerns about this project. First of all, Avi Arad is producing through his company Arad Productions alongside Erik Feig, Geoff Shaveitz and Kelly O’Malley. While Arad has been involved of many successful studio projects (X2, Spider-Man 2, Iron Man), he’s equally been involved with many busts as well (Bratz: The Movie, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Robosapien: Rebooted). Arad has been involved in a number of successful movies, but just because he’s on board does not guarantee the movie’s success.
There’s also the difficulty of adapting Naruto onto the big screen. To date, there has been very few successful big-screen adaptations of Manga material to date, the majority existing in the Foreign market anyway. Oldboy and Death Note were critically acclaimed films that successfully adapted their manga material, but Speed Racer and Priest were likewise movies equally panned by its same audience. The American version of Oldboy suffered even worse than those movies were.
That’s not to say that a Naruto film can’t work, and it definitely has a lot of material to work with, but it’s at a difficult time of manga-to-film adaptations. It’s starting off in a struggling market. That’s not a good indication for any production, whether it be based off of a manga or not.
And finally, there’s Gracey. He’s got his visual work cut out for him for sure. He served as digital compositor film films such as 2005’s The Magician, 2003’s Ned Kelly and 1997’s Amy. He’s also slated to direct the 2016 film The Greatest Showman On Earth, starring Hugh Jackman, so he has directing experience under his belt. But as a filmmaker who is just now breaking into the directing profession, I’m scared for him and how well he can handle a property as complex and challenging as Naruto is. Stefen Fangmeier was the visual effects supervisor for films such as Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Jurassic Park, and Saving Private Ryan before he directed 2006’s Eragon. The film was almost immediately panned from both critics and readers of the novel, and it killed his directing career almost instantly. I’m worried Gracey might end up in the same boat as Fangmeier.
What do you guys think? Are you excited that a Naruto film is on its way, or do you think the production needs its own substitution jutsu? Comment below, let me know.
– David Dunn
SOURCE: Variety, ComicBook.com