C'mon Hollywood: Adapt Samurai Jack already!
The animated series, Samurai Jack, aired on Cartoon Network and ran for four seasons (2000-2004). Created by Genndy Tartakovsky, who worked on shows like Dexter’s Laboratory and Powerpuff Girls, the animator’s intent was to create a show that was cinematic in scope, blending action, humor, and artistry. In other words, he wanted to make a bad ass show. Samurai Jack took home four Emmy wins during its run and was hailed by critics and fans alike as one of the best animated programs on TV. And then, it just stopped.
Tartakovsky has been pulled in many directions since the close of Samurai Jack. He used the same animation style to deliver the best incarnation of Star Wars in ANY medium with the first batch of animated STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS cartoons, then tackled the troublesome DARK CRYSTAL sequel, and is set to debut his 3D animated feature HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA in October.
What transpired after 2004 was a series of trips into development hell, with a number of studios and creators jockeying to take on the project and make it into a feature film. Early on, New Line Cinema acquired the film rights and hired Brett Ratner to adapt the pic, but it never came to fruition and the rights reverted to Cartoon Network. Then, in 2009, the independent animation studio Frederator (Adventure Time) along with co-producer J.J. Abrams forged a deal with Tartakovsky to develop a 2D animated feature, which has once again languished as all parties involved have gone on to other projects. Although still listed as in pre-production with Frederator animation, we haven’t heard or seen a peep from the project.
So, what’s the damn problem? Tartakovsky seems onboard to get Samurai Jack the audience it deserves, but it almost seems like a cursed project. “It’s still around. Every year, somebody new picks it up who tries to push it through. I feel like, with Jack, it’s a funny curse. People like it for A, B and C, but as soon as they want to make it, they say, “Well, we can’t do A, B and C.” But, those are the key ingredients that make it successful. Once somebody comes along and just says, “I want to make it for what it is,” then it will get made. But right now, every time we try to run it up the flagpole, it never sticks,” he said in a recent interview.
Every few years we seem to get the bait dangled out to some well-known creator and nothing happens. Here’s a property that is ripe for the taking with a terrific concept, engaging lead, a laundry list of kick-ass supporting characters, and a virtual playground of settings to toy with. Half the work is done!
I’m baffled that Hollywood has no trouble scrounging up the bucks to adapt board games and shitty stage musicals, but can’t seem to find the change it would take to put Samurai Jack in the good graces of his fans. If the budget goes up because a big name creator, such as Abrams or Tarsem Singh (who has expressed interest) becomes attached, then so be it. As far as I’m concerned, my ticket is already paid for. It doesn’t matter which way it’s adapted; animation or live action. It just needs to happen. So, how to make it happen? First off, no matter what, Tartakovsky must write the script and be involved with the production from start to finish. The biggest aspect of the show’s success comes from him. It’s science.
This is a tentpole property that would thrive with adults and kids alike in 3D animated form (a la KUNG FU PANDA) even if it were a tad more violent and stylistic. If they went that route, then Tartakovsky should take the reins and do his work. No one knows the property better and the trailers for HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA alone show that he can handle the format.
A live-action film is a trickier, but absolutely doable. It would take a talented filmmaker who “gets” Tartakovsky’s style and simply wants to translate it. Changing it up is simply not needed. It works. Let the f*cker run with its original parts. There’s a good amount of filmmakers who could handle this, but my first choice is Ang Lee. Lee has proven his understanding of how to balance action, story, and humor (CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON) and can do so with a focused vision.
Now, that doesn’t mean someone else can’t adapt it. The aforementioned Tarsem, Alex Proyas, or even the aforementioned J.J. Abrams would be great. They just need some stylistic vision. It’s a mythological sci-fi action romp; not too complicated, not too simple. It’s one of the cleverest, inventive, and action-heavy shows I’ve ever seen and it would be a damn shame to see it continue to be lost in limbo, much like the titular character of the show. Stop raiding toy shelves and Broadway for shit to make, when you have gems like Samurai Jack waiting to come charging through the portal, sword in hand, tongue in cheek, ready to slay some box office.
|Extra Tidbit:||Would you prefer live action or animation? And who do you think would be best suited to direct?|