Earlier today, Variety reported that Universal Pictures will produce a live-action adaptation of Vexille. According to Variety, Evan Spiliotopoulos ( The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning, The Lion King 1 1/2) was tapped to write the script, Beau Flynn and Tripp Vinson will fill the roles of Producers, and Lisa Zambri will serve as Executive Producer.
From what I’ve noticed, the reactions to this announcement have ranged from confusion to amusement. To many, Vexille was a disappointment at best, and a disaster at worst. The film, which was created by Shochiku and the Appleseed production team, was released in 2007. Critics praised Vexille for its visual style and soundtrack, but in the same breath panned its sloppy storytelling, uneven animation, and lackluster acting. So, to see Universal jump on the property obviously gave many anime fans a bit of pause. After all, there is no reason to even bother with such a shoddy property, right?
To be honest, I’m not so sure. Depending on the cost of the license, Universal could have a good foundation for a B-tier hit. By this, I mean that it would be a low-investment, potentially mid-range return property. Many of the core aspects, like visual design, and story concept are already complete. And, given a proper budget, decent actors, and script, it is possible that the Hollywood version could make up for the shortcomings of its predecessor.
This, of course, is a giant “if.” Many anime adaptations over the years have been either perpetually delayed (Oldboy, for example), or so bad that they shouldn’t be screened near an open flame. And, in the case of the latter, the market reacted as one would expect. The titles cratered in revenues and became laughingstocks of the film and anime worlds alike.
At this point, though, it’s difficult to tell how things will go. There are a number of warning signs already looming in the crew announcements. Spiliotopoulos worked exclusively on Disney sequels. While his contributions weren’t bad, they certainly didn’t aspire to more than mediocrity. Likewise, Flynn and Vinson previously worked on stinkers like The Rite and The Wild. Their work earned the duo a reputation that led to a drying up of business, which led to the closing of Contrafilm. Zambri, similarly,doesn’t have much of a career to boast about. She worked on three films in the 2003-2004 period as a production assistant. She faded from the film world after After the Sunset, and re-entered in 2008 as an associate producer on the film adaptation of Chuck Pahluniuk’s Choke.
It’s certainly not a group that inspires confidence in the greater market.
While I’ll reserve judgment until we have something beyond a four-paragraph reveal. While the crew doesn’t inspire much confidence, and the property has largely been hailed as unwatchable dreck, I’ve seen stranger situations give birth to enjoyable experiences.