In retrospect, nobody should’ve been surprised this was happening.
And yet, when Variety reported that a Cowboy Bebop live action remake was in the works, it was met with surprise and, well…
It’s not just a small collection of people on Reddit either; as different accounts dropped the news on Twitter it was met with plenty of negativity as well. This isn’t to say that it isn’t also generating excitement, because of course it is, but wouldn’t you expect this news to be met with more happiness than dread?
Well no, actually.
Live action adaptations of animated shows are in a weird place right now. On paper it would make sense that the two would work beautifully, and yet a number of missteps – like the remakes being bad – have been an issue. Remember when people were excited about the first Transformers movie? That was ten (TEN) years ago. The fifth installment releases this month, and if the past is any indication, we should be in for a treat!
Then there was the Ghost in the Shell remake, which immediately got off on the wrong foot by casting a very white female to play a very not white female role. However, that could’ve been forgiven once the movie released and was good…except it was panned anyway.
It seems like it should be a simple ask – if you’re going to remake a really good animated thing into live action, you should make sure that the live action version is also good. But this has seldom been the case, and the nostalgia factor can only push viewers so far before they realize a thing that was already good in its original form is, in fact, not good in a newly remade fashion on a different medium.
Part of the challenge faced with remaking a classic like Cowboy Bebop is that, well, it’s a classic. When it was released in 1998 it was ahead of its time in so many different ways – the storytelling, the characterization, the use of color and scenery, the soundtrack OH MY GOD THE SOUNDTRACK – and it’s hard to believe that a live action remake is going to be able to pull off the same thing.
It feels like the best way to do so would be to just copy the anime exactly as it was except have everything be live action, but at that point, why bother? The original show is already so well-acclaimed and praised – what would remaking it in live action add? What would it change for the better? What would the benefits be?
This is my main hangup with this entire thing. At best, a live action Cowboy Bebop remake would just be the exact same thing as the anime which was already good enough as it was, but at worst…oh lord, it could be so, so bad. Outside of the fact that this will probably make lots of money, there doesn’t seem to be much point to any of it. And to have something so good and timeless get reduced to a cash grab is disappointing.
Who knows, maybe this will be good. Maybe with Sunrise Inc. producing, everything will turn out great and this will still be a (pointless but probably hopefully) fun and good thing. Though with the track record of animated remakes in the past and the ridiculously high bar that the original Bebop series set, I’m very skeptical.