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Naruto fans divided by news of live-action remake: ‘You can’t adapt the main story’

Lionsgate has announced that Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings director Destin Daniel Cretton will write and direct a live-action film adaptation of Naruto.

The manga series by Masashi Kishimoto, which has sold more than 250 million volumes worldwide, tells the story of Naruto Uzumaki, a young ninja who dreams of becoming the the leader of his village.

The comics spawned a wildly popular anime TV series, which ran for more than 700 episodes from 2002 to 2016, multiple anime movies and several video games.

“It was a true honor to meet Kishimoto-san in Tokyo and hear his expansive vision for his creation,” said Cretton. “We are very excited to collaborate and bring Naruto to the big screen.”

Masashi Kishimoto said: “When I heard of Destin’s attachment, it happened to be right after watching a blockbuster action film of his, and I thought he would be the perfect director for Naruto. After enjoying his other films and understanding that his forte is in creating solid dramas about people, I became convinced that there is no other director for Naruto.”

“In actually meeting Destin, I also found him to be an open-minded director who was willing to embrace my input, and felt strongly that we would be able to cooperate together in the production process,” Kishimoto continued. “To put it simply, the live-action Naruto is bound to be a film with spectacular action and profound drama. I can’t help but be excited for it.”

‘Naruto’ (Shueisha)
‘Naruto’ (Shueisha)

Adam Fogelson, chair of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, added: “This manga classic is beloved by millions of fans all around the world, and Destin has delivered a vision for the movie that we believe will excite that massive fan base as well as those who are new to it.

“Avi and I have had the pleasure of working together before and I know that as we collaborate with Destin and the team on Naruto, we are in extraordinary hands.”

Naruto has a cult following and while the announcement was met with excitement by many, others were less convinced.

“I think the only way #Naruto works as a movie is if one of the canon animated films (or something original) is adapted.....you can't adapt the main story....like at all,” one person wrote on X/Twitter.

Referencing Netflix’s divisive new adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender, they added: “#AvatarTheLastAirbender couldn't even adapt 20 episodes as a movie...”

“Please, don’t live action my baby. Hasn’t Naruto been through enough in his life already?” begged another.

“Not all anime need a live action,” wrote a third, with a fourth adding: “Wow, another live action to destroy the source material.”

Details about Cretton’s take on the material have not been disclosed.

His last major directorial work, Shang-Chi,grossed over $432m worldwide in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, making it the ninth-highest-grossing film of 2021. It also earned Cretton widely positive reviews.

In The Independent’s four-star review, Clarisse Loughrey wrote that “the film’s success has much to do with how Cretton and his team are able to negotiate themselves around the strict, and often suffocating, demands of the Marvel framework”.

“Our hero will still, eventually, have to battle some gargantuan, world-threatening entity, but not only does it take a less visually bland form than we’re used to, the path to reach it feels refreshingly unconventional,” she wrote.

Previously, Cretton helmed the Michael B Jordan drama Just Mercy (2019) and 2017’s The Glass Castle. He also executive produces Max’s Tokyo Vice starring Ansel Elgort, co-created forthcoming Marvel series Wonder Man, and is set to direct a Shang-Chi sequel.