By: Archmage, EyeSpyeAlex, Rae, RogueSymbiote, ThunderHeavyArm, Zero Omega
After much hoopla and trepidation, Netflix’s Death Note film has landed. Most of the team couldn’t coalesce their thoughts into an extended reflection following the, er…event, so we’ve collected a sampling of their thoughts here. Archmage will be posting a full review in the morning. Until then, enjoy!
Let’s be honest, Death Note was never going to live up to the expectations of the fanbase. I think as an Adaptation, this was probably the correct source material to target, but it was not executed well. Even when executed adequately, like Ghost in the Shell, people are still going to tear it apart. In this case however, it’s totally worthy of the negative criticism it’s getting. The story had 5 writers, and it shows. The Music and sound are all wrong causing you to wonder if Oscar Award winning Composer Atticus Ross just took one of his kids Spotify playlists and hit shuffle. Add weakly written characters and a short run time of 1 Hour and 40 Minutes, you get a well intentioned failure. While not unwatchable, if I was not already subscribed to Netflix, I would not pay money to see this movie.
The western remake of Death Note is like a veggie burger: it might look like a real burger, but it lacks the depth and flavor. This version of Death Note takes a similar view on Light Turner (Yagami) as media does on white male killers. That is the role of a troubled and misunderstood individual. Transforming Light from a flawed anti-hero into a tragic figure robs Light of what makes his character so interesting.
In the original Death Note, Light is a sociopath with a perverse sense of justice. He is calculating, and understanding of the consequences of his actions. In the Netflix movie, Light is a victim of a single parent childhood. Then he is the victim of a megalomaniacal girlfriend and a Death God. This gives him an excuse for his behavior, which is unacceptable. Part of what makes Death Note so good is knowing that Light gets what’s coming to him in the end. In this version, i feel like I am supposed to pity Light, and I just don’t.
Like many, I was excited when Netflix announced a live action adaptation of Death Note. Then I watched it… first mistake. The film is a far cry from the source material. Light Turner??? Really? I’m disappointed in the choice to whitewash another Japanese centric story. That being said, I decided to at least give the film a chance. Within the first 15 minutes I was rolling my eyes at the level of overacting. Nat Wolff, who plays Light, spends most of the time either screaming or becoming enraged far too quickly. Lakeith Stanfield gives a true to source material portrayal of L… until the calm demeanor of L is thrown out the window in the second half. The scene between Light and L in the diner was tense and very well done. If they could’ve kept the feel of that one scene and expounded on it the film might have been better recieved.
So while I wasn’t overly excited about an American adaptation of Death Note, I still wanted to see it. After all, Death note was a really good anime about two intellectual giants battling wits to defeat the other. Damn shame none of that made it into this festering pile of garbage. What we get is two people who think that because they can do the Sudoku on medium they’re chess masters in these versions of Light and L. Mia, Misa’s American version, was a better planner than both of these people combined, and that makes her the most out of character. Granted, Misa wasn’t an idiot, but she shouldn’t have been able to outwit Light if she were true to character.
I also disliked the motivations of the characters. In this version, Light has lost his mother due to a hit and run accident and is also bullied in school. He’s not the passive observer that he was in the anime. Meaning when he gets the note book, he puts it to use for revenge not justice. It’s overwhelmingly apparent that once he eliminates these two people, he has no other purposes to keep using it. Mia as well falls in love with him after the first few killings, not because Light killed a criminal. But for some reason that completely escapes me beyond “they were a couple in the anime they have to be a couple here.” L is also extremely brazen, he reveals himself incredibly early to Light on the suspicion that he is Kira, something the original L didn’t do until he was ready to make a move against him. Ryuk was…I’m not even sure he was there. I know there was something there called Ryuk, but his characterization seems to be pure evil actually trying to relieve his eternity of boredom by giving someone a Death Note.
Netflix’s Death Note is not the absolute worst Western adaptation of a Japanese manga/anime, but it definitely misses an opportunity to be a great ride. Bad pacing, weak characters, and does a poor job of trying to condense the spirit of the series into an hour and a half long thrill ride. I was cautiously optimistic when I heard the announcement and starting seeing the cast filled out. I wasn’t worried about the movie being “white washed” or not being an exact telling of the original series, trailers clearly showed this would be a Western adaptation for a Western audience, nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately the movie just does a poor job of trying to carry over the cat-and-mouse story.
I enjoyed William Dafoe as the voice of Ryuk and Keith Stanfield as L. Keith’s mannerisms and eccentric movements showed me bits of L that seemed very reminiscent to the character within the original series. There were portions of the movie that I found genuinely enjoyable, particularly the scene where Light (played by Nat Wolff) and Mia (played by Margaret Qualley) go on their initial killing spree. Any scenes with Ryuk were equally as entertaining. However a lot of this is overshadowed by the second half of the movie where you can tell that the movie needed to be rushed and wrapped up to fit their time constraints. Further, the ending scene with the Ferris wheel and accompanying music choices for that and the final scene was absolutely ridiculous and made me seriously question why it was a good idea and what good it possibly could have added. It was an embarrassing and cringe worthy addition.
All said, it’s not an absolutely terrible adaption, there have been worse, but it does fail on a lot of levels and I think if they were able to push for a 8 or 10 episode mini-series then a better job could have been accomplished.