Friday, August 25, 2017

Netflix's Death Note Review

Written by Shiggins

In this case, is more less?

Anime has never had a bright reputation when it comes to western adaptations, mostly due to what can only be described as "softening the blow". Anime is bizarre, insane, sometimes terrifying but always capable of giving a unique storyline that most Hollywood movies would never risk trying, due to alienating general audiences who might not appreciate some of the weirdness. Director Adam Wingard, best known for 2016's Blair Witch, vowed to help change that with his adaptation of the hit classic series Death Note. That's a bold claim to make, but was he able to pull it off?

Minor spoilers ahead.

I never thought I'd say this but... the film really didn't explain the apples properly.
For the 12 of you who have never heard of it, Death Note is one of the biggest anime of all time, succeeding in both critical and monetary reception. It stars a clever student named Light Yagami who just happens to come across a notebook known as the "Death Note", which gives him the power to kill anyone he wants just by writing their name down in the pages. With this power, Light chooses to become a "God" called Kira and kill all the criminals out there. Eventually, Light comes across the mysterious detective L, and an intense rivalry plays out between them as they try to outsmart each other and make them face their own brand of justice.

Wow, L. That's really damn rude. Other people need to sit there, you know.
The first thing to keep in mind is that this is not a direct adaptation of the source material. Instead of Japan, this takes place in America. Instead of instantly starting out as a sociopath who wants to become God, Light Yagami feels like a regular highschool student who is slowly realising the potential of the book and is trapped by it. Ryuk comes across as much more sinister, while Mia (this story's version of Misa Amane) is a much more aggressive and persuading force than her anime counterpart.

Adam Wingard should be applauded for his choice of style and design, managing to actually make this movie be taken seriously through smart writing, impressive sets and some impressive use of lighting and shadow during the dramatic scenes. I especially enjoyed how the deaths were portrayed in this series, feeling like a combination of Final Destination and Saw as Ryuk's amused laughter flows through the scene in a manner reminiscent of... well the wind of death, to be frank.

So visually, this film is great. Different, but great.

Can't keep your Death Note clean? Pah. This is why the anime is much better.
I'm sad to say, however, that the film suffers from creative decisions that really chip away at the original story's edge. Light Yagami, now called Light Turner, is nowhere near as interesting as the version we are used to, although he is more relatable as a character, which many newcomers will most likely find engaging. Portrayed by Nat Wolff from the pretentious movie Paper Towns, Light is shown to be a lot more sympathetic and tortured in his pursuit as Kira. He comes across as someone who has to do this, rather than wanting to do it. In fact, his love interest Mia feels more like the anime's Kira than he does. And yes, you are right to be confused at that but I can't tell you any more without going into spoilers.

Let's now talk about the single best part of the series; Willem Dafoe as Ryuk. Good god, I love Willem Dafoe's performance. He uses his famous portrayal of Green Goblin to brilliant results here, giving Ryuk a wonderfully twisted aura about him with every line of dialogue. Cleverly, the film keeps him mostly hidden in shadow to hide his appearance and make him feel more like a creeping menace rather than a silly pest. Purists might be a bit upset at seeing such a character never embrace his comical side like in the anime, but I loved every second with him on-screen.

Oh just perfect... Even the weird porcupine spikes he has are fantastic.
On the other hand, L is a complete disappointment. He's portrayed by Keith Stanfield, a fairly likeable actor with some impressive credits on his IMDB page, but he is not playing L. Gone is the charisma of the odd bare-footed eater who doesn't seem to belong in social situations. Gone is the brilliant chess game in which Light and L constantly tore the other asunder and used strategy after strategy to one-up their rival. Instead, we just have a simple performance of a simple character. Heavily watered down, with glimpses of the original to attempt to appease the fans.

Something about L standing in front of the American flag really makes me upset.
So if we don't have the clever back-and-forth of Light and L, then what do we have? Well, surprisingly we have a lot of romance. Light's relationship with Mia is an odd place to focus on, but the ambiguous nature behind Mia's actions and whether or not she actually does care for Light or is just with him because of his notebook kept me intrigued. It's one of the few changes to the manga that actually reaches the level of the original.

So far, I've been comparing the film to the manga but let's judge the film by its own merits now. The story is well-structured and Light manages to keep the story moving, but the pacing is very rushed and I really do wish the movie could have been longer to let some of the ideas develop. Although Light's relationship with L is lacking, his connection to his father really improves as the story goes on, despite a rocky start full of cliches. They really should have devoted more time to that aspect.

"Ryuk, aren't you going to go help them?"
"No wait. I want to see how stupid this gets."
The ending will divide quite a lot of viewers but personally, I rather enjoyed it. It has some cheese and a pop song too many, but the aspect of Light I applaud most, his intelligence, was utilised in full and that more than makes up for any other quarrels the finale made me have. Not everyone will agree with me, of course and I can completely understand why.

Overall, the film is nowhere near the worst anime adaptation out there but it isn't reaching its full potential. Beautiful visuals and a few key performances aren't enough to make up for removing the anime's brilliant cat-and-mouse structure. Fans of the original will be squirming on their chair due to all the unfortunate changes, but newcomers should be able to forgive its shortcomings much easier. I think it's worth at least one watch.

Shiggins:[Admin]   .
Born under the stars of the Dark Gods, Shiggins owns the power of the Great Eye and is utterly magnificent in his omniscience. If you dare to discover more about someone as great as him, then go ahead. And to all my friends and family members, YOU are wrong and I should be disappointed! Not the other way round!,. You can find out about him or ask him stuff on or go to his tumblr page

1 comment:

  1. Yeah I pretty much agree on all the points here. It's not as bad as the hardcore fans make it sound but still not as you said living up to its potential so at best it's a average film that is worth a watch