Release Date: August 25th, 2017
Director: Adam Wingard
Any live-action adaptations always make me a bit nervous when first hearing about them, such as the one for Death Note, which I will be reviewing for today’s post. To be honest, when I first saw the news of an American adaptation for Death Note, I was a bit excited but very, very nervous because that anime is one of the most iconic ones in the world. The anime and manga are so interesting, compelling, suspenseful, thrilling, etc. But then…the fans of the franchise get this movie. At the end of the movie, I was so speechless, I did not know what to say about it afterwards. I was on the fence between liking the movie at some points and absolutely hating it during the rest of it.
For the synopsis, Light Turner (yes, I repeat, Turner) finds a Death Note flying through the sky and catches it. Then, a Shinigami named Ryuk appears and explains to Light about how the Death Note works and Light ends up killing a school bully as his first “victim.” Then, tells his crush, Mia (nope, no Misa in this movie), about the Death Note and they work together to bring down criminals in their country, and even around the world.
While the synopsis for this movie seems very similar to the anime, the story completely changes. The fans of the Death Note franchise go from watching and/or reading this compelling masterpiece with important themes to this sappy, Young Adult romance/cheesy thriller film. Instead of learning about Light’s character just like in the anime, the movie rushes through his character development, and shifts the focus between the investigation of Light and the growing relationship of the main protagonist and Mia. While the investigation seemed somewhat accurate to the anime, the relationship between Light and Mia threw me off a little bit. Comparing Light’s reasoning for using the Death Note to the movie and the anime, I was disappointed with his purpose for using it in the film. Yes, he does want the world to be free of criminals, yet he continues to use the notebook to impress Mia and hopes that she will grow closer to him, which he succeeds of doing. This purpose seems relevant throughout the movie and does not fit in with who premise of the film to those who have seen the anime and/or look deeper into the story.
Speaking of ‘fitting in,’ I’ve been reading reports of how fans are accusing Netflix of “whitewashing” the characters for this movie and how none of them look “exactly like the characters.” I do not care about white characters being cast in an anime live-adaptation; I only care about how the characters are portrayed through their dialogue and personality traits. The physical appearance of an actor and actress are important to any movie, sure, but that isn’t what makes the character stand out, though. An example for this movie would be L, who is played by actor and rapper Keith Stanfield. Most fans were outraged by the fact that a black actor playing L, but…I wasn’t. Well, I know this is a very unpopular opinion, but I enjoyed seeing Stanfield portraying L. He did a wonderful job representing L by capturing his awkwardness, his intelligence when figuring out the Kira case, his stature when “sitting” on a chair, and his love for sweets, yet things went almost downhill towards the end of the movie. L goes from this quiet, introverted detective, to an almost insane psychopath. L never went that crazy in the manga and anime at all, and that moment with L seemed very out of character for him, along with his action at the very end of the movie. All I’m saying is…please do not judge the movie based on the whitewashing of the characters; there is more to a story than just the characters’ appearances of the film.
Alright, I have something else to say about the characters. The only ones I enjoyed seeing besides L were Ryuk (William Dafoe), and Watari (Paul Nakauichi). The two actors amazingly portray these characters as if they were taken right from the anime, and I enjoyed all of their moments in the film. On the other hand, what I do not particularly like is that lot of the important characters were not even in the movie, such as Matsuda, Matt, Near, Mello, and even some of the more important FBI agents. These characters played such important roles in the anime, yet they were never even featured once in the movie! Almost all of the characters in this movie are so different compared to the manga and anime, which doesn’t make the movie any better, but a few of the accurate depictions from the anime and the plot twists make up for this, though.
When the story changes, so do the elements behind it. Instead of portraying the movie as a thriller and psychological, it’s portrayed as a cheesy horror/romance film. In the very beginning of the movie, the first victim of the Death Note is decapitated by a ladder, and all of the action shows itself on the screen, splattering blood everywhere as if it’s a slasher movie. A few of these death scenes and blood aren’t necessary for movie, along with the sappy romantic interactions between Light and Mia. On the other hand, some of the effects used for the film outside of the surprising kills are pleasing to the eye, such as the storm scene in the beginning of the movie. They are a bit over the top at times, but they fit for the movie. Overall, I wished for this film to stick with adult themes instead of it going back and forth between the darker content and the younger themes that seem to aim for younger teenagers. The way that the director handled it did not fit for the film, making the film even less enjoyable.
Listening to the soundtracks in the background of the Death Note movie, I could not process it while watching some of the scenes. I expected to hear more somber piano or even some hard rock music, not eighties pop/rock tracks. While some of these tracks are nice to listen to, they do not fit in with any of the scenes acted out whatsoever.
Just like in the anime, the apple symbolism reveals itself throughout the first half of the movie. If any of you do not know what it is, exactly, the apple alludes to the “forbidden fruit” mentioned in the biblical book of Genesis in which the snake told Eve that eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil would give her the same status as God. Seeing this in the beginning of the film, I was quite pleased because this symbolism was one of the most important ones in the franchise, and the film captures that symbolism well enough to know what it represents in this movie.
In conclusion to this rant/review, I would like to say that I had—and still have—very mixed feelings about the new Death Note film, but I’m mostly disappointed in it. This brings me to giving this movie two out of five stars. While I was very nervous to view the movie, I had been itching to see it since seeing the trailer last spring. Sure, it surprised me with a few of the accurate portrayals of the scenes and characters, but I wasn’t surprised by how the story ended up being the complete opposite of the manga series and anime. If I had not seen Death Note before watching this movie, I would have been alright with it because the characters are…mediocre, the acting is pretty much superb, and the colors used for the backgrounds are eye-catching. Since I am a fan of the franchise, this film disappointed me and I do not recommend this movie to anyone, really, unless you haven’t seen the anime or read the manga beforehand.
WARNINGS: Profanity, Violence, Suggestive Themes and Content, Jump Scares, Teenage, Sappy Romance that Will Make You Cringe.
Have you seen the new movie? If you have, what are your thoughts on it?
Hi, readers!! So…there was my rant on the new disappointing movie. I haven’t posted a review of the anime yet, but I will soon!
Remember, if you want to request a book, anime, or a TV review, leave a comment, and I’ll review it!
GG 🙂 ❤