Genre: Supernatural, Crime, detective, drama
Release date: 25 August 2017 (USA)
Director: Adam Wingard
Writer: Charley Parlapanides (screenplay), Vlas Parlapanides (screenplay) and Jeremy Slater (screenplay)
Runtime: 101 min
This Netflix movie is based on the Japanese anime and manga of the same name, Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba.
A book with the power to kill any person whose name is written in it falls into the hands of Light Turner, a bright high-school student. Light decides to rid the world of evil so he becomes a vigilante known as Kira. But things don’t go as planned and he finds himself being pursued by a brilliant detective known only by the alias “L”.
Between trying to follow the original Death Note and new content to the already popular franchise- the story was all over the place. They decided to fast forward the most interesting parts. The development was nowhere to be found. Rather than focusing on the psychological aspect of the movie: L and Light’s cat and mouse game, they decided to focus on the romance between Light and Mia, which, might I add, doesn’t exist in the manga. It’s interesting how a complex psychological story can become a simple tale of teen angst.
I can see the director honestly tried to make it good and interesting, but he failed. His biggest mistake is that he took the American approach to Death Note; it feels like he didn’t respect the original enough. Now we have a rushed movie with zero development, teen angst and some wannabe complex characters that have nothing going for them. Honestly, if I hadn’t watched the original, I would have been wondering, "what have I just watched?"
From the very first scene where Light finds the Death note until the very end, I didn’t understand his motives for becoming Kira. His back story should have made us understand his motives and made them more solid, but sadly they weren’t able to execute it well enough for viewers to understand what he wanted. In the manga Light wanted to be justice: the God-like person that delivers justice, while in the movie he wanted to impress a girl. They were a criminal duo that wanted to be vigilantes, but what was the reason? Why did they choose to become Kira? Because his mother was killed and the killer got away with it? It lacks depth. It would explain him killing her murderers but not all the other criminals. Neither of them had a good, solid motive that would explain their actions. All you could say was that they were corrupted by the Death Note, but this isn’t enough.
The relationship between Light and Ryuk… is nonexistent. The big 8 foot Shinigami that should be in the spotlight only appears for about 6 minutes in the whole movie to eat an apple, then manipulate and ridicule Light.
In the middle of the movie, L finally arrived. That’s supposed to be interesting since the cat and mouse game should start, right? But where is it? How come L, in just a few minutes, jumps to a conclusion that Light is Kira? Where is the detective work or investigation? Where is the development?
Despite all the flaws, the ending was original. The special effects and drama at the end were good but it wasn’t enough to redeem the movie. It felt forced and once again the reasoning behind what happened was missing, especially for what Mia did. She betrayed Light after declaring she loved him… for what? Power? There are a lot of points in the story that would have been far more interesting if they just got more time, but sadly it just felt rushed.
The characters were completely different to the cast of the anime and manga. Light Turner was supposed to be a brilliant student, but he turned out to be this average angsty nerd that got bullied, nothing like the genius Light Yagami, honor student and a popular guy. Light Turner is a joke. He is a typical American kid, and an insult to the original Light Yagami. When he met Ryuk for the first time he screamed like a girl… and that scene almost made me cry with laughter. It was terrible! I must commend the actor though. He did try to interpret Light as best as he could, but sadly no one can escape the curse of bad writing. He would have been the perfect Light if they didn’t make his character so different to the original.
L did seem at first to be similar to L from the manga, but it didn’t last for long. Again, I don’t know how, but somehow these people made L lose his intelligence and instead made him act on emotions. He looked like a kicked puppy when Light killed his caretaker, or when anybody told him off. He was on a verge of tears when things got hard. That’s not L that I know, that’s an abomination…
Mia… Well who is she supposed to be? Misa? But Misa is loyal, lovable and blind to Light’s true nature… Well then she can’t be Misa since Mia is a manipulative psychopath. She gets off on killing and is willing to betray her lover.
In this movie Ryuk was the one that manipulated Light. However, in the original Death Note Ryuk is just a bored Shinigami that decides to make his life more interesting by giving a human his Death Note. He doesn’t manipulate Light because he wants to see what he will do with his new power. He is a willing participant in all of Lights schemes. These characteristics don’t exist in this new Ryuk.
The weirdest part about the whole movie for me was that they decided to go with a predominantly 80s soundtrack. I wouldn’t have minded if the action was taking place in 80s too, but it didn’t. So why would they use music that’s three decades old? Death Note is dark and tense, so the soundtrack should have been rock or gothic music. I have nothing against 80s music on its own, but the action takes place when smartphones exist, so sorry, but 80s tracks just don’t belong here.
Some of the songs appear to go well with the scene, but in the end it just makes them overly dramatic. Take Mia’s death scene, for example. Light was the one that killed her, and it turns out he planned how she would die step by step. So why in the world would they choose Chicago - I Don't Wanna Live Without Your Love? In my opinion it makes the scene overly dramatic, and when you find out that he planned out her death it makes you wonder why would they even choose this song in the first place, as he clearly chose power over her. It might make the scene beautiful, but that doesn’t mean it fits.
I placed it in a separate paragraph since I think it deserves to be separated from the plot. First of all this movie just likes to over dramatize everything. The deaths are way too gore. It actually makes you wonder how did Light and Mia find the time to think of 400 peoples deaths. If they didn’t focus so much on these bloody killings maybe they would have had the time to develop the story more and not only detailed gory deaths. This actually seems a waste of time and money. Light Yagami usually killed by heart attack, but Light Turner likes seas of blood.
If you watched the anime or read the Death Note manga you will likely hate this movie. It’s just a story about a supposedly “brilliant” but angsty high-school student that decides to be god with his psychotic girlfriend, some teary eyed investigator and a Shinigami who was hugely underused. I don’t know about you, but in my opinion Netflix just butchered Death Note!
Special thanks to @Kuze. @Scruffie and @KT Samurai for editing and feedback.