Netflix continues to add to its ever evolving catalog of viewing entertainment. Its newest film addition is an Americanized version of the popular Shonen Jump’s manga series Death Note. Death Note created by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, is the story of Light Yagami who encounters a Death Note dropped to earth by a Shinigami, aka a Death God. This notebook has the power to kill with just a simple stroke of the pen. Light sees an opportunity to right the wrongs of the world, but when he gets in too deep and the police are on his back, he is forced to make life alternating decisions.
When I had first decided to get into anime, Death Note was one of the first animes I cut my teeth with, it was so wonderfully crafted that it rates high on my must see list. I was aware going in this film had a cloud of controversy of whitewashing right out of the gate and the plague of mixed reviews wasn’t helping its showing. But, despite all that I went in with an open mind.
However, my open mind started to dissipate early on as I could see that this adaptation had stripped away every element that made Death Note one of the most tension laden and engrossing animes. Instead what viewers got was a dumbed down teenage style Bonnie and Clyde mess.
Death Note itself as a whole has volumes of source material that has to be whittled down to an acceptable running time, which is not an easy feat. I did try to let a lot of things slide such as Light Turner (Nate Wolff) being the polar opposite of Light Yagami, that Misa who was now Mia (Margaret Qualley) took the major lead in the decision making, which did not occur in the anime and that there felt this manic rush to establish L (LaKeith Stanfield) as Light’s foe.
All those glaring changes could be forgiven if they had just taken the time to add the element of what made Death Note such an amazing anime, which was the tension thick, cat and mouse game between Light and L. The beauty of the Light character was that he was posed, cold, calculating and always steps ahead of everything and everyone. He was on the genius level of L, but you couldn’t tell with this adaptation. Instead what you got was a typical teen, who when he got some action from the pretty cheerleader lost all sense and sensibility, handed the reins over to her and became a bumbling idiot at every turn. The level of suspense was almost non-existence and the character development was even less.
Now, I do want to point out a few of the positives of this film and although he has barred the brunt of the negatively of this film, Adam Wingard’s directing was one of the solid points of Death Note. The choice of Willem DaFoe as Ryuk was fitting casting, as well as LaKeith Stanfield as L. Setting it in Seattle made the cinematography massively appealing. The lighting and the use of the darkness in the city was captured beautifully throughout the film.
Overall, it was hard to get passed the glowing omissions that could have really set this apart. I wanted this to succeed, but sadly Death Note was a rotten apple.
Director: Adam Wingard
Plot: 2 out of 5 stars
Gore: 3 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains