Now if you haven’t heard, there is a new Netflix Movie that just came out and I have my thoughts. Before reading this I will be talking about plot points, character attributes and well…..spoilers, so read at your own discretion.
Now many people have spoken about what I like to call the ‘Curse of the Anime’ which is a blog post I intend on talking about at some point in the future. But what I define this as, is the difficulty in adapting well-loved anime shows into western live-action movies, there could be plenty of factors but again I won’t go into detail.
Now Death Note, I’m going to be discussing this film point by point as I was watching it and how I felt about it
Who is Light?
Now in this movie Light is called Light Turner, he is the main protagonist or antagonist considering your world view, but an issue I do have with this film is that we don’t get to see, ‘WHO’ light is. Now when I say this, I mean, what is his stance on the philosophy of the world? how does he view people? Does he already consider himself superior to people? that was a major part of the Anime and Manga series which I don’t believe was highlighted enough to me in this film.
Now the family background is something that I wasn’t really bothered by. If anything I believe that dynamic should have enhanced the story and maybe slightly did. Light’s mum was killed by someone who managed to get away free, which somewhat strayed the relationship he had with his father and their view of justice, but this wasn’t really touched upon too much, or at least there wasn’t any foresight into his stance on the matter. This again brings me back to the first point which is “Who is Light?”, if we started off knowing his view on the world, the audience could either relate or not, whatever attitude they took to light’s world view wouldn’t necessarily matter but they would be engaged which is the point of the movie because they either thought he was wrong or right, now when we introduce the family dynamic, we can now sympathise with his character and understand why he believes the things he does. Maybe even the audience who thought his view was wrong will start to question their own morality.
Intro to Mia
Her character was a bit of a hit and miss for me, and the only reason why I would believe this is because I don’t agree with the pacing of this movie and rather than the character and believe it would have served best if the film was split into parts maybe, because if the director or writer wanted to follow the complexity of the story, then it serves for a better narrative to have things be introduced slowly or foreshadowed. I liked the fact that she was a monkey in the wrench but let’s be honest here, she was the one with balls and not light at all and she kept the story going. I don’t care for their love story, even it probably makes sense but again this film should have concentrated on light and have her introduced in a sequel that I don’t see coming anytime soon.
As stated before, I believe the pacing of this movie was off, we started getting into action way too fast and I understand why (because they wanted to cram a lot of plot elements into this thing), but this isn’t that type of movie, Death Note is a Horror Mystery story, but hardly anything is left to the imagination of the viewer because we are being told numerous things rather than left hints which we can come back to. That is what led to one of the most BS Deux Ex Machina I have seen in a film from recent memory, having light try to travel to the pier and almost be shot down only to be saved by a “Kira” follower which wasn’t even cared for in the film was only a device to help move the plot along quickly. All of that was nothing but exposition, we don’t see the world changing or at least see lights complete new view of the world, only him getting freaky with his girl. Lastly at the end of the film, Light had an insane plan all along which showed that he became a genius or was one all along from being a total dunce, I’m sorry but I call bull, I don’t believe that.
Light was a bit of a Dumbass
One of the key things we must remember here is that above all else, light isn’t silly. He was always a smart student who thought 10 steps ahead of everyone else and that’s what gave him a bit of a God complex (a bit). He played chess with people’s lives and kept thinking of his next move to always be ahead and seem like the hero, but that is not apparent at all, He even doesn’t need to see himself as being above anyone in this film but he is so apparently a bad person or whipped by his evil girl that, that kind of dynamic doesn’t matter. As talented as the actor is, I believe this was a story issue and not an actor issue. Light became someone who fell too deep into something and kept on trying to cover those mistakes. He seemed weak and frankly pathetic which then causes a lack of interest between the two rivals and that perfectly brings me to the next point.
L and Light are not on the same level
This film portrayed or at least attempted to convey these two characters as battling on the same level but that couldn’t be further from the truth, L showed methodical strategy every step of the way but Light was too busy arguing with his girlfriend. How can these two people have any believable confrontation that made you think Light was one step ahead. Part of the tension of this series was that Light was/is in the wrong. We know that. The Police Task Force Knows That. L knows that, but L needs to prove it and at this moment can’t. so now it becomes a game of how is light going to drop the ball and that’s where the tension builds because L is very close to cracking the case every time. Even if the change was meant to be for, rather than the two-protagonist having an intellectual battle but it be a moral or philosophical one, not enough ground work was laid to make you debate it, we couldn’t stick around long enough to see how light changed the world/town or whatever with his followers, we couldn’t see whether he had a shift in personality we couldn’t see him, to be honest, do anything substantial.
Now the characters are very hard to discuss because it intertwines with the story as well and I believe this movie could have done something very interesting.
I would like to point out first, that this section I will be discussing what I believe would have been a cool change or plot twist and/or different approaches the film could have taken which also links into the nature of making anime live-action movies……. Now that the disclaimer is out of the way.
I believe Light shouldn’t have been in this film, or at least not the light we know. I have discussed this in a previous post about paying homages to a character as compared to the actual character but that is something that audiences I think are not used to adopting, which is a viewer fault and not the story teller fault. Mia (played by Margaret Qualley) was one of the performances I really liked, I just wasn’t a fan of the love story element which I believe wasn’t needed, as of yet, but her character quality was more manipulating than I thought and I must say, I liked it. But there was a flaw, she sadly wasn’t Light, and if it was revealed that her name was something like Mia ‘Light’ Sutton and she just wanted the death note, then I would have happily stood up and clapped at my computer screen.
L’s (played by Lakeith Stanfield) portrayal was also very good, I enjoyed how methodical he seemed and unhinged he was and that behaviour carried throughout, I do believe though that the character of L might not have become so mentally unstable at the death of Watari if my memory serves me correctly, but even then, I fault that to the pacing of the film rather than the actor.
Light Turner (played by Nat Wolff) wasn’t bad as many people are saying, and the reason why I will come to his defense is that the character isn’t the same. Story wise this Light character wasn’t supposed to be portrayed as highly intelligent but more reactive and Nat Wolff pulled that off brilliantly if you ask me but again, it doesn’t fit this type of story
James Turner (portrayed by Shea Whigham) wasn’t anything special, I didn’t care for the character like I did in the anime and to be honest wasn’t too different from any dumb cop (Not saying he was a dumb cop) and I just couldn’t care.
Ryuk (portrayed by both Willem Dafoe and Jason Liles) I liked a lot, he came every now and again and was in the story when he needed to be, his design was pretty awesome I think and the voice I could not tell it from the anime, it’s like they ripped it straight from the dub. He has a cool horror element and provided fear to the character for a good portion of the beginning which I preferred here rather than the anime. He was one of the saving qualities of the movie despite the story flaws which is why I give him more praise than the other characters listed.
In conclusion, this story could have served better as a two or maybe three-part type film, we don’t need cool action for this film but awesome, almost confusing story telling with twists that will keep us on our toes such as the suggestion of the girl being Light. If they treated this film as an adaptation of the story rather than trying to recreate then I wouldn’t be as harsh on it I guess, plus adaptations based on source material really does free the director and screen writer for storytelling. Should I tell how I know this? Because Edge of Tomorrow, starring Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise was also based on a manga called All You Need Is Kill (Interestingly enough by the same illustrator as Death Note) and received critical acclaim, but many manga fans might not know this fact.
Look I wouldn’t put this film on the same level as Dragonball: Evolution or Avatar: The Last Airbender but it really did miss some golden opportunities because it was maybe trying to be very faithful and different at the same time or something else, but sometimes you just have to break away and do your story, if you want to pay homage to the source material please do because details matter but if a film maker or writer or studio isn’t brave, we’ll be left with constant disappoint, especially in the arts (not so much technology). But the film was gruesome, that’s a plus.
Thank you for reading