Death Note (2017) Review
Many live action versions of this iconic hit anime have already been seen in multiple forms throughout the globe. So, what makes the Netflix version so special? Netflix is a massive corporation and its large budgets made this absurd Americanized version watchable.
Director Adam Wingard creates a Death Note universe centered around the major city of Seattle. Based off the manga written by Tsugumi Ohba, this 2017 version takes a different path. Gifted student Light played by Night Wolff finds a black notebook with the title Death Note. This book has the power to kill anyone, anywhere, at any specified time as long as certain conditions are met. Light uses this book to impress one of his classmates, Mia and together they get rid of the worlds most wanted list and believe themselves to be heroes who save lives. Believing they are unstoppable because Light is anonymous, they fall victim to the elusive super detective (Lakeith Stanfield) who goes by the name of L. I enjoyed this movie as a movie separate from The Death Note universe. It is its own thing and the characters are the same in name only. Comparing the two is unfair to the movie.
First off, this movie is only a small part of the Death Note story, character development and dozens of rules have been glossed over. They haphazardly squeezed 2 seasons worth of content into mere hours. For a movie, these things happen and a two part or even a miniseries could have been done instead to help with that. Moving on to characters, the lead character Light is disappointing and written as a child who wields too much power. I call this version extremely Americanized because it centers around the typical American high school male who is obsessed with hormones and allows his superior and well-hidden wits to take a back seat when a cute face is before him. Light is supposed to manipulate and control but instead he goes back and forth between whining and cheesy faces that undercut any dramatic tones the plot managed to bring. When Light finally does show any fight, it is too late for him and the movie is already over.
Now for the cute face, Mia Sutton (Margaret Qualley) only has two emotions and that’s bloodlust and obsessing over the book. Mia is portrayed less like a lover and more a psychotic idiot who tries to take the power of the book for herself. Perhaps Mia knew that she was always supposed to have one. Hope I wasn’t the only one disappointed that there was only one Shinigami. Although a second book would only make this too complicated for the frail story.
It felt like a fan made movie that started as a parody and then turned into an action love story. I connected more with the fact that this was a horror than anything else. It was still an entertaining rendition that portrayed an angsty teen running from a detective with a shorter fuse than he let on.
Willem Dafoe’s Ryuk was by far the best thing about this movie. He was the dark tortured Shinigami who whispered sweet death threats into the ears of his (victims) book owners. Ryuk behaved less as a spectator that fans are used to and more like a puppeteer. This change, in my opinion, made the story better and strengthened the bond with the audience.
The production level was great, the family ties and thrill were all there but overall I felt this was rushed, over the top, and unnecessary. That being said, if this movie is viewed having never seen the original series then I believe it can survive as a first of many live action movies.
This article was edited for clarity by Michelle Noriega.