You’re the one who flew into the sun,
I’m just here to make sure you burn!
Death Note started as a Manga in 2003 and focused on a high school student who comes into possession of a supernatural book in which if you write a persons name then they will die.
A successful Manga which lead to an Anime series, games as well as several Japanese films but here we have the first American interpretation of the series coming to use from Netflix.
I know very little about Death Note so I won’t be comparing it to the safe to say superior Japanese original. Instead I’m going into this with fresh eyes and will treat it as a stand alone film.
So high school student Light Turner finds the book before moments later being knocked out defending cheerleader Mia. During detention as he is reading the rules within the Death Note he is visited by the Death-God Ryuk and is convinced to try the book on the bully that attacked him which ends in the bully’s decapitation.
Giving the book another try he uses it to kill the mobster which murdered his mother and the next day he decides to tell Mia all about the book and prove it by killing a criminal during a police stand-off.
This is only the second first time he’s spoken to her with the first being the day before yet decides to tell her everything. Her reaction is not that of disgust or fear or even confusion but to immediately join Light in using the book.
So he creates an alias ‘Kira‘ and together the scour the internet, well use Google, to find criminals in order to fight evil in the world which gains the Kira identity a cult status with the public and even the police.
However the mysterious detective ‘L‘ is not so impressed and hires Light’s father who similarly is not impressed and determined to uncover Kira’s identity.
Now L is supposed to be a pretty odd character full of quirks and maybe the Manga character is just like this but if it is then the quirkiness has not translated over well to this live action film.
I feel a lot of the elements that work perfectly fine in Manga and Anime or even the Japanese films don’t quite fit within this American film or the American style of films.
Towards the end of the film however when L is desperate is when his characters oddities did come into their own.
The rest of the cast do their job well enough and seem a good fit for their characters so the problem isn’t with that. It just feels like Light and Mia take no time in being willing to use the notepad to kill. I can understand Light with the man that murdered his mother but what is Mia’s motivation to jump on board so quickly and eagerly?
There are glaring issues with the plot, most of which involve bad decisions from the main leads which seems to be the only way leads act these days. I don’t mean the characters are flawed and make bad decisions but that the writers couldn’t keep up with the story so dumb actions are needed to further the plot.
The look of Death Note is very good and surprisingly well made with the deaths being extremely gory that is always nice plus the finale on the Ferris wheel whilst highlighting the stupidity of the main leads doesn’t look that cheap.
The real star of the film is the Death God, Ryuk. Now despite knowing very little about this series I did know what Ryuk looked like and to me Netflix captured his look incredibly well with the only issue I had being his eyes that looked like they were two orange LED’s moving about as if they belonged on the Zeroids from Terrahawks.
Played by just brilliantly by Willem Defoe, Ryuk holds nothing back from Light and Mia. Explaining the rules when needed and giving Light a way out several times which Light ignores.
We don’t have the usual signing your life away to a demon here. All Light ever needed to do was throw the book away and not use it for 7 days but the temptation and thrill from using it highlights his weakness.
If you’re a fan you might like it or hate it depending on how close to the original source it is so I can’t comment there but can say the film is too long for what it is.
This is a silly and rather pointless adaptation that should only be watched if you have 100 minutes to kill, want to see Willem Defoe obviously having fun in a very well put together CGI avatar (honestly Ryuk looks really good) and can stand watching moronic high school students just cocking everything up.
If not or even if you can you aren’t missing anything by not watching this.