Death Note: Netflix's Abridged Young Adult Fiction Version
Review by Anthony Cleveland
As a massive shocker, Death Note fans despise the American live action adaptation of their beloved anime. Fans claimed when they pressed "play" on their Netflix app that they were going into the film with an "open mind" and a "non-pessimistic attitude." Regardless, once the end credits rolled they were distraught at how this adaptation could go so wrong.
I'm laying the sarcasm on thick, if you haven't caught that yet.
Truth is, the original source material isn't that great. It's a fantastic idea with the first dozen or more episodes being truly outstanding. After that, the series crashes and burns, then pisses on its own ashes.
We should remake bad movies with good ideas. That is honestly the only type of film that is worthy of a remake. There was a Japanese live action adaptation, but I skipped it -- so, I apologize in advance for not being able to compare the two films.
The Netflix adaptation crams 37 episodes of Death Note into a one hour and fourty-five minute film. In doing this, you're going to have to trim a lot of the fat off. But in my opinion, they should have trimmed a lot of meat off too (with the bone still on it).
Where the series focused on a fast paced game of whits between Light and L, this adaptation becomes a brooding teenage angst tale between Light and his girlfriend. In the anime, Light was ruthless to use his Death Note (a book from a death god, where you write someone's name in it, they die). He used the book to change the world by killing evil people and good people that stood in his way including his own family. With the adaptation they divide the good and evil sides of Light between his girlfriend and himself.
This actually made for some interesting conflict and centralized the story, but at the same time there were plot points that were "hidden" from the audience that we could all figure out and we quickly learn which of the two is the evil one. This is a bit too Young Adult (Y.A.) fiction for the most part and doesn't always work, but I would leave it as part of the film.
The meat and bone I referenced early to remove would be the L character. If there's no game of whits to determine who is in possession of the Death Note, then why have him? You could just have an anonymous task force trying to find out who has the Death Note -- this group could be aware of the Death Note's existence and have been searching for it. But instead we get a kooky teenage super-genius detective and have to spend time trying to explain his backstory, which isn't even explored enough to make relevant to the plot.
Then why have him?
Fan service. Everything wrong with this film is because of that and making it largely just a Y.A. movie. Why have Light take the name Kira if he's not from Japan? Fan service. Anything that doesn't feel right or has to be explained is all because of that. Elements from the Anime just didn't work here.
Some aspects of the series were altered for the betterment of the story. Some of the Death Notes rules were changed or left out. William Dafoe's Ryuk was also a departure from the death god we saw portrayed in the series. Here is a menacing demon or djinn urging writers to put as many names as they can in the book regardless if they're good or bad. In the series Ryuk is just a bored death god happy to watch the show unfold.
I wouldn't say skip this film, unless you're a whiny anime fan going into it knowing you will hate it. I would press play knowing that it'll be a marginally fun ride with some frustrating elements, but there will be a whole lot of blood to make up for it. So it has that going for it.
But If you're an angsty 13-16 year old that asks for hot topic gift cards for your birthday, you're gonna love this film.
Rating: 3 whiny anime fans out of 5.
What did you think? Was the film a disappointment? Did it surpass your expectations? Are you an angsty, whiny anime teen? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and, as always, remember to viddy well!