It’s common place today that we are rarely treated to an accurate reimagining of an anime to live action film. Death Note is not that film.
While it has its moments, the majority of this movie suffers from inaccurate character portrayals, convenient story telling, and more than one too many artistic liberties taken. It’s understandable that an hour and forty minute movie can’t touch on every thing that made the anime great, but after 15 minutes of watching, it becomes clear they didn’t really try at all. The best part of this film is Ryuk and Willem DaFoe’s take on the demon. Sadly, even Ryuk is underutilised and not given the screen time he deserves.
Staying positive for a moment, Ryuk looks awesome. Willem DaFoe is a perfect choice for the demonic tormentor. His voice and character demand attention when he is on-screen. The lack of his presence throughout the film, leaves you wanting more. Aside from Ryuk, the deaths are gory good fun, and serve as surprising moments that make you semi-interested in what is happening on-screen.
“A little bitchass” is how I would describe Light in this movie.
Light’s character on the other hand is beyond dull. While the actor tried to… well I’m not sure what he tried to do with that role but whatever it was didn’t work. Going on of the anime, Light’s character is a brilliant student. He is a force to be reckoned with, always staying one or more steps ahead of the police and L. Something that got lost in translation in this adaptation. “A little bitchass” is how I would describe Light in this movie. While the taste of playing God is at first a great feeling for him, he quickly gets scared when he realizes he is in over his head instead of welcoming the challenge and rising to the occasion.
Another issue with Light is his girlfriend, Mia. The entire romance twist forced into this movie takes away from what should have been a home run for Netflix. Netflix is notorious for making solid shows. Death Note is one to leave off their resume.
Aside from the main characters portraying their anime counter parts in a sub-par way, the movie is riddled with pacing issues. Death Note is a substantial series. When the movie isn’t dragging from dialogue, it tries to play catch up by shoving fast paced chases or deaths in between to make up for it. Nothing flows together in this film, and sadly it feels like a taped together mess. It’s like a painter trying to recreate the Mona Lisa, but what he delivers instead is a finger painted stick figure.
L is probably the closest to the canon character you get, but even that actor comes off like he’s trying to hard at times. Initially, he nails the role; a socially awkward, tactical thinker that is inevitably dragged down by the rest of the movie. Spoiler alert: L isn’t even killed off! That’s a major part of the original that was for one reason or another left out.
The romance between Mia and Light is hard to watch. Watching a couple of high-schoolers get each other off by killing people is awkward to say the least. It’s clear that when you take the Death Note out of the equation, their relationship is nothing, and yet by the end they’re professing their love to each other? Come on man! Everyone can see that your “love” is a lie. Whether it was intentional or not, it displaces itself from fitting into the rest of the film.
By the end of Death Note I was just hoping they’d All die and the credits would roll so I could get on with my life.
The biggest issue this film has is not taking the time to establish its characters as people you want to know more about. Little hints here and there tease you with what happened to these characters in the past, but none of that is ever shown or given the time it needs to make you care about these people. The movie could end with a bomb going off and levelling the city of Seattle and I could literally give a shit if any of them lived, and that’s a problem. A good movie is one that gives you characters you WANT to see prevail. By the end of Death Note I was just hoping they’d all die and the credits would roll so I could get on with my life.
Whats worse is they leave things open for a sequel. The only reason I’d watch it is if DaFoe reprised his role as Ryuk. Christ, the sequel should focus on him, because that’s the only way it’d do well.
While Death Note has its fleeting moments, overall the movie is riddled with pacing and character issues. If you’re looking for a movie to pull you in and deliver characters you empathise with, Death Note isn’t for you. If you want something on while you fall asleep then Death Note still might not be for you.