Shall we begin?
Adapting an already beloved property is a difficult thing. Adam Wingard’s Death Note has been victim to accusations of whitewashing, being an unnecessary remake and pre-release bad press. Death Note is based on a legendary manga wich has been adapted into both and anime and some live action films in Japan. Was any of this pre-criticism justified?
I feel I need to get this out of the way up front, I’ve never seen the original anime or live action movies. My opinion is purely based on this new movie. Feel free to educate me in the comments or over on twitter!
Netflix’s Death Note is actually pretty, pretty good. A dark, moody, nightmarish movie, lit in neon signs and police lights, Death Note takes us on a journey of conflicting emotions and difficult choices.
Light Turner, played by Nat Wolff, has recently lost his mother. He’s disaffected and acting up in school. During an unexpected windstorm, Light comes across a book. A book that kills anybody who’s name is written within its pages. Along with the book comes Willem Dafoe’s Ryuk, a Death God, he’s eight feet tall and as creepy as he is hilarious. Light also gets involved with Mia (Margaret Qualley) who may have ulterior motives. It’s not long before Nat and Mia start killing people under the name KIRA and attract the attention of L (Lakeith Stanfield) who is one of the worlds foremost private investigators.
I had no preconceptions of what a Death Note film should be like. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I am however a fan of director Adam Wingard, ever since seeing his contributions to the VHS movies. After seeing You’re Next, The Guest and Blair Witch it was apparent Wingard is a director to watch, so I did expect some of his stylistic trademarks to shine through.
The pulsing electronic score provided by Oscar winner Atticus Ross and Leopold Ross perfectly compliments Wingard’s dark, rain-drenched, neon lit streets, giving everything a very 80’s feel. In fact, it comes across very John Carpenter in both tone and style, which is never a bad thing.
I do have some criticisms, the scriptwriters have crammed in an awful lot of story into a relatively short run time, which worked but at the expense of some character development. Both Light and Mia’s introductions were shorter than I’d have liked, missing out on some backstory, particularly about the death of Light’s mother and I’d have loved more scenes with L.
Lakeith Stanfield as L was a particular highlight for me. An odd character, the world’s greatest detective, L comes across as Batman meets Sherlock Holmes and probably should have been made a bigger deal of in the story. I really like Stanfield, who could have been given more to do, but did great with what he had. I do hope Netflix commissions a sequel as I am not quite ready to be done with these characters.
The special effects were great, Ryuk is shown sparingly but to great effect. His realistic (to an extent) design is incredible. Dafoe’s voice perfectly suiting this porcupine quilled demon. Ryuk is never overused and is probably the highlight of the film, each one of his appearances bringing dread and hilarity.
Death Note is a lean, tight, supernatural thriller with plenty of twists and turns along the way. Packed with dark humour and some fantastic gore, it’s a blend of Peter Parker style “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” and the karma killer of Final Destination.
Death Note is now streaming on Netflix
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