Death Note is easily one of the best mangas ever written, and its anime adaptation is one of the most popular shows ever created — it sits comfortably in my personal top three. I own all previously released movies on DVD and, as you can probably tell, am a pretty loyal fan of everything Death Note.
If you had the power of a God, how would you use it? This is the fantasy that Death Note ultimately allows us to play with. I personally feel that the reason for Death Note's enormous popularity is the fact that we can all kind of relate to Light on a certain level; we've all imagined what it would be like to have the power to make the world better. If you were given the ability to purge all the evil from the world, even at the cost of your own humanity, would you be willing to make that sacrifice? I most certainly would. I'd absolutely have used that notebook. I'd unquestionably become a tyrant if it meant that I could rid the world of all its evil.
I was very excited when I heard that Netflix was going to do the newest rendition of the story — Why? Because they've rarely let me down, especially when it comes to anime related titles. I was even more excited when I heard Willem Dafoe was going to do the voice acting for Ryuk; my all-time favourite actor playing one of my all-time favourite characters — absolute magic. What could go wrong?
Then there was all the scandalous drama over L being black and Light being white…another ScarJo/Kusanagi whitewashing fiasco and all that jazz. I shrugged it off. This is a reimagining; we've had the Japanese versions already, we've had sequels and spinoffs already. This is a chance for something different; a new take on an epic story. Let's just rid ourselves of drama and preconceptions and see what the new film has to offer! Am I right?!?
Of course I am. Death Note is a good and entertaining film—... that, unfortunately, can't hold a candle up to its predecessors (excluding the sequels). If I had not read the source material or seen the anime, this may have intrigued or even impressed me, but unfortunately, I have.
Natt Wolff's portrayal of Light Turner (Yagami Light) was, for lack of a gentler word, weak. It's not that Wolff's acting was weak, but rather that the bullish convictions that made Light such a wonderful character were, for some reason, instead written into the character of Mia Sutton (Misa Amane), which was played by Margaret Qualley. Mia's character takes on a much bigger dynamic in the new film, which totally disrupts the relationship that is meant to develop between L and Kira; the very dynamic that makes Death Note an amazing story.
This L also seemed to completely miss the mark. While still keeping his love for candy and his awkward sitting positions, very little else of the character remained. He seemed arrogant, angsty and had absolutely no chemistry with Light whatsoever. Recreating some of the character's quirkiness does, by no means, mean that you've successfully portrayed that character. There was a lot missing, especially the mind games and genius misdirections between our protagonists.
There were some plus sides, like the great cinematography, camera angles, and special effects. Watari was very convincing and Ryuk looked and sounded pretty awesome (Thanks Dafoe!) — but overall, there's wasn't a lot that was good. The score was a joke if I think back to the awesome soundtrack used for the anime. The music here completely missed the mood or changed it for the worse.
I could ramble on and on about where they went wrong and what could have been done better, but suffice it to say that this is not the movie that you or I were waiting for. I give it a heartbroken two out of five and can’t honestly recommend it. I still love you, Willem Dafoe. I still love you…
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