Death Note - 2017
Death Note is directed by Adam Wingard (The Guest and You’re Next) and written by a committee, with the most notable among them being Jeremy Slater (Fan-4-Stic). The screenplay was adapted from a famous Anime of the same name. The cast is comprised of Lakeith Stanfield, Nat Wolff, Margaret Qualley and Willem Dafoe. The story centers around a teenager that finds a notebook that can kill anyone that has their name written in it.
I feel I need to address something first: I’m a fan of the anime show. It’s honestly a great show, even though it drags a little in the end, and it’s worth your time. But, I didn’t come in to this movie with expectations of seeing the anime up on screen. I just wanted to see the core of the anime adapted into a movie that could stand on its own. And they did just that - it stands on its own as a bad and sadly boring movie.
I want to highlight the thing I liked about the movie before I get into the meat of the review. The design of Ryuk, death god that is the owner of the notebook, was visually interesting. I liked that they did a mix of practical effects, having a seven-foot actor be on set, and motion-cap effects with Willem Dafoe for his facial movements. I liked the voice Dafoe gave the character; he managed to capture the tone of the original while making it his own. With that out of the way...
I don’t think the blame necessarily falls 100% on Wingard’s shoulders. The directing aspect of this movie was more than adequate, I think he just didn’t have a good screenplay to play with. One of the many reason why the anime works is the amount of time it has to develop the story. We connect with the protagonist and his antagonist and grow to like them both equally. This movie bum-rushed the story to a point where, despite me having the knowledge of the anime, I felt lost. Not in what is happening, but lost in why should I care about anything that is happening.
There are two main protagonists in the anime, Light and L. What make the anime compelling is the way both utilize their intellects to avoid each other’s detection. They completely missed the point that the cat and mouse game between Light and L is the best aspect of the story, not the gratuitous killings. Light is played by Nat Wolf and L is played by Lakeith Stanfield. Weirdly, both failed to make the characters their own, but due to completely different reasons. Wolf character is supposedly a genius unmatched by his peers who gets a god complex when bestowed with the Death Note’s powers. But he just comes across like an awkward teenager always looking for a way out of the situation. On the other hand, Stanfield stayed true to his character but tried to recreate every gesture and quirk his animated counterpart did in the show. There are some things that simply work because they come across goofy in real life.
I don’t want to pick on Wolf, but another thing that bothered me was his relationship with Ryuk and Misa, played by Margaret Qualley. In the anime, both of these characters are in awe of his intellect and confidence. Light is always one step ahead of everyone including the god of death. In this movie, both are bored by him and want him out of the way so they can carry-out the killing spree. By default, I was also bored by him and wanted him gone from the move.
Death Note is another prime example that anime’s work best as a series and above it all it must be animated. This movie is not horrible, it was just unnecessary. Willem Dafoe is why I love movies.
Death Note is currently streaming on Netflix. I mean the Anime. Just watch the Anime.
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