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Death Note (2017): Review

Written by Zechs on Tuesday, August 29 2017 and posted in Reviews

Death Note (2017): Review

A typical Hollywood adaptation that fails to capture what made the series so darn popular.

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Usually, when it come's to new releases I'm used to anticipating them in theaters. This is kind of the first time I ever was anxious for a movie via Netflix. Then again, when Death Note is based on a Japanese manga series, and this American adaptation is directed by Adam Wingard, who'll be directing 2020's Godzilla vs. Kong. Well, now this movie has my full attention.

Yet, ten minutes into this movie I couldn't help but begin laughing at it. Oh, boy. It's those ten minutes early on I realize this isn't going to be a faithful adaptation, and failing spectacularly hard at doing its own thing. Like literally the performance of Nat Wolff as Light is comedical. The movie already starts out casting Light in a shady area (instead of say make him relatable like they do in the other various media of the character), and not only that but going for teen drama as well. Then the realization hits me that they're going for teen angst, and it makes me wonder how badly will it takeover the film?  

The answer? A TON and that is the biggest disservice this film has against its source material. Death Note isn't a love story. It's a cat/mouse chess game, where everyone becomes a pawn, and really there aren't any clear answers or winners.  

In the latter that is very much true. There aren't any winners of anyone watching this movie. Other than you realize just how poorly some good performances are wasted on this putrid affair. Chief among them is Willem Dafoe as Ryuk and Lakeith Stanfield as L. Both are actually spot-on performances of the two characters, and whenever they are on screen the movie is actually quite watchable.

The problem is, they only cover twenty percent of the screen-time, and the rest is devoted to Light and Mia (Margaret Qualley) fawning over one another while deciding to "change the world". This pathetic attempt at romance is a huge disservice because you already know how this subplot is gonna end. Sure enough, it goes down exactly the way you think it goes.

There in lies the great problem with this adaptation. It throws too much in, and not enough. The moment this movie sequel baits at the end, I groaned, and instantly screamed, "WHY?!" Because if ever gets a sequel then why bother having one when you waste the inclusion of Mia here (or Misa as she's referred to in the Japanese manga). She just feels utterly superfluous than to just be here for this annoying teen subplot. 

Anyone watching this movie isn't here for the damn romance. We're here to see the cat/mouse game between Light and L. The fact that feels more like an afterthought is another slight against the film. When L confronts Light in the manga. It sets the stage for the various levels of cunning each try to up against the other. Here? You feel nothing until the two meet face to face, and by then just when you think we're going to get more. We don't. 

Which is a damn shame really since Stanfield really nails L and even adds some additional quirks to the character that makes total sense. The problem is any further elements to give L character are instead cast off for more Light/Mia.  

Even then, the best parts of any of their interactions are of course when Ryuk is present. That leads to probably the second reason the film is watchable, and that is, of course, the performance of Dafoe. The fact that Dafoe's Ryuk is CGed and acts around in circles around the actors of Light and Mia is a sight to behold. You wonder, how the hell did the people of this film get everyone but these two main characters?

That said, the film does take Ryuk in a different direction than the manga and other adaptations of it. Honestly? This divergence I didn't mind, cause when you having Dafoe creeping it the hell up and add the amazing CGI done on Ryuk. It's one of the few things of this movie you can appreciate. 

Sadly, when Ryuk isn't present among them, you're left with a mess with these two, and what a glorious mess of a film it is. Even when Light pulls off a worthy Kira-esque move at the film's climax. You just want him to die. You want to never see the character again. That alone, makes the movie a write off.


Cause if you followed either the Japanese movie that adapted this series or the anime. You'll find much better paced and more rounded characters. Something this film barely has. You wonder how people in Hollywood could fuck something so simple up as Death Note. The elements are here. Just that they're little sprinkles here and there spread throughout the film. 

Save for Light, who just gets royally screwed as a character here. Everything that you found enthralling in the various forms of media isn't found here. Which is a darn shame really, because you'd think the series which is known for its cat/mouse games between protagonist and antagonist would be the crux of the film. That' truly is the grand irony of it all in the end. This movie is just a write-off and another addition to how Hollywood fucks up a manga/anime adaptation.


2 out of 5


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About the Author - Zechs

Zechs is the lord and master of The Toy Shed, Moment of the Week, and Durnkin Reveewz. He's also the official whuppin boy at the Outhouse. So he'll get stuck seeing stuff that no mere mortal should ever see. If there's any greater quality to Zechs, it's that he's an avid fan of comic book characters and would defend them to the bitter end against the companies that use them wrongly. He's also brutally honest. Zechs walks the lonely path in Chicagoland area.


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