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Review | Death Note (2017)

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Following the success of the anime adaptation of Castlevania, Netflix could have also broken the trend of awful live action adaptions of anime. Instead their American adaptation of Death Note is nothing more than a by-the-books high school thriller that is devoid of everything that had defined the series.

It’s safe to say that Netflix and director Adam Wingard were too dependent on the hype surrounding Willem Dafoe playing Ryuk that they forgot to focus on the rest of the movie. Or there were so much pressure that the creative team decided to play it safe and just use familiar tropes of the genre. Regardless, this film is just Death Note in name only.

To understand why Netflix’s Death Note is such a poorly done adaptation, one needs to first understand the philosophy behind the source material. The anime series examines the age old question of “dose the end justify the means” along with the concept of defining justice and dose power corrupt. All of that is absent in the film adaptation while a few pseudo moments are shoehorned in to compensate for the lack of a true philosophical discussion.

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This is Not Justice!

Netflix’s Death Note could have gone in any direction and it had no obligation to be a re-imagining of the anime series. Instead that was the route choose but they try to be different with over the top gratuitous violence and over complicated kills that make the film look like a Final Destination knock-off. Kira is suppose to represent quick and swift justice (hence heart attacks) but the film presents a Kira that is just showboating to the world.

From the start, the biggest challenge is wanting to actually like Nat Wolff performance as Light Turner but this is impossible as he is nothing like Light Yagami from the anime. Yagami was cleaver and had a goal while being likable from the start before he started crossing some unethical lines. Turner on the other hand is first using the Death Note for revenge, then to pick up the first girl he meets, next it’s about fame, then finally it’s sort-of about making the world a better place. It’s also important to compare motivation factor of Ryuk, in the anime he dose it for giggles while in the film it’s never actually explained.

Other liberties taken was transforming Misa Amane from an annoying Jar Jar Binks-like love interest into the more cunning Mia Sutton. This was a likable character from the start but would evolve into someone unlikable before being revealed as the sort-of villain of the film. Not helping this change is the fact that Margaret Qualley performance feels more like a budget Kristen Stewart.

Next is the story behind the hunt for Kira, which has been completely watered down with the task force reduced to simply L, James Turner (Light’s father), and maybe a few randoms who don’t matter. The cat and mouse game between L and Light has been replaced by a petty pissing contest between the two with a series of dick moves. Meanwhile, James Turner lacks any of the traits that made Soichiro Yagami memorable while the only thing original about the character is that he is not an alcoholic cop named Murphy.

Finally it all comes down to the ending, a moment that could have redeemed the film in a brilliant matter only to double down on the cliche in the laziest way possible. Not to give away too much but it’s a maybe happy ending. Also there is some half-ass attempt at philosophy by showing how L and Light differ in seeking justice.

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Redemption for the Wicked

Yes, Death Note is an awful adaptation but there are a few redeeming moments. The obvious being Willem Dafoe playing Ryuk, who was obviously the best choice for the role and gave a flawless performance. When you think about it, the best way to enjoy the film is by fast forwarding to every moment that he has an onscreen appearance.

The other redeeming factor is Lakeith Stanfield as L, who brings a different take on the character but also keeping many of his notable charm. While the story was poorly crafted, Stanfield did the best he could with role which demonstrates the quality of his talent.

So why should anyone take the time to point out the films few positive moments? Because of this simple tweet:

Death Note is a better live action adaptation of an anime than Dragon Ball Evolution, but its real easy to be an improvement over a dumpster fire. In the end, the film is an insult to fans of the anime while other viewers will just see it as a Final Destination knock-off.

Final Score: 2/10

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About Stan Rezaee (406 Articles)
Stan Rezaee is the founder and Editor of 8Bit/Digi. He is a journalist and gamer from the Bay Area who has been writing about the medium for over five years.

7 Comments on Review | Death Note (2017)

  1. There’s really no reason for this movie almost nothing other than the actual death note and a death god that makes it death note. It would of been much better if they scrapped it and simply made a movie based on Death Note. Light is completely different, Mikasa is Mia and she is completely different. It’s just not Death Note in any sense of the story.

  2. Movie sucked but the best performance is is L by far because, like the anime, he gets your respect with his thoughts and actions.

  3. The tone is a mess. It starts out with a very “high school” tone and this diminishes the dialectic of the movie’s discussion of justice. Then it goes over to the tone of a cheap sci-fi movie where we learn a bunch of random rules that aren’t that useful in the end. Light gains sympathy as a character through his mistakes and his “average white kid”-ness which is quite the opposite of the real Light who gains respect by being a genius.

  4. This was absolutely horrible and it should have never existed, because it has ZERO ambition! It doesn’t point at the public who doesn’t know the manga or the anime, and obviously it doesn’t point to the fans.

  5. The only redeeming thing about this movie is Willem Dafoe as Ryuk. Everything else is trash.

  6. Seems to me you all hated the movie because it was not the anime and some BS about white washing. Also was that stupid “hold my beer” joke necessary?

  7. This is the issue with those who review this movie, they come in and expected it to be just like the anime and have it be like how the Japanese do their live adaptations, to me those adaptations look like a bad fan made cosplay movie with horrible cgi, people need to face it that doing adaptations that follow the source material like they do in Japan sucks, at least this movie was better than those movies.

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