A little while ago, I posted a mini review of the Death Note anime series and at the end i predicted that the upcoming release of the live action movie would be panned by critics and fans of anime alike and it has been, but for the wrong reasons.
I am not a huge fan of anime or manga, it is something i have a little interest in but i am not in any way a super fan and i think that’s why my opinion on this movie leans a little less towards the hated side.
*****THERE MAY BE SOME SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE FILM AND FOR THE ANIME***** Ahead i will be covering some of the key differences between the film and the anime and could potentially spoil parts of both stories. So continue at your own risk.
The bulk of the criticism of the film lie in its casting of white people in Japanese roles. Not unlike the whitewashing criticisms of Iron Fist (Netflix, do you do this on purpose?) this is a stupid criticism. Firstly Danny Rand has always been a white man to my knowledge, so that was stupid but this film is an adaption. In adaptions we take original material and change it to suit our needs. Adaption literally means changing. The actor who plays L in the Netflix film said it best: “Lakeith Stanfield, who plays L, finds no justification in the controversy. According to him, if there was a Japanese adaptation of a U.S. TV series like Friends, it would be obvious to have Asian characters.”. Adaptions must change parts of their story to suit their needs and their key demographic and why people can’t see passed this, is beyond me!
For me the biggest problem with this film is it’s running time. At only 100 minutes, it is not nearly enough to build the world and lore, to explore the characters and to showcase the lead characters formidable minds. One of the best parts of the anime was watching L try to piece together all the information and try to catch out “Kira”, whilst trying not to get himself killed. Meanwhile we watched Light try to act out his plans and try to stay ahead of his adversary. At 100 minutes, it’s barely enough time to even introduce the characters and the film suffers as a result.
The film is a drastically condensed version, with many characters cut from the story altogether and Light’s motivation is little more than some throwaway explanation and while I agree that there was plenty to cut away, they still tried to cram too much in here. They brutalize the character of Light, playing him in a much more “good” role as opposed to the villain he becomes, his love interest, Mia, is closer to the Light of the Anime but her motivations are never explained, she just seems to be an emo-teen with a chip on her shoulder and a penchant for gore. L is close to his anime counterpart, though something just seems off about the portrayal, specifically how emotional he is and this is never clearer than in the end. The roles of Light’s father, named James in this version, Watari and Ryuk are all very strongly done, with James’ perhaps being the most accurate, right up until the end when he reveals that he knows the truth and seems somewhat indifferent. Watari doesn’t have much to do, but he does it well. Ryuk is played in a much more evil role and though he never stated that he was on one side or the other in the anime, he didn’t betray Light or encourage others to betray him. He seems to be only concerned with killing as many people as possible and there’s no explanation as to why, unlike the anime.
There are some strong scenes between many of the characters and the relationship between Light and James is one of the films best achievements but they get so much wrong that it’s hard to forgive. I feel that they could have added another 20 minutes to the film and used this time to flesh out the characters, the story and explain at least some of their motivations, then wrap up the film with Kira reaching the god like status he attained in the anime and then use a sequel to show L and the “forces of good” bringing him to account.
It has been said by Adam Wingard, the director of this and films such as The Guest, Blair Witch and You’re Next, that Netflix would like to do at least one sequel but i suspect that it won’t come to anything, they have left no reason to revisit this story, unless they were to tell an entirely new and original story but i fear that would garner even more hatred than this!
Overall, it’s not a terrible film but if you have watched the anime and really liked it, you’re probably not going to like this version. So, in that case, there are two kinds of people: Those who liked this film and those who saw the anime first.
I score this as a 6/10, which is much higher than my initial reaction (see the above picture) but upon reflection, i can understand why some of the changes were made, though i still do not agree with them. This should have been part one of at least two and had a lot of potential, which has been wasted.
POSITIVES: Decent performances by most of the cast, some delightfully gory moments, a thrilling finale and some very good special effects. DRAWBACKS: Female lead is completely wasted, questionable motives at times and it’s hard to ignore the changes from the anime. SPECIAL MENTION for the awesome Willem Dafoe who, despite only lending his voice, commands every scene he’s in.
What did you think? Had you watched the anime first or was this your introduction to the world of Death Note? What would you do with a Death Note? Let us know your thoughts and be sure to check out some of our other articles on the page!