Hey guys! So I think I mentioned this before but I was pretty excited but also nervous about this new Death Note adaptation coming out on Netflix. I said I was going to give it a chance and oh my, did I try! Warning for spoilers
So in this Death Note adaptation we have Light Turner, a highschool student with behavioral problems at school. He seems to hate the injustices of the world as we see him have a heated argument with his father about his mother’s death and he even stands up to a bully at school…only after someone else does it first. He also seems to be a smart cookie, if him doing the homework of 15 other students in exchange for money is anything to go by. Then one day, a notebook with the title Death Note practically falls into his hands. Intrigued by the book, Light decides to keep it and after a supernatural hello from an 8 foot monster, Light realizes he can right the wrongs of the world by writing someone’s name in the notebook
I’m trying really hard not to bash this movie because I legit want to write a review for this but it’s so hard! So I’m going to just write stuff as I go and hope it’s not too bad
Some of the biggest things I disliked about this movie were the omissions and changes from the original series. In the Death Note manga and anime, Light Yagami is a straight A student with strong morals who detests crime. His peers and teachers think highly of him, he respects his father, and he’s even worked in the police force as the brains. In this Netflix original all of these things that made me look up and respect and even understand Light’s plight with the Death Note are taken away
In this movie Light is described as having behavioral problems, his teachers don’t believe he’d ever be the “good guy”, he seems ok with cheating (doing people’s homework in exchange for money), and he disrespects his father the first time we see them together, blaming him for doing nothing about his mother’s murderer getting bailed out of jail
Then we have Light’s first use of the notebook. I don’t know about you all but I find decapitation to be something a tad extreme and it doesn’t put Light in a positive view. It seems a tad too cruel but I suppose it’s a good way to see if the notebook is really the one responsible for the actions…
And my last beef with the new Light is that he is a puppet. Or at least he feels like it. The first time he uses the notebook it’s because Ryuk practically pressures him into using it. After that I feel like he uses the notebook, not really to kill criminals, but because his girlfriend likes that power. I mean, they only got together after he told her about it. Versus in the anime/manga Light uses the notebook because he truly believes he can bring a positive change to the world by ridding it of criminals
Next up is L! So let’s see. Because I don’t have too much beef with him, let’s start with the movie. In this movie L seems to have the same quirks as the L in the series. He sits funny, he eats candy all the time, he doesn’t sleep, he has Watari, and he keeps his identity a secret. Everything seems to coincide with the anime and manga, except that there are some nitpicky things I didn’t like
Really it’s minor. For example, I super dislike how he eats all his sweets. In this scene he just dumps his hand into the candy cup, making some fly around, and then chugs them down. I don’t know about you guys, but I always found L to me meticulous about his sweets, not wanting any to go to waste. To see this was kind of eh for me. I felt similarly with other aspects like him sitting like L does but wearing shoes. If they could do the crouch, why not just have him be barefoot as well?
But that’s not what really bothered me about L. What bothered me the most was that this L was so emotional and dependant on Watari, that when Watari goes missing and then dies, the first thing he seems to think about it revenge. He picks up a gun and goes out to hunt down Light. What happened to justice?! There’s also a scene where L pretty much goes to Light’s house and threatens him (and if you ask me, Light’s father’s reaction was over the top, like woah man, it’s not like L took a knife out and nearly stabbed Light and then Light just sits there. I feel like anime Light would’ve been like hey dad calm down and made himself out to be the better of the two)
And really, after Watari, L isn’t the justice L he was (I think) supposed to be
In terms of the mental battles we saw in the anime, we got ZERO of it here, which is what disappointed me the most. I loved the battles between L and Light as they tried to figure out what each other’s next moves would be. In here the only deductions we had were from L and about Light’s whereabouts (aka he realized Light was in Seattle vs Japan), and a lot of his reasonings seemed flimsy and more coincidences. And the only times the two interact are when L sits with him at the cafe and this scene
This is the part where I list the good but…
I just can’t think of much to praise. But if I have to give kudos to anyone in the cast, it would probably be for Mia. Out of everyone, she knew what she wanted from the beginning. Guy with the power to kill anyone? Well of course it’s acceptable to sleep with him now. Not only that, but she manipulates him rather well as he never suspected her betraying him until nearly the end of the movie, when she didn’t try to hide it. She does end up getting power hungry but at least she was clever before that. She was also able to get away from L’s watchful eye because L was so focused on Light, which still confuses me. I feel like there was only that obsession because it was there in the anime/manga. I mean, were there ever any other suspects? Why didn’t he focus on Mia if she was also around a lot?
I did like that they didn’t try to make this adaptation in Japan, even though I feel like they should have just changed the names as well. Instead, the setting is in Seattle and we see Light and Mia in this setting. They’re both just teenagers, they go to homecoming, and it’s normal for them to be dating. In a sense, it feels like an American setting, but that’s as far as they got
A lot of elements from the anime/manga were brought over to this adaptation but a lot of it wasn’t explained and I feel like we’d need anime/manga knowledge to know what was going on (or you’d just accept it for what it was). For example, Ryuk is always eating apples and Light notices this but he never comments on it. In the anime/manga, Light ends up using this as a way to communicate with L and to explore what he can and can’t do to the inmates. I also don’t think Light Turner ever asked Ryuk about him being a Shinigami. At one point L sets up cameras in the Turner household but we only see a glimpse of this and of Light being fidgety but trying to act normal. Why though? If he didn’t know about the cameras? Or did he?
Also, did anyone notice the soundtrack. I don’t know about you all, but I feel like a lot of movies have been trying to fit music into the films, especially older music. Some movies do it well, like Guardians and Baby Driver, but Death Note’s soundtrack just flopped for me. Especially that last song. I was initially feeling sad and omg but once the song started playing I was laughing because is this song seriously playing while these two are about to die?!
Overall this was a pretty bad movie. I really wanted to give it a chance. I mean, this is Death Note! One of the anime classics, one of my favorite anime out there, but there were too many things missing here. For one, the cast did nothing special. Nobody’s acting stood out to me, except maybe L but that was only because he was mimicking anime L’s quirks. The movie tried to incorporate things from the anime/manga without really explaining them. The whole mental showdown was nonexistent. I felt little to no feelings for Light’s cause because he was kind of a wuss and was more preoccupied with Mia. The chemistry between characters was either awkward or not there at all
THAT ENDING. We never really got to see what happens to L or Light. L ends up finding a page of the notebook and seems ready to use it, possibly to write Light’s name. Light is still alive but at the hospital. And Light’s father has finally figured it out, what’s he going to do? He’s already given his stance on Kira, and now he knows it’s Light. No apologies to L for all the crap he did to him?
I feel like if they’d just taken the idea of the Death Note and placed it in Seattle without the characters Light or L, this could have been better. Make a new story, don’t try to follow the anime. And if they had to have L, he could have been more of a background character. Plus, maybe making two movies (like the Japanese adaptation) or even a series. Everything just felt crammed and this wasn’t even a 2hr film
In the end, I ended up giving this a 4/10
Update: I made a kind of short video review of this if anyone is interested~