Death Note

Dominick Veras

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Live Action Anime Disappoints 

I’d like to first start off by saying, that I don’t flat out despise this movie. In all honesty, I’m just disappointed. Time and time again, we’ve seen live-action adaptations of anime not do so hot. Every once in a while you get a Rurouni Kenshin, but most of the time you’ll get a train wreck. The most infamous and notorious example of this is the film, Dragon Ball Evolution, which appears to have only been made just to get a check by pandering to a niche market. However, here’s where I think Death Note differs. After watching the movie a few times, as well as looking up interviews with Adam Wingard, the director, it’s apparent that he actually did care about the source material. I think that this movie fails as an adaptation and as a stand-alone film. Unfortunately for Wingard, he got a lot of backlash. So much though that he got death threats and eventually left Twitter. As a fan of the original series, I expected that there was going to be differences. It’s inevitable. If I wanted it to be exactly like the original, I should just watch the anime. I think more fans should take up this mindset, not send death threats. 

For those unfamiliar with the movie, the story revolves around the main character Light Turner (Nat Wolff). One day he comes across a book that’s able to kill anyone whose name is written in it. Afterwords misfortune ensues. For example, he meets a Shinigami (the Japanese equivalent to the Grim Reaper) named Ryuk (Willem Dafoe) who’s the only goal is to cure his boredom by watching how people react with the power of the Death Note. After Turner takes on the persona of Kira, he goes on a mass killing spree of criminals. Then a detective by the name of L (Keith Stanfield) gets light (no pun intended) of the situation. L then vows to track Turner down and bring him to justice. Besides that, there’s the relationship between Turner and his gal Mia Sutton (Margaret Qualley). The movie tries to frame their relationship as a Bonnie and Clyde type of situation, but it doesn’t work out in the end due to the fact that everything she does ends up ruining everything Turner was striving to achieve.  

In the movie, there were a few things that bugged me. One of them was how the rules of the Death Note were changed. There are over 100 rules in the book, such as “If the cause of death is not specified, the person will simply die of a heart attack”, or “Whether the cause of the individual’s death is either a suicide or accident, if the death leads to the death of more than the intended, the person will simply die of a heart attack. This is to ensure that other lives are not influenced.” However, in the movie, even these rules are changed. For example, Turner writes down Watari’s name down and doesn’t specify how he’ll die and says “dealer’s choice”. So eventually when Watari does die, he gets shot up by some random people.  Besides changing those rules up, there was a new one added in. If you burn a page with a person’s name on it before they die, they get to live. There’s only one catch to it, it’s that you can only do it once. This was most likely added in to create tension between Turner and Mia towards the end movie. Turner originally planned to burn Watari’s name before he died, but Mia decided to write down his name instead. The reasoning behind it is because she wants ownership of the book. Then she gets furious when she finds out Light did the same thing. 

One may ask, what’s a story without its characters? To me, not much of a story at all. Unfortunately, the ones in this movie aren’t portrayed well. I went into it earlier with Turner. But it goes the same for the rest of the characters. Mia’s manga counterpart, Misa, is annoying but she would never do anything that would compromise Kira’s plan. Whereas Mia does literally everything in her power to get caught. She wants to kill the detectives that are tailing Turner, which she eventually did. Since she did that, it made people turn on Kira when they were finally getting on his side. Also, by doing that it made it apparent who the Kira is. She does nothing but cause problems in Kira’s plan. Personally, she’s the weakest character in the movie. But my favorite character in this is Ryuk. Willem Dafoe is the perfect casting for the character. His voice worked and he managed to capture the feeling of Ryuk quite well with what he was given. I just wish he was in the movie a lot more, that way it would’ve been more enjoyable.

The series got popular due to many factors. The most prevalent factor was the connection between Light and L. It’s what drove the series into the forefront and it’s that connection that makes you realize that both of them are just on the opposite side of the coin. One is evil and one is justice. However, on each side, they believe that they’re the righteous one while they view the other one to be evil. It’s because of this connection that makes the series interesting because it causes this intense game of cat and mouse. This game is played down and doesn’t have any real impact in the movie.  L’s detective ability as well as his intellectual prowess has also been played down, as well as Turner’s. Time and time again, it’s stated that Turner is way above average. But despite people saying it, he rarely displays said intelligence. He makes mistakes that seems very idiotic such as bringing the Death Note to school and showing off what it can do to Mia. Who at the time, barely knew him. L, on the other hand, was fine for the first half of the movie. But then he devolves into a frantic and emotional wreck. Their manga counterparts are depicted as cold and calculative people. They’re not the type to allow emotions cloud their judgment and when it does it always ends up bad.

All in all, this movie has many problems. However, despite the problem, I still find some enjoyment in the film. It’s kind of a guilty pleasure of mine. If you’re a diehard fan of the series, you’re most likely going to hate this film. Hell, as I stated earlier this movie got a lot of backlash from the diehard fans already. But I think that this movie can do some good in that it could introduce some people to the original series. Even if only one person does that, I still consider it a good thing that the movie did. I know that live-action adaptations are going to happen no matter what. But I think this movie is a step in the right direction. Who knows, maybe in a few years or so they’ll be more good ones. As of right now, the film industry is going through trial and error in order to see what’ll work. They have to eventually get it right. Until then, we have to recognize that there is a conscious effort being made. As consumers/buyers, we need to guide that effort into something better.  

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Death Note