I was discussing Favorites with Book Cupidity and we got on the subject of Death Note. I’ve been a fan of the manga since it was released here in the United States beginning in ’05 and ending in ’07. 2 Live action movies were released in Japan and eventually made their way here to the States. I own those two movies on dvd and I’ll be watching and reviewing them later this week. An anime was created and was just as popular, if not more so, than the manga. A tv show aired for 11 episodes and a third movie was created which took place after the 2 movies ended. I do not believe the tv show or 3rd movie ever made it to Region 1 dvd/bluray/digital. They are available on various torrent sites with subtitles however. I plan on reviewing the 3rd movie as well. So this coming week will be a bit movie focused instead of book focused.
Well, it turns out that Netflix JUST released their own adaptation and BC was saying how she and her hubby were rather underwhelmed. Reviews I saw also lambasted the adaptation. So of course, I had to check it out for myself.
Ok, my first impressions were actually rather positive. Because I have read the manga, watched the original movies and watched the anime, I’ve got a solid grounding. That directly explains why I enjoyed this.
This was truly an adaptation. Much like some of those Pride and Prejudice adaptations. They take the bones of the story and then add their own guts, flesh and skin to it. If you go into this expecting a hollywood aesthetic telling of the Death Note story, you’ll be disappointed. This is NOT the Death Note of the manga. This takes the idea of the Death Note and some of the characters from the manga and tells its own story.
Light Turner is just a poor schmuck who wants to make the world a better place. By killing criminals. His girlfriend Mia is the twisted one and is willing to do whatever is necessary to keep the killing of criminals going. L, Light’s supposed nemesis, is an unstable kid who hops around on chairs and eats candy by the handful. And goes completely off the rails near the end. Light’s Dad is a police officer, just a Joe Officer heading a lonely task force by himself trying to find Kira. Kira, by the way, is what Light is calling himself when he kills the criminals.
Teen hormones and angsty’ness [but not really] ensue. Light has one moment of genius and does a whole bunch of stuff right at the end, whereas before he hasn’t exhibited one trace of smartness. Heck, I’m smarter than the Light portrayed in this movie. L is a bad caricature and never proves anything, just rants and then tries to freaking shoot Light! Near and Mello don’t exist in this adaptation I guess. Which means that L’s true fate doesn’t happen here. THAT was disappointing. The movie ends without ANY resolution. To me, it looks like it was made as a Part I but the studio was hedging their bets by not calling it Part I.
The change of location from Japan to Seattle, from Light and L going from Japanese to a white and black guy and Mia filling in for Misa, I had no problems with. But the change in the characters themselves was what got me. Light went from a Sherlock Holmes genius psychopath willing to use ANYONE to some blubbering, wants to be loved and understood generic American Teenager. L went from the smartest, most idiosyncratic private detective to a kid with replacement daddy-issues. And Mia? She was what Light SHOULD have been. She was the only character worthy of actually having a Death Note. My other big issue is that this went from a mind game between geniuses to a splatterfest. Decapitations of bullies, tyrants exploding gorefully, etc, etc.
The ending was huge mess. If I hadn’t had a thorough grounding in just what the Death Note could do, I would have been completely lost. I definitely would not have liked this if this had been the first incarnation of Death Note that I had seen. As a seasoned connoisseur however, it was refreshing to see someone else’s interpretation, no matter how messy.
To end. This movie sucked on its own. It was disjointed, in execution, in character development and plotting. As an adaptation of something I already liked though, I enjoyed this version.
Recommendation: For Completists Only
for those who have read the manga AND watched the 2 Japanese live action films and loved them all. If you were so-so about either the manga or the movies, this won’t ignite your interest.
I’m including my thoughts on the Death Note manga below from when I reviewed them in ’14. Just be aware, they’re as spoilery as anything, as is my tendency.