Streaming Review of "Death Note" by Jason Minton
Available Now on Netflix
Death Note – 2017
Production by: Lin Pictures, Veritgo Entertainment
Distribution by: Netflix
An intelligent, outcast, student has a notebook land in his lap that has the power to kill anyone who’s name is written into it. Light Turner (Nat Wolfe) reluctantly accepts this gifted power and the otherworldly killer Ryuk (William Defoe) who comes with it. Determined to do good with the power of death, Light launches a secret crusade to rid the streets of criminals. With people dropping dead out of nowhere, the unknown vigilante is pursued by detective who mysteriously goes simply by the name L (Lakeith Stanfield) and Light’s cop father James Turner (Shea Whigham). Light struggles to keep using the Death Note for good as a blooming romance with his partner in crime Mia (Margaret Qualley) lets the power of death consume her. The walls close in as the bodies drop dead and Light balances a power hungry girlfriend, cops that are closing in on him including his father, the complicated rules of the Death Note and a blood thirsty killer monster who’s just itching for Light to slip up so he can add to his body count.
Adam Wingard director of You’re Next, 2016’s Blair Witch and the upcoming Godzilla vs Kong turns some manga into a Netflix movie. I don’t have a particular like or dislike of manga. Going into Death Note I had no knowledge of where the movie came from. It seems a lot of fans of the Death Note comics are upset with the outcome of the movie. This is a review from an outsider’s opinion.
I love the concept of the movie. A notebook that you can write anyone’s name in and how you want them to die and it’ll happen. That notebook concept, along with the Ryuk character voiced by William Dafoe has the makings of greatness. The dark setting and overall story of Death Note reminds me of an old Showtime series I liked called Dead Like Me. Perhaps it’s the comedic factor Ryuk brings to the movie that brings back those memories. I personally would have enjoyed a simple story of Light finding this book and keeping things small scale as most teenagers would do. Instead we’re given a global phenomenon of worldly do-gooding that escalates a vengeance story onto a world scale. Perhaps this is following the comic series but I would have preferred a simpler tale.
William Dafoe is enjoyable as the voice of Ryuk. The character of Light and his love interest Mia start off as outcasts in school. Before you can get on their side, they write enough names in the Death Note to turn you against them. Their better-than-thou demeanor leaves both of your main characters highly unlikable. They aren’t really the bad guy though. Technically Ryuk is the "bad guy" but he's also the most enjoyable character in the movie. Shea Whigham who’s an underrated actor and his cop buddy L are in my opinion the “good guys” of the film. Neither gets the spotlight enough to be the protagonist, leaving the movie feeling off kilter.
Some of the hatred for this movie has been directed at “Hollywood whitewashing”. I don’t consider a movie to be “whitewashing” when it takes something from another country that’s not historical and recasts it to fit the country that’s making it. If Japan decided to remake Forrest Gump, you’d better believe they’d use primarily Japanese actors. Netflix is nearly a never miss with their original programming. This original however ended up feeling more like a made for tv movie than it did theatrical quality. Manga fans have every right to dislike this movie if it didn’t live up to their comic expectations. For me personally, it was disappointing for a Netflix original but still an alright movie. There isn’t much horror here but for anyone wanting a dark themed, dramatic thriller that’s probably more suiting a younger audience, Death Note may be worth a watch.
3 out of 5 Headless Critics