There was a lot of controversy surrounding the Netflix adaptation of Death Note. Now, I've never seen the anime or read the manga, so a friend suggested it would be interesting to see what I thought of the movie without knowing anything about the original characters or plot. That way, we could determine whether people didn't like it because they were biased or if it just sucks! So last night I sat down to watch Death Note. Here's what I thought.
Things That Were Done Badly
Oh boy where do I start.
Light, as a character, didn't work very well. When he's introduced, they give you the idea that he's quite smart, but this isn't really seen throughout the actual film until the last 2 minutes. The acting was a little off too; he seemed to go from angry to calm very quickly. The scene where he meets Ryuk is almost cringy. The way it was filmed made it seem a bit comical, you know that style of filming and over-acting that you see in kdramas? It was verging on that, and considering the rest of the movie was shot like every other American Highschool movie, its was very out of place. I also feel like they could have done a bit better with Ryuk's introduction. He's in shadows and out of focus for the first part so I thought "Oh cool. He's going to lean into focus real menacingly and give us a lil jumpscare. Neat." but they just had him fully in focus in the next shot? No music cue or anything. Just "Oh hey this is the scary demon man", and it was kind of anticlimactic. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I feel it was a missed opportunity.
In terms of the way the plot progresses, it's not fantastic. We see Light get a lil bit cranky in the beginning, but I don't think the way he progresses from Smol School Boy to Mister Murder in the first 11 minutes of the movie is plausible. I get that the other guy was a bully. I get that that man killed his mum. That doesn't mean he's willing to take their lives right off the bat, especially the way he's portrayed at the very beginning. I don't know if he's meant to be cool and collected in the anime, but this version of Light seems kinda scared, and it didn't seem believable.
The progression worsens after he starts using the Dangerous Murder Book. Later, he's just out in the gym at school reading it? At that point he barely knows anything about it except that it has the power to kill, and he's just got it out in public. What's dumber than reading the book in public? Telling the girl you pretty much just met about it, and then her being completely fine - in fact, enthusiastic - about it. Pretty much the plot seems like it was condensed down so much to fit the 100 minute timeframe that things just happen too quickly. There's no progression in considering if he should use the book, or alternatively, enough character building prior to finding the book to justify his willingness to use it. There's no building of trust between Light and Mia. It just feels too rushed, and considering it looks like they want a second movie anyway, they could have stretched it out a little more.
One of the biggest let downs was the ending, for the fact that it wasn't really an ending. It was like it just got to a point in the movie and the credits started rolling. If this was their idea of a cliffhanger and potential sequel teaser, it was very poorly done.
Things That Were Done Well
The plot, while frustrating at times, was intriguing enough for me to keep watching. The character I enjoyed most was L, he was quirky and smart and an excellent opposition for Light (although his last scene is questionable; its quite out of character. Again, this might be from the anime, but if theyre going to change it for part of the movie they should be consistent). Ryuk was great, he was animated quite well and his unusually fluid movement added to his creepiness. I think of all the casting choices, William Dafoe's voicing of Ryuk was the best. (And speaking of casting, lil cameo from Masi Oka~!)
Conclusion!!Overall, it wasn't terrible. But it wasn't good either. I'm giving it a 4/10; while its production quality was good and it had one or two likeable characters, there were glaring issues with plot progression and character development.
Let me know what you guys thought of it! If you like you can read the actual notes I took during the movie (with bigger spoilers, beware) here. Now I'm off to watch the anime~