Sunday, 27 August 2017

Death Note Thoughts – Netflix Movie Review

Well, we have a new live action adaption of an anime being released on Netflix, and this time it’s the beloved Death Note.
Death Note Netflix Poster
Let’s be honest, live action anime adaptions rarely turn out good, but after listening to the director on a podcast a few weeks ago discussing his approach to the material, I was somewhat positive. So how did the live-action adaption of Death Note turn out…

To give you a bit of context on my relationship with the franchise, I’ve seen all of the Death Note anime, but I haven’t read the Manga or watched the Japanese live-action adaptions. However, my understanding is that the anime is a fairly literal adaption of the manga (as they usually are)

My feelings on the Death Note anime are mixed, I loved the first half of the series, yet I found the second half quite frustrating and somewhat repetitive. As it gets to the point where a lot of dramatic tension is removed when the main character is hunting down himself (it’s hard to explain without spoiling). There are also a number of occurrence where characters are constantly 2nd guessing and one upping each other. It’s interesting the first few times, but there are only so many times you can hear “I knew you were going to think that, so I did this…” and then “I also thought you’d think that, so I did this…

My hope with the movie is that as the story is being condensed into a couple of hours, my issues with the series would be removed by default. The flip of this is that you still have a lot of story and character motivations, so thought it’d be interesting to see how the feature film dealt with that.

So what are my thoughts on Death Note the movie then?

I enjoyed it overall, it's not perfect by any means but I didn't hate it like I've seen some fan reactions on Twitter. It does have problems though, the main one being it very much feels like an abridged version of the anime (obvious I know).

The story isn't exactly the same, however a lot of the same story beats are hit. It doesn't cover the full length of the anime, maybe just less than the first half, but that's about 8 hours of plot condensed into less than 2 hours. As a result, character motivations and actions sometimes feel rush and unearned. It doesn't repeat my issues with the anime, as mainly because it doesn't reach that part of the story. Looks like its being set-up for a sequel or possible trilogy?

It's hard to, yet impossible not to compare completely to the anime, because the story has been changed somewhat, primarily its no longer set in Japan and moved to America. This change also impacts the characters and the cultural situations.

So how are the characters?

Ryuk (the death god) is done very well, a mix of prosthetic and CGI, and voiced masterfully by William Dafoe. The leads on the other hand, Light and Mia are both quite bland, though Light has a strangely anime like scream which does stand out quite a bit in a film trying to be more grounded.

L is an odd one, I thought he was good, though completely different to the anime version, however I think this characters main problem stems from the shortened time frame, as there's no time to develop or properly understand him.

Overall, I enjoyed Death Note, however telling the story in two hours hurts the narrative and the characters. I think this would have worked much better as a Netflix series.

This article was written by @RossBishop. Follow me on Twitter.

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