Lemme save you some time. Don’t watch this, it’s so bad. Bad on almost a new level that I hadn’t anticipated or felt anything near to in a WHILE.
This is an adaptation based on a manga (I think that’s the right use? It’s a Japanese serialized novel) that my brother gave me for Christmas one year because I asked him which ones he thought I would like and he gave me like the first 10 issues of Death Note and Monster and wow was he right those are really good ones I enjoyed them both a lot.
So when I saw Netflix was making it I was kind of excited, just to revisit the story, and see what they did. Two huge things right from the start: the main dude was cast as a white. Why????? How by this point, do you see the backlash from Ghost in the Shell/Tilda Swinton/Emma Stone and not think to yourself, “Perhaps this Japanese cartoon should star someone from the culture it originated from?” It seems just willfully ignorant at this point. There’s no way the higher ups at Netflix, who I’m sure have a graph for every projected profit margin/viewer demographic that exists, know this stuff, they just don’t care. Anyway. The white boy that they cast didn’t do a good job either. He overacted (and underacted!! How do you do both??) like a motherfucker and he had these weird stringy blond highlights and no conveyed emotional or internal motivation in a single scene and it’s not surprising at all to see on his imdb page that his other big projects are “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Paper Towns.”
The second huge problem (did you forget there were two?) was that they made it a MOVIE! I clicked on it thinking I was starting a series, meanwhile an hour in, it’s still going and it just hadn’t even OCCURRED to me that it would be a movie. The whole thing is 108 chapters in 12 volumes and it’s been made into a TV show before in Japan into 37 twenty minute episodes, which makes fucking sense because it’s long and complicated. To try to fit the entire story into 1 hour and 41 minutes is insane, the Sex and the City movie is 2 hours and 31 minutes for heavens sake.
The major plot device of this story is this notebook (Death Note) that when you write someone’s name in it, they die. There’s a bunch of other rules: you have to be thinking of their face, it has to be their full/real name, etc. There’s a death guide (a shinigami) that comes with the book that only the owner can see, (Ryuk, voiced by Willem Dafoe) who is kind of a sinister prankster and doesn’t have the owner’s best interests in mind & whose face and head seem to be made of porcupine spikes. We meet him when he creates a windstorm in a science lab full of craft supplies (what branch of science uses colored feathers?) and he mostly just sits in the dark while his eyes glow.
Where do I start? The kid who gets the notebook, Light Turner (whose name should be Light Yagami) tests it out on a kid at his school who is bullying someone and decapitates him (you can specify how someone dies) and then from there he tells this edgy cheerleader
(they establish she’s edgy by having 3 shots back to back: all the girls cheering and her just standing with her arms crossed, her being vaulted to the top of the pyramid and crossing her arms again and rolling her eyes, and lastly a group of girls celebrating and her smoking a cigarette in the middle of it then walking out. It’s like a visual crossword puzzle where every clue is ‘teen angst’)
who turns out to be a sociopath about the book and it makes them fall in love? There’s this weird montage of them having implied sex and a bunch of people from the news dying that’s super weird and looks like if David Lynch did a commercial for bralettes.
The girl was annoying to me 1. because I don’t remember her from the books/I don’t think her character existed and 2. her character was just, “high school is boring, I want to kill people” which feels like not enough and too much all at the same time and 3. It felt like they just shoehorned a romance in there to make people more engaged, but if you had conveyed the story right they would already be engaged? It’s like taking something cool then stripping it of what makes it cool to just try to make it like everything else that’s bad.
There is a famous detective “L” on the case played by Lakeith Stanfield (who does great and no I don’t mind blind casting when it’s an actor of color) who does a great job with what he’s given. In the books the relationship between Light and L is much more of a cat and mouse game, it continues through Light going to college, but in this movie they have like 2 conversations before the movie devolves into a chase scene and everything is bad and I hated it.
Light’s dad is a member of the police and L has him give a speech taunting Kira (the media’s name for this anonymous killer- in the books it’s because of the way “Killer” is written/pronounced in Japanese, in this it’s anyone’s fucking guess. There was some half-hearted attempt to explain why a white dude made all the people he killed write something in perfect Japanese, a language he does not speak, before their deaths but did it suffice? Does it ever? In this version Light basically tells Mia that Kira means ‘light’ in Keltic and Russian right before reminding her that Irish people were slaves too) to see if Kira would spare him which he does, cementing L’s idea that the killer is the police officer’s son.
The movie rushheeeeddd through so much. The police trying to figure out/learning clues was such a fun part of this I remember and in this there’s MAYBE 20 minutes before L basically knows who Kira is. Something I just read reminded me that in the beginning Light would write in the Death Note right as he got out of school, which led police to wonder why a ‘local spree of murders was only being carried out at a specific time of day’ which in the books is why they brought L in at all.
There really is no plot- Light tries to get Watari (L’s assistant/friend) to give him L’s real name (he’s a government orphan trained to be a detective) so he can kill him. He fails, Watari dies, Light’s girlfriend sabotages the plan and writes Light’s name in the book so she can get it but then also be reunited after she brings him back from the dead with fire. They’re at a high school dance then falling off a collapsing Ferris Wheel, in a coma, out of a coma, everyone dies.
It’s just too much. I was honestly happy when everyone died at the end. Lakeith did a good job and he is the only one, everyone else should feel bad. The girl (Margaret Qualley) was ok and the dad were ok. And Watari played by Paul Nakauchi (the only Asian actor in the entire movie) was good even though he died pretty early.
Watching Lakeith act in this was like when you get those off-brand bags of candy for Halloween from CVS that have all gross ones and then a few Snickers. He is the Snickers. You appreciate what he’s doing but it’s not enough. The rest of this movie is those weird wax chewy things that come in unmarked orange and black wrappers. Or a green caramel apple lollipop. Or Necco Wafers. Whatever bad candy is to you really. This is a good analogy because L is always eating candy. In the books he “dies peacefully while eating a chocolate bar.” God bless. Anything to escape this right?
I don’t really have much else to say, it was SO bad. Except also the music seemed to have a rule that it could only be from the 80’s? They played 80’s slow songs at all the important moments regardless of what was going on: a police interruption of a school dance, two teens falling off a defunct Ferris Wheel, an alley fight, waking up from a coma, etc. All 80’s songs. And while I respect that discipline, the execution was horrible and misguided. And it rained for the whole middle third of the movie? Does bad acting look better in the rain?
If you want a better review you should read this one, I don’t have it in me to dissect anything because there was literally no merit in this film at all. I think it’d be more entertaining to read the Wikipedia page for the series, than watch this movie, it was very bad.
HALF an eaten apple (Ryuk likes those and they kind of showed it but not really) out of five possible full apples, will NOT masturbate again, even if I was in a cum desert.