Death Note: Review

What do you get every time America tries its greedy hand at adapting an anime? You usually get a jumbled up mess that holds little resemblance to its parent. In a sense, that’s what you get when you watch Netflix’s ‘Death Note’. After watching this film I was left confused and even a little annoyed. Don’t get me wrong, the film was good for what it was. But it was clear that the writers and production did not understand the source material.

You have to be careful when it comes to adapting anything with a giant fanbase behind it. That’s why live action anime films are judged more harshly and are put under the microscope; The fanboys and girls want to ensure that you’re doing their favorite anime justice. It’s clear Death Note decided to throw everything out of the window. The main character, Light Turner (played by Nat Wolff), is completely different from his anime counterpart. In the movie, he is portrayed as a tortured high school kid, looking for revenge against the man that murdered his mom and got away with it. Throughout the film, he struggles with the death note and at times is afraid of its power. During the best scene in the movie (in my opinion), upon meeting the god of death ‘Ryuk’ he absolutely freaks out and screams like a little girl. In the anime he is far from afraid, he actually welcomed Ryuk and claimed he was waiting for him.

Light is spineless in the film and usually leaves the heavy killing to his girlfriend Mia (played by Margaret Qualley), who seems to want the note more than he does. When going up against the detective mastermind known as ‘L’, you can see how fear takes over light, which was very disappointing to see. Even after the world calling him a god, he still was afraid at times. Instead of embracing it like in the anime. Death Note lacks any relation to its original source. It feels like a completely different story, with unrecognizable characters at times. There are some things that made watching this film enjoyable. The entire atmosphere of the film made it seem very creepy and eerie, which was needed for a story such as this. It is the exact feeling I got while watching the anime. Willem Dafoe’s voice acting for ‘Ryuk’ was an amazing performance. Dafoe admitted to not reading the manga or watching the anime before trying his hand at the character. For skipping the material he did a spectacular job playing the death god and keeper of the note. He was exactly what fans pictured Ryuk would be like in real life. Creepy yet cynical.

While Light was afraid of getting caught the entire film, his anime twin considered himself a god by having possession of the note. I suppose making the character more human was the plan to make Americans relate to the boy a bit more. It worked at times. Overall, Death Note failed its original source material but brought out something I think a lot of new fans could appreciate. Most of my friends seemed to enjoy watching this film and gained interest in watching the anime to see what was changed. In the end that is all a fan can ask for.

With characters that a new and some different, paired with an interesting story, the film kept me watching until the end. Despite cringing at some parts I enjoyed my watch. The actors did a great job and did everything they could despite having to hold the weight of doing this anime justice on their shoulder. They are not to blame for error in the film. You can see why in many other reviews, that Death Note is receiving the ‘Ghost in the Shell’ treatment. It’s more of the same problems. Adapting these beloved anime should be handled with extreme care and passion, not just used as a way to grab cash. In the end, this is a film you should watch for yourself to determine its worth.

If you’re interested in an amazing Death Note film, check out the Japanese version ‘Death Note: Light Up the New World’.


Score: 5/10

Price: $9.99 subscription with Netflix


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