The first thing you should know if you’re a long-time fan of Death Note, is that I have not read the manga or seen the anime though that’s been on my Netflix queue for a long time. I saw this pop up on Netflix streaming, it looked interesting, so I hit play. I noticed pretty quickly that it was the story from my queue because it’s a very clever idea about what happens when a brilliant young man finds a book left for him by a bored god of death. If you write down a name in the book while thinking of that person’s face, that person dies in the manner of your choosing. There are a lot of other rules as well, which gives the premise even more alleys of opportunity.
The movie engaged me pretty quickly, with a slow motion introduction to the two main characters, Light and Mia, that immediately gave the world an eerie feeling and lent power to what otherwise would have been two rather forgettable people. When characters begin to die the deaths are suitably gory for a modern American horror movie, some with a very Final Destination vibe to them. Beginning “innocently” with the ”noble” idea of only killing the worst of the worst criminals world-wide based on what the brilliant – though only book smart – hero finds on the internet, he morphs into something like a benevolent overlord named Kira. Because of course that never goes wrong.
Originally a manga, Death Note has also been done in anime, and even a musical. Fans of the original story have a lot of mixed feelings about the live action movie, including qualms about the romance angle. This is a guy with a mad crush on, of course, the absolutely wrong girl. I didn’t understand Mia’s sudden interest in Light, except she seemed really interested in the whole killing people without actually pulling the trigger thing. And Light doesn’t seem to notice his hot new girlfriend is a twisted sister, which is probably why he underestimates The Detective Known As L. None of these things are adequately explained, though we do get a hint about the origin of L’s predilection for chair hopping and candy swilling. We also never really learn the reason why Ryuk, the being who sent out the book in the first place, sent the book or why Light ended up with it. There are a lot of murky corners in the movie, and some very convenient coincidences.
Mia’s obvious psychosis bugged me while watching the movie. Can’t trust the girl? She’s the psycho? smh Yes, I discovered her personification is based on the manga, where the “second Kira” is a woman, but this is so tiresome. It would have been more interesting to see the girl wanting the same thing – to rid the world of evil – as the boy, but come at it from a different moral angle rather than the worn, “Oh, she’s crazy evil”. This characterization flaw was as irritating as the lame romance.
Death Note is beautifully shot, with the feel of a super ramped CW network show, only with good acting and superior movie making skills. The sound is not great, so we had to keep changing the volume level, and the music is forgettable. Still, I did enjoy watching Death Note and I will be looking at the original printed material at some point. The story itself if very clever, and I’ve read that a lot of interactions between Ryuk and Light and between L and Light were changed or reduced, so there’s that to look forward to. I recommend this movie even if you’re familiar with the story, if you also enjoy American style horror movies.
Death Note Trailer #1 (2017) | Movieclips Trailers