Death Note is live action American remake of an anime, which as of the writing of this review, I have not seen or read the manga. It is directed by Adam Wingard and stars what on paper looks like an all-star cast. It is a psychological thriller that has many messages, but they seem to get muddled during the show.
Light Turner (Nat Wolff) is a bright, but bored high school student who makes money by helping his peers cheat on their homework. Before he and a girl named Mia (Margaret Qualley) try to intervene on behalf of a student being bullied, he finds a book labeled ‘Death Note.’ Soon after, a demon named Ryuk (William Dafoe/Jason Liles) arrives and instructs him on how to use it. His first kill is the bully from earlier and later, the man who murdered his mother.
He decides to tell Mia and the two of them become Kira, a vigilante using the book to cause the deaths of hundreds of terrorists, drug lords, and criminals. Light and Mia’s activities attract the attention of Agent L (Lakeith Stanfield), a mysterious independent investigator. He recruits Light’s dad, James Turner (Shea Whigham) a Seattle detective into his task force to stop Kira who L believes is operating out of Washington state. Mia wants to stop the investigations through the agent’s deaths, but Light wants to draw the line at innocent lives. Soon the strain starts to affect how they use the book.
The message of Death Note seems so simple: absolute power corrupts absolutely. Wait, is it the ends justify the means? Maybe it is that humans should play God, or not. Maybe not as simple as you thought. The poorly developed characters do not help clarify the ideals it suggests. Light is sometimes unlikable, but other times not. You are not sure whether to root for him or hope that Ryuk destroys him. The only character worth cheering on is Light’s father Detective Turner.
As for the overall film, it was unnecessarily gory, often melodramatic, and at times, I felt as though the film was rushed and patched together with gore trying to hide that fact.
That being said, I did find the acting, setting, and concept interesting. I saw the movie before the series, so I thought it was decent at that time. However, after watching the anime “Death Note,” I have changed my opinion. While Ryuk was performed well, M and Light were so poorly adapted that they could have been different characters completely. It suffered from the same fate as other anime to Western film adaptions in that it lacked an understanding of both the characters and the themes.
FAVORITE QUOTE: Humans are so… interesting.
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Foul language, gore, violence
Check out the trailer below:
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This article has been updated from a previous version.
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I have to agree with your review however do watch the anime.