Not to be outdone by the bland and banal Ghost in the Shell live action movie, Netflix is out to mess up another beloved anime property, Death Note. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I love Death Note… at least the first half of it before it overstayed its welcome and shed what made it interesting. The Death Note anime was such a fascinating look into what happens when a relatively good person is given unlimited power over death. It raised some interesting questions and, throughout most of it, even though the protagonist kills, like, hundreds of people… you kind of see things from his point of view too. Yes, probably the world would be better off if some people were just killed off. I believe that. Why not? Does that make me a bad person? Yes. But I don’t care.
Well, now we have a live action version where all of those philosophical quandaries are rendered nonexistent. Now, Light is just a angsty teenage jerk, L is an overemotional hothead, and Ryuk stays in the shadows so we don’t see how terrible and cheap the makeup looks.
This is a horrible adaptation… it’s almost as if they watched the series while playing Candy Crush, only gleaming small amounts of the story before writing this trash.
Netflix’s Death Note is a lazy adaptation that poses no questions. It just gives a Death Notebook to some awful kid and then delights in Final Destination-style death scenes.
The leads in this movie are pathetic. Nat Wolff, who plays light and is not Asian because if you cast an Asian lead the Sun God will apparently burn us all in a fiery painful death, is just awful. He’s flat, he can’t say a line where it doesn’t seem like he’s reading a line, and he just can’t emote. Light in the anime was a genius… this guy’s a idiot and it’s annoying. If you’re hoping to tune in to see Light and L engage in their cerebral chess game of cat and mouse, you’re going to be disappointed to the point of suicidal depression.
Keith Stanfield’s L is also perplexing and frustrating. Gone is the awkward muted genius and, in his place… a guy who solves clues with all of the bravado of Adam West’s Batman and then loses his mind and becomes so emotional that it’s painfully obvious that you’re not watching L, you’re watching a completely different character.
Am I being unfair to this movie? Undoubtedly. However, I’m confident that, even if you have never seen the anime, you’ll find this movie a worthless pile as well. With so much going for it in the mythology, it’s almost fascinating to witness almost nothing go right.
Willem Dafoe was a great choice to voice Ryuk and…
…that’s really about it.
Death Note is a angsty, gory, whitewashed waste of time and effort. It looks cheap, it’s rushed, it’s confusing, the leads are terrible, it doesn’t respect the best parts of the source material, and it’s just lazy. So lazy that it can’t even pose a question about the ethical ramifications of being able to kill someone at will — even if it would benefit humanity. Death Note is worse than a disappointment, it’s a zero-effort slap in the face.