Netflix’s “Death Note” wants to be an edgy, hip live-action adaptation of the original series, but it ultimately seals its fate as anything but.
Based on the Japanese manga of the same name, the horror-thriller centers around high school student Light Turner (Nat Wolff) when he stumbles upon a strange notebook — one that grants its owner the power to kill anyone whose name is written in it.
Under the pseudonym “Kira,” Turner makes it his duty to rid the world of criminals in order to create a better world.
One by one, criminals around the world start to mysteriously die, and the world begins to worship Kira as a god — except for one individual.
Light’s mass killings draw the attention of L (Lakeith Stanfield), one of the world’s greatest detectives. L soon narrows the investigation to Light’s hometown.
And thus, the game of cat and mouse begins.
The film fails to capture the essence of the original source material. The acting itself isn’t necessarily bad, but the writing takes the bulk of the blame.
The whole story is relegated to a runtime of one hour and 41 minutes, which is merely not enough time to fit everything that made the original series a cult phenomenon into the film.
A solution to remedy this problem is to create a live-action TV series, but that isn’t the case.
The script doesn’t allow for much character development, which is crucial to understanding the characters’ actions and motives, especially Light’s.
In the manga, Light is a very intelligent student with sociopathic tendencies and a god-complex that aid him immensely in his mission to make the world a better place.
His morality is never compromised. He’s steadfast in his beliefs and genuinely believes that he’s doing the right thing.
In the film, Light is still smart, but he’s now an angsty teenager who feels remorse — something sociopathic Light never felt. Instead, film Light lets his emotions cloud his judgment.
This is especially true when it comes to Mia Sutter (Margaret Qualley) — his girlfriend and partner-in-crime. He believes they’re in it together, but Mia has some ulterior motives of her own.
Mia is supposed to be the counterpart to Misa Amane in the original series, but she’s quite possibly the opposite of Misa.
Mia says she’s in love with Light, but she’s willing to betray him.
Meanwhile, Misa is blindly in love with Light and would never betray him.
Meanwhile, L falls victim to his emotions just as Light did. While L in the manga remains calm and collected throughout the entire series, L in the film loses his cool towards the end of the film.
The only thing about L that remains true to the original series is his love for sweets, but other than that, he’s just like any other great detective.
The characters are so weakly written that it’s hard to care or root for them. They play more as typical high school tropes.
The film plays well as a high school thriller, but that’s it.
If you’re a fan of the original series, don’t watch this. Instead, check out “Death Note” and “Death Note: The Last Name,” the Japanese live-action adaptations. These films do a much better job at paying tribute to the original series.
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