Before we begin, I feel it is important to confess that I’m not a manga fan at all and have little desire to give any anime the chance I probably should. With that disclaimer in place, I still felt like giving the new Netflix adaptation of the popular manga a shot. So was it worth my time?
Death Note – directed by Adam Wingard
My overall impression that was really difficult to shake was a resounding “meh”. The story in interesting enough – a ‘death god’ by the name of Ryuk chooses an awkward teen to be in possession of a powerful book that can bring about the very specific demise of anyone who the holder of the book writes inside. All the person writing the name needs is their full name and to visualize their face. It’s an interesting concept that seemed perfect for the Netflix outlet. There’s plenty of blood, twists, turns, and enough to keep your attention.
Interestingly enough, the biggest fault of the movie is also its biggest strength: casting. I could not stand the lead actor Nat Wolff who played the angsty teen Light Turner. He didn’t seem like a high school student at all – if anything, he seemed like a creep posing as a student. That, combined with his over-the-top reactions and facial expressions, were very distracting almost immediately. The semi-antagonist in the story, ‘L’ played by Lakeith Stanfield, was more tolerable yet still quirky to the point of being off putting. I’ll excuse the L character since that quirkiness is largely what his character was supposed to be however poorly paced his introduction ended up being.
I mentioned that casting was also its strength and that’s entirely thanks to the choice of Willem Dafoe to voice Ryuk. It was honestly this choice that kept me watching the film being he brought so much creepy life to the shadowy death god. I’m glad they kept Ryuk mostly to the shadows because it upped his creepy factor tenfold. The Leftovers Margaret Qualley was also rather good as Mia Sutton; I wish she’d been the focus rather than the intolerable Light Turner. Shea Whigham played a very believable father to Light and maintained that fun, socially blunt charm that he typically puts into characters (I saw a lot of similarities to his character in Kong Skull Island).
Perhaps it was the choice of director that hurt this films quality. Adam Wingard isn’t terrible but his resume is filled with ‘meh’ horror films: Blair Witch, V/H/S, You’re Next, etc. His cinematography focus is very self-indulgent in that he’ll spend too much time showing plates falling during a chase or small things that do little more than distract from the story. I get that he tried to maintain a certain artsy style yet I believe it was at the expense of the film’s pacing.
All in all, it’s not a bad movie but it’s also not a great movie. The latter half definitely becomes more interested so it’s worth sticking out to see things sort of wrap up. If they do another movie I hope it’s without Light’s character because that could make it worth revisiting.
My final rating of Death Note (2017) is a 6.3 out of 10.
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The Belligerent Barnes