This morning Netflix released the highly anticipated live action Deathnote directed by Adam Wingard and based on the hit manga series.
Deathnote the anime/manga is a complete psychological and even philosophical thriller. A masterpiece created by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata filled with brilliant dialogue, clever plot, and most of all incredible characters. This movie adaptation, unfortunately, is none of those things. If you haven’t already, please watch the anime before you watch this movie.
Netflix’s Deathnote strips away everything that made Deathnote great. The biggest cardinal sin of all was the handing of the characters of L (Lakeith Stanfield) and Light Turner (Nat Wolff). These two characters retained so few traits from the source material that it was difficult to take either actor serious at all in the role. And the traits they did portray were so amplified and shallow because of insufficient dialogue and character development that they were merely a caricature of a compelling character.
Light comes across as a whiny teenager most of the time, and scenes that are meant to be more serious in tone come across as light and even humorous throughout the movie (“Lord Kira” lol). Light is so not Light its infuriating, even the chemistry between Light and his girlfriend, Mia (Margaret Qualley), seems forced, which bleeds into their whole relationship.
I knew I was in for a disappointment after the 1st killing in the movie; fast paced, empty, and unnecessarily gory. The film focuses too much on the bloody things the note can accomplish instead of focusing on the psychological effects of the note on the user and surrounding characters.
Ryuk shined as one of the only positives of the movie, the effects were spot on and the voice of William Defoe was another hit. Ryuk and Light shared good chemistry when they had their conversations but this was underutilized. No real character development happened through the movie because the conversations required to for said development simply didn’t happen. Even key relationships like L and Watari felt hollow.
Wolff’s version of Light doesn’t come across as clever at all and most of his emotion is shown in explosions of teenage angst. This movie had a lot of teenage angst, as well as clichés. Netflix’s Deathnote progresses at breakneck speed all the way to the unfulfilling end.
Adam Wingard’s Deathnote just seemed to misunderstand the original Deathnote on a fundamental level. It’s not the note that made it thrilling or the murder and especially not the blood. Deathnote was great because it was a game of wits filled with clever dialogue and two of the most brilliant characters ever put against each other in L and Light. The two of them have maybe 2 conversations I think in the whole movie.
I really wish there was something that could be any saving grace but there really is not. I was initially excited when I heard Netflix was producing a live adaptation. Surely Netflix will be bold enough to do this the right way. But the more I heard about the movie, the more I tamed my expectations.
Even still this could almost all be forgiven if the movie was entertaining! but it just isn’t. Deathnote is a boring movie. In the end, Adam Wingard’s Deathnote never found an identity and pulled over none of the defining qualities from the manga other than the note itself.
Another manga live action manga adaptation butchered, how long will this genre have to wait before it has its Spider-Man 2 moment? Before we get a good one? Longer still it would seem. Today is not that day.
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Deathnote is now available for streaming on Netflix