When I saw tore through the infamous Death Note anime series a few years ago, it hooked me and never let me go, along with everyone else that watched as it quickly become one of the greatest shows (anime or otherwise) ever. So of course Japan made their live action adaptations that ranged from so-so to meh, and an American version was rumored to be in the works for years until finally we have Adam Wingard’s take on it with Death Note on Netflix. Most will complain of whitewashing, not being faithful to the source material, etc., but I still managed to find myself enjoying it. It’s safe to say most fans won’t care for it, but newcomers and viewers with open minds will get the most from this adaptation.
Things kick off really quickly with a young man in high school named Light Turner (Nat Wolff) who just happens to be in the right (or wrong) place at the right time when a supernatural book falls from the sky called the Death Note. Whoever picks it up and uses it has the power to kill anyone as long as they see their face and know their name, which they write down in the book. Being skeptical after reading through the many rules of the book, and even after meeting the demon-like creature Ryuk (voiced by Willem Dafoe) that dropped the book for Light to use, he decides to write down the name of a school bully and the way he dies, only to see it happen moments later. Realizing the power he wields, he sets out to change the world for the better by killing off criminals and killers.
It isn’t long before a young lady named Mia (Margaret Qualley) who has always liked Light from a distance, comes into the picture and wants to help him after showing her the power of the book. The two decide to take on the name Kira who quickly becomes a savior-like being for good people while making bad ones cower in fear of doing something evil.
After so many bad people have been killed and the police left with no clues on to how it’s happening, a brilliant but highly eccentric sleuth named L (Keith Stanfield) comes onto the scene to find out who is behind all these deaths. Once Light finds out L is working with his dad who is a top police official, it becomes a battle of wits as Light and Mia try to stay ahead of L and fulfill their plans for a new world.
Despite the film moving at high speed, the race issues most have with it, etc, I still found myself liking the movie for the most part. It is as deep and complex as the manga/anime? Heck no. Even still, the casting here is good as I actually liked Keith Stanfield playing as L, as it’s always fun to me seeing black actors play different, off-the-wall roles instead of stereotypes as in most films. Adam Wingard does a good job giving what he has to work with, but it’s clearly rushed as to cram a whole series into a 90-some minute film, so the story and film is going by at breakneck speed. Had this film been made into a Netflix series instead (Wingard said he wanted it to be a film series at least), things would be a lot better. One can’t help compare this attempt with this year’s The Dark Tower where most agree it should’ve been a series and not a film to begin with.
I could be here all day pointing out the pros and cons of the movie, but even with its many faults, I still liked Netflix’s Death Note. Yes it could be way better had it been a series to flesh out the characters and plot points, and the casting could’ve been better though I liked Keith Stanfield as L. In the end, most fans won’t care for this version, but if you’re a newcomer to Death Note or are like me and tend to watch things with an open mind, then you’ll want to grab some apples and get to watching.