Kat Riddler, Managing Editor
I was super excited to see that “Death Note” was a suggested title by Netflix one night. I watched the little intro and I was not impressed. I really liked the live action 2006 edition and sequel so I wanted to give this live action a chance.
If you are a fan of the Japanese manga written by Tsugumi Ohba that was released in 2003, then do not watch this. It is nothing like the manga, which becomes clear in the first five minutes as everything is sped up to fit into a 100 minute film. For comparison, the other live action movies went through the whole saga in 264 minutes.
The original storyline follows Light Yagami who finds a supernatural book that allows a shinigami named Ryuk to kill anyone once a name and face are known and recorded in the book. Light tries to play God as he cleanses the Earth of evil. Meanwhile, a detective known as “L” tries to stop him. It is a suspenseful series that mimics mental games like chess. This movie focuses more on gore and sensationalism instead of the intellectual heart of the series.
There are so many things that I disliked about this movie that I could really only watch it to see just how bad the trainwreck was. Instead of setting it in Japan, they set it in Seattle, Washington with mostly an American cast. Naturally, if the setting is changed then character development and cultural references would change—not here. Characters become very shallow and are reduced simply to names with teenage angst cliches throughout the story.
The movie tries to hit some plot points by having Light be called Kira. In the series he is given that name and treated as a god who kills criminals. In the movie, he is shown picking the name Kira as a translation of his name to throw off any investigation that he is the killer. It is a nice homage to the manga but it is then uttered with the phrase, “It sorta means killer in Japanese so if they will be looking for me it will be on the wrong continent.” So with that logic, Kira also means Light in Russian so they could also be looking for him in Russia. It is another example of moving the story location without thinking about what it effects in the rest of the plot.
One of the more interesting plots in “Death Note” is the emergence of a second Kira, Misa Amane, who has her own Death Note and shinigami. She really likes what Kira was doing and so became a copycat killer. She also becomes a love interest for Light. In the Netflix adaptation, the love interest is Mia who steals Light’s book to write names in. This is against the rules as only the owner of the book can write names down and see the shinigami. The movie only followed the rule of Mia not being able to see or hear Ryuk. They really condensed that character’s role and messed with a critical plot point of the rules of the Death Note. The movie kept saying there are so many rules, but obviously the writers and producers skimmed some.
This movie is more like a fan-fiction that uses some characters and plot points from the “Death Note” series. If you want to watch a Netflix original, check out something else. If you want to cringe at giant plot holes and shallow characters then this movie is on Netflix when you are ready.