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Review – Death Note (2017)

What’s this?

Death Note. You open it, write in a name, write a brief description of how they die, close it and then it happens. The person dies. You can also set specific conditions regarding their death. There are many other rules that are brushed upon and if you are a fan of the Manga series you will have a better understanding than me. I am aware of the source material. I have seen snippets and, if I am honest, I was very surprised to hear that Netflix committed to create their own original considering the fandom. Anyway, here we are. The long awaited Netflix Original Death Note, the American version. Sorry, I was trying to be sarcastic. I could delve into the ‘whitewashing’ allegations but what’s the point? This film, quite frankly, is not worth the debate.

How so?

It is pretty incredible that this movie is ‘long awaited’. Discussions on making this movie dates back to 2007 and this is the result. The concept is amateurishly mishandled. It is closely based on the Japanese Manga of the same name. After a terrible storm, Light Turner comes across a note book called ‘Death Note’. Death God Ryuk explains to him how it works. He uses it and feels empowered. Turner then introduces the book to Mia, and they become romantically entangled whilst setting out to kill all the criminals with the view that they are improving society. The killings are seen to be done under the guise of god “Kira”, which unfortunately attracts a specially skilled detective named “L” to investigate.

The adored concept unfortunately comes across as silly in Netflix’s Death Note. There is almost the sense that they are trying to replicate what it should look like but with the Americanisation it feels odd. It does not help that there are obvious lazy plot errors. To name one; Light tells Mia to look at the most recent entry in the notebook. The name she declares is not the most recent as Light had already added another name to the list moments before. There are many other errors. Death Note is also unnecessarily gruesome and by that I do not mean I felt sickened by it but it just did not make sense. I am pretty sure electrocution does not make your head explode. Maybe it was for the shock factor but it has to make sense. The entire movie is rushed with half-hearted homework done by the production team.

Is it really that bad?

Putting everything into consideration – yes. This version of Death Note is lazy. This is an example of what can happen when Netflix gets involved in beloved material. It can go either well or badly. In this case it fell short even on the basics that not even Willem Dafoe’s performance of Ryuk can save it. The dialogue and choice of setting is at times misplaced; a scene in particular, Light openly has a conversation with Mia about Kira in public when media attention is high. The performances (apart from Dafoe) are there just to fulfill a role. There is no substance from the leads to convince you of their characters. Everything about the movie is just bland, tasteless and crammed to try make it work.

Recommend?

This reeks of a suspiciously rushed adaptation that tries to cover the source material in a feature. Netflix has the determination to try all markets and genres but in the case of Death Note they have failed and in turn annoyed the fans.

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