Let’s get this right upfront: I don’t think an Americanized version of beloved anime would be a bad idea.
Whitewashing, which isn’t the same as “americanizing”, is about as wrong and fairly demonized, but I believe that applying one culture and background to an original material of different countries would be a great idea. Movies like Scarface, The Departed, or even last years brilliant The Handmaiden proved that these grounded stories could expand in many areas.
In that case, an American Death Note would sound very ripe with opportunities. Acting as both a questioning on the meaning of justice over malice and a commentary on the Japanese paralegal system, the show gained wide acclaim for being both sadistic, smart, and genuinely one of it’s kind. Given the wide amount of opportunities this could bring in our culture and legal system, I wasn’t really against this new Netflix Death Note before it’s release.
What I am against, though, is the final film sucking as hard as this.
A completely stupid, laughably over directed missed opportunity, Death Note is pretty much a slap to my face for ever letting my guard down like this. The type of bad movie that makes you annoyed during it, but makes you sad when it’s over. Every pre-production news warned me about the upcoming disaster I was about to witness, and the waste of my 100 minutes now counts as punishment.
Committing it’s first mistake, it stars bratty loser Nat Wolff as Light Turner who has an thirst for purging the world because of a tragic family death and he’s a nerd who gets bullied at school.
This walking cliché of a character then gets a Death Note, a magical book that kills people with random occurrences once their name is written down. He then meets an ugly CGI Ryuk (Willem DaFoe, barely making even 5 minutes here) who originally owns the death note.
As he kills notorious criminals with implausible yet admittedly cool Rube Goldberg setups, he is then called Kira by an unexplained cult that worships his presence but only show up on screen for when the plot needs them to. Light is then tracked by an unknown Sherlock Holmes character named L (Keith Stanfield, with this and WAR MACHINE being proof he’s capable of being good in bad Netflix movies) who somehow tracks down who the real Kira so fast you’d be surprised it wasn’t even an hour in.
Oh yeah, and there’s this obnoxious girl who was supposedly Misa from the original anime, but only as a bland sidekick to Light who doesn’t prove any threat to his secret until a pointless midway twist.
The whole thing makes no sense. The characters are complete opposites to their original selves, the plot is rushed and clunky, every action is completely illogical and only serve to keep this whole burning trainwreak moving, and the supposed commentary on what justice is or who is the real immoral center is thrown away for lousy Hollywood action chops. At first Ryuk is set up as this main threat to these characters, but then barely does anything in the slightest. The subplot with finding L’s real name never went anywhere, and even the thematic threat with Mia and Light falls flat on it’s face. It’s like a speeding racecar gradually loosing all its hardware as it moves to the finish line.
And then there’s Adam Wingards direction. I’m still a firm believer that he makes legit great work with YOU’RE NEXT and THE GUEST, but not even he could make this good. Knowing full well he has a wretched script on his hands, he tries wholeheartedly to cover it up with his usual hyper stylized aesthetic with embarrassing results. Constant camera tilts, speed-ramping, overly used color lighting, highly dramatic killings, an over-the-top foot chase, and a Ferris Wheel sequence that completely throws the movie off the rails. It’s visual overkill, as if Wingard is covering up a mound of turd with as much ice cream topping as possible to make it look great.
Death Note is stupid and overly stylized where the anime was intelligent and grounded. If there was any sort of example on how NOT to do an adaptation, this takes the cake.
Source: Jose Saenz – imdb