My Take on Netflix’s Adaptation of “Death Note”
I gave the Netflix adaptation of “Death Note” a chance, and then regretted it.
Contains spoilers, swears, & personal opinions on Netflix’s 2017 adaptation of “Death Note.”
“Death Note” by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, was the first manga that I ever touched, let alone ever read. It was 2007, I was a freshman in high school. I was what other kids called “emo,” and lacked control over everything in my life, just as any other angsty high schooler. I remember loving the concept of the story and I still do. As a total control freak, the idea of a notebook being able to control the deaths and actions of others for up to two days before those deaths intrigued me. Even though I was the “emo” type, I hated the thought of death, but I liked the idea of “rooting for the underdog” and gaining the upperhand against bullies in high school and in the “real world.”
I flew through those books, not only because I loved to read and manga was an easy read for me, but because I loved the story so much. I was rooting for “L” mostly, because I thought Light was a manipulative, self-absorbed psycho, who had fetishized his god-like power. I didn’t like him. I thought Misa Misa was adorable and was rooting for her, as well, to escape the clutches of Light’s charms.
Now, forgive me, because it has been quite a while since I’ve picked up and read the Death Note series. I’ve watched the anime in between then and now, and my opinions of things could have been skewed over time. Nonetheless, I loved those books because they opened the world of manga and anime to my life, and they had a great overall story arc.
Fast forward to ten years after first picking up those books, and Netflix produces a live action Death Note movie. I didn’t necessarily have high hopes for it, but I was still excited because this story was once again coming into my life. I wasn’t psyched for the white-washing, but I thought that maybe the adaptation wouldn’t be horrible. I was wrong.
Before watching the movie, I read multiple negative comments about it on my Facebook feed. That’s when my expectations really dropped. The overall consensus was that the movie was trash. I decided I wanted to sit through the hour and forty minute long movie to see for myself. I was interested to see how they were going to make this story work while set in America.
Here are the notes that I took on my phone while watching the movie. This is what I was thinking while the movie was playing out in front of me. After finishing the movie and going back over my thoughts, not much has changed.
- First impressions of Light–he’s a little bitch. But relatable. There’s some humor. Hmmm…
- Ryuk’s face is blurry the first couple of times we see him until he physically hands light the death note.
- “Holy fuck this is dark as fuck” I literally said that out loud during the first death scene. Maybe this won’t be so bad after all.
- I love Willem Dafoe as Ryuk. His voice is great.
- Misa Misa is “Mia”?! Really? Instead of a blond pop star she’s a brunette cheerleader. And she’s unstable as fuck. Light is a manipulative douche in the manga and they portray that well in the movie.
- We meet L and he’s black which I think is important because it’s a pretty whitewashed movie. I know, it doesn’t take place in Japan, it takes place in Seattle , but there’s a sea of white throughout this movie. Yes, Watari and L aren’t white. But pretty much everyone else is.
- The movie portrayal of L is so good! L is amazing. I’m rooting for him. I wish L was younger though.
- Just like in the books, I find Light obnoxious and self absorbed.
- Okay. An hour and a half in. The acting is bad. So bad. I hate Light. Everything about him.
- Aaaand I’m never getting on a Ferris wheel ever again.
- The music is so fucking cheesy.
- 15 minutes left and Mia is dead. I kind of liked her and her instability. Goodbye good character.
- Why would you knock on the door of a coma patient if you didn’t know they woke up??
- Okay Ryuk saved the ending for me a little bit. But yeah…no. It ended playing “the power of love” by Air Supply for the closing scene and credits. It has the vibe of a cheesy 80 movie that ends with a positive happy ending. But it actually doesn’t end that way. I’M SO CONFUSED.
- And there are cutesy things in the credits, such a smiles from the actors and whatnot. Willem Dafoe in costume in real life.
Thoughts after watching the movie:
In short, it felt like a cheesy 80’s movie about high school, mixed with some dark elements. Overall I was just left confused. Why try to “Americanize” the original? Why not have the pop star, be set in Japan, and have a more diverse cast? I understand that this was someone’s adaptation, their own translation of the story, but it honestly shouldn’t have been named “Death Note,” or even tried to be the same story as the original. This may have worked if it was a spinoff–in another time, the Death Note comes to America and then the story takes place, completely different from the book series. That’s what this adaptation felt like, a cheesy spinoff that had some potential, but then eventually just fell flat.
I’m about to reread the manga series, just so that I can get the movie out of my head.
I’m interested in seeing what people who have and have not read the series, and who have and have not watched the anime, think of the movie. Leave your own review in the comments!