Arts

Netflix’s Death Note Film Noticeably Disappoints

Another Mediocre Americanized Remake Bites the Dust

By: Lucia Rossi

Have you ever heard of americanized remakes of original Japanese animes, like Dragonball Evolution, or Ghost In The Shell, receiving such praise that people begged for a sequel?

No? That’s because it doesn’t happen.

There are several reasons why these films don’t succeed, and clearly American filmmakers have not learned their lesson.

Netflix’s Death Note was possibly doomed from the start with people already judging it for its “whitewashing” of the characters just from watching the trailer.

However, that may not have been among its biggest issues.

Death Note is an extremely popular and beloved manga and anime that is known for it’s dark tones, genius interactions and strategies, plot twists, complex characters, and suspense. Most of which were severely lacking in the American remake.

Generally, it’s about a high schooler, Light Turner, who is given a supernatural notebook by the death God, Ryuk, in which he has the power to kill whoever he wants just by writing their name in the book. He then shares this with his girlfriend, Mia Sutton, who also writes names in the book and together, they become this force for justice called “Kira” who is praised by the people but is hunted by L, a genius consultant for the FBI.  

Death Note was never meant to be a teen-horror-romance, but that is what it turned into.

The director of the film, Adam Wingard, stated his difficulty in making the adaptation in an IGN interview stating, “It’s one of those things where the harder I tried to stay 100 percent true to the source material, the more it just kind of fell apart… You’re in a different country, you’re in a different kind of environment, and you’re trying to also summarize a sprawling series into a two-hour-long film. For me, it became about; what do these themes mean to modern day America, and how does that affect how we tell the story.”

The thing is, american culture clearly diminishes the quality of a japanese-created story because cliché cinematic conventions targeted at teenagers were included. For example, death scenes were very gorey but in the anime, deaths were swift with heart attacks because the focus was the characters. This effect made the movie feel very much like Final Destination.

There was also a strange and confusing romance between Light Turner, based on Light Yagami, played by Nat Wolff, and Mia Sutton based on Misa Amane, played by Margaret Qualley. You don’t really know if he truly loved her or not, and she ended up being the antithesis of Misa by being a complete sociopath, which is a shame for such an admired character by female viewers.

Light and L were not given their due justice in this film. Race controversy aside, what really ruined the characters was the poor script that made Light sound creepy and L sound like a cry-baby, and the lack of integrity to their original counterparts.

The best part about the Death Note anime and manga is seeing L and Light constantly one upping each other in a brilliant game of wits. L, however was overcome with emotion which is unlike him, and Light was not cool, calm, and meticulous. In fact, he made many crucial and thoughtless mistakes.

This was just lazy writing. It was also lazy when the character chose the name Kira because according to Light Turner, in means light in the Russian language, but that is not accurate at all given a simple google search.

Also, what was with all the 80’s music? That was most of the soundtrack and yet it felt out of place

The only real saving grace of the film was Ryuk, voiced by Willem Dafoe. The graphics used made this character seem more realistic compared to the anime and manga version, and paired with Willem Dafoe’s Hobgoblin from Spider-man voice, it was terrifyingly perfect.

It is understandable that the aim of the film was to pay homage to the original anime and to open up an American audience to Japanese pop culture. However, the reason this may have failed both missions is because telling this story “the American way” completely took away what people loved about it and the “whitewashing” was just an excuse to make it more “acceptable” to American viewers.

Do you think Americans would be open to watching an American film starring only Asian actors in Japan? We may never know and maybe the filmmakers did not want to take that chance.

However, we do know that the 2006 live-action Japanese films of Death Note were more successful and definitely gave the fans what they wanted. Watch this version instead to see what Death Note is really supposed to be like.

Overall, the intentions were in the right place, but the execution was ultimately a failure. The ending was open because a sequel is expected to be made if they get enough viewership.

So, please do yourself and everyone else a favor and don’t bother.

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