Apparently not many fans of the original anime Death Note were thrilled when Netflix released its live action version. Some critics accused the live action version of white-washing the anime version. Some critics ruled it out as anything watchable based simply on the main characters laugh! Most of these critics based their reviews on the misguided assumption the only viewers of Netflix’s Death Note would be fans of the anime version. Anime/Manga is huge in Japan. In the United States it has a cult following, but like its comic book counterpart if only established fans watched Death Note it would be a resounding failure. What about the rest of us, the non-anime/manga fan? Is Death Note worth our time and data usage?
The “Death Note” is actually a notebook. However, it’s not a normal notebook. Write a name on a page, manner of death, and *POOF* the person dies. There’s really no substitute if you’re looking for some good old fashioned revenge and want to get away with murder. The notebook, as we learn later, has been around for a long time with a lot of owners.
Light Turner is the latest “owner” of the Death Note. He takes to the notebook without hesitation. Before the week is out Light adds two names to the notebook. Shortly after he finds the Death Note he strikes up a relationship with Mia Sutton. Light’s quick with the information on the Death Note. The two of them take on the name Kira and go on a crusade of ridding the world of criminals and all sorts of nasty people.
Mia, as it turns out, probably is not the best person to have access to a death dealing notebook. She gets turned on by adding names to the Death Note. When it looks like the police and FBI are closing in on Light she kills a dozen agents by making them jump off a building. She even wants to add Light’s father after he challenges Kira on live television. Mia is,unscientifically speaking, a psycho who’s willing to put Light’s name in the notebook if it means she can keep the Death Note.
Attached to the Death Note is one crazy looking demon who resembles a porcupine more than a death god. Its name is Ryuk. Ryuk is the one who makes all the nasty stuff happen after a name is jotted down. Willem Dafoe provides the voice for Ryuk. He’s basically doing his Green Goblin voice from Spider-Man. The evil voice and cackle through a metal mask was corny, but it works in Death Note. Dafoe’s voice over brings life to an already realistic looking CGI demon.
Death Note is aimed more at a younger audience, the same audience comic book movies are geared towards, than some of Netflix’s more recent options (Other than the obvious children’s productions and Marvel series). The main characters are in the demographic range of these types of movies. Even the super detective, L, is younger than the police and FBI agents who work for him. Comic book movies will often cast the younger characters as the only heroes who can save the day. In the case of Death Note, the younger characters are also the cause of the all the troubles going on in the movie.
Death Note is also much darker than some of the other Netflix offerings. It’s also bloodier than anything we’ve seen in the Marvel series. The first to get their name in the book isn’t so much decapitated as the top of his head is sheared off. The second name is the criminal who killed Light’s mother. He meets his end by accidentally being stabbed in the throat by utensils. A spray of blood from his mouth covers his dinner table. Overall, Light and Mia are responsible for the deaths of four hundred people.
Most movies aimed at teenagers have somewhat more happier endings than Death Note. Movies like Twilight and Hunger Games work to bring the male and female leads together. Death Note isn’t like those movies. It’s more interested in asking “What would you do if you had the power of life and death in your hands?” At the end of the movie we get a somewhat decent answer to the question. It’s the same question L asks himself as the movie ends.
Overall, Death Note is not a bad movie. It’s entertaining without talking down the audience. Nor does it try alienate older audiences by only catering to the millennial crowd. The twist ending may seem like a cheat, but it’s pulled off in such a way that justifies the reasoning for some of Light’s choices. Fans of the original Death Note may not like the Netflix version without the benefit of watching it. If they gave it a chance and watched the movie without the burden of the original they may find it just as entertaining as the other comic book movies flooding movie theaters.