Netflix’s Death Note

As you can guess seeing we’re like a episode or two away from finishing the flashback reviews for the anime series I have fallen in love with Death Note since beginning it way back. It is a intelligent series about a young man who finds a way to punish the bad guys in the world who get off from their crimes but then shows how playing god completely changes someone. Its a intelligent anime series that then focuses on a mental chess game between two highly intelligent characters.

Netflix has a history of making wonderful things so I was really excited. Real, REAL excited.

Then I watched it and was real, REAL disappointed.

The intelligence was lost and a horror element was added. The character of Light was completely destroyed in a message I feel the people making the show made clear, they don’t think their audience could deal with the intelligent, complex characters or interesting and deep moralistic story telling that the original anime gave us.

For me this became obvious when a montage explaining a dumbed down version of Light’s vision from the anime is interspaced with artistic shots of Light and Mia getting it on whilst killing people.

Light Turner is the absolute opposite of what he was in the anime. Gone is the intelligent young man who finds a Death Note and gets corrupted by its power. Sure we see him doing others home work in the shows only attempt to show that Light is meant to be very intelligent young man, but even then we’re already seeing a “bad” side to a character who in the original source was morally a decent guy until the power of playing god corrupted him. With Light now a snivelling little shit, in love with Mia, the films version of a very complex and brilliant character but thankfully didn’t even get to share the same name as her, and determined to do good but failing more because of his dick then his moral compass being clouded we get a re-imaging of all the classic characters.

I’ll give Nat Wolff the credit that for what he was given he acted perfectly and would probably make a intriguing Light if a proper version was ever made. He gave it his all in what ended up being a character devoid of any of the characteristics that made the original so fascinating.

That actually ends up being a big part of it. The actors did so well with what they were given but the characters were so dumbed down it was hard to watch. Mia turned out to be a psycopath obsessed with the Death Note and killed by Light for choosing it over him. Whilst Light showed some of the scary planning RIGHT AT THE END OF THE FILM that the character in the anime showed for most of the run of it for the most part he was just a heart eyeing little boy in love with the cheerleader who would sleep with him.

Then there was L…. Keith Stanfield is the only person I can truly say looked like he gave a damn that he was portraying a classic character. He tried to get the mannerism’s down. When the convoluted story of Light sending Watari, because apparently that is his real name and he doesn’t have any other, to find L’s name happened THEN they absolutely destroyed a character that I fell in love with. A character so intelligent, so focused and calm. L even ended up with a page of the Death Note in his hands and ended the film on the cliffhanger of whether he would put Light’s name on it.

Yes… L himself looked set to kill Light in this version.

I don’t get why you’d make a film “based” off of something and change it so fundementally. To fit 30+ episodes into 1 hour and 40 minutes they need to cut the fat off sure but to strip the story to its bare bones, basterize the characters beyond belief and ruin what was a debate on who should have judgement over people and where you’d stand on if Kira was right or wrong makes me wonder why they even bothered?

Death Note is at its core a look at a situation that people wish to be in. Its a scary tale, NOT a horror story, on how doing the right thing might not be the right thing, how people cling to people like Kira because our justice system is flawed but asks the questions if those flaws are truly a bad thing. Sure some hardened criminals don’t get half the justice they deserve but at the same time without being in a room when a crime is committed, without knowing what happened before that crime was committed who are you to judge and how are you sure you get the wrong person. At least in jail you have the chance to re-defend yourself, the ability to get justice if wrongly accused, Kira’s judgement was final. A idea that was barely touched on and ended up with Mia’s wonderfully simplistic “If a guy fucked me would you kill him?” to which Light, dick firmly in his concious said yes and she asked what was so different from that and killing all the people that were being named on a Kira website without any proof of what they were doing.

Actually lets LOOK at Mia.

Anyone who followed my Death Note journey which ends next week I believe knows that I started off hating Misa. She was a brash contrast to all other characters in the anime. She had a second Death Note, a second Shinigami and the power of Shinigami eyes, the ability to see anyone’s name but at the expense of half her life span. Before all that though she was a girl who had seen her family killed and the killer go free just to be judged and killed by Kira, she was attacked by a crazed fan, Misa in the anime being a Japanese idol, just for that man to be judged and killed by a Shinigami that had fallen in love with her thus ending the Shinigami’s life too and ending with her in possession of the Death Note. She worshipped Kira and was used by Light. I hated her with a passion and slowly realised the sad story of who she was.

She believed in Kira. She wasn’t a psychopath, she wasn’t sadistic and I can’t remember a single second in the anime that would lead her to want Light to kill his own father. She was sweet, she hero worshipped the only person in the world who avenged her murdered family, she followed him blindly even though nine times out of ten he showed her no love or attention. In the anime Light didn’t want to fuck anyone he was so consumed with his own life, his own goals and his own belief in him being god. She did EVERYTHING he wanted from her. She gave up her Death Note, her Shinigami eyes and memories. I think she did it twice and kept halving her life to bring back her eyes too. She is one of the single most interesting characters I’ve ever seen.

In this she’s a cheerleader, played by Margaret Qualley who did a good job of portraying a psychothic bitch who just wanted to murder everyone and play god. She wasn’t like Light, she murdered all the FBI agents that L sent after them not for protection but to send a message, and did so after Light said no because she wanted to. She was ready to kill Light just to get her hands on the Death Note, a decision that backfired on her when Light showed even a sliver of intelligence near the end. It was like a psycho version of Romeo and Juliet stuck under the Death Note title. Gone was any actual reason she’d want to help him, she was just a psycho. There was nothing deep about her and she used sex to basically get what she wanted.

I’m happy they didn’t even bother to name her Misa because the poor as hell imitation of such a complex and sweet character doesn’t deserve to share her name.

So the moral tale of the story is lost, the debate of whether one human should play god was lost. They replaced intelligence with horror and moral concepts with sex. It ruined a modern classic on the weaknesses of the human mind, a story that made you think about the wider world and your place in it and created a angst teen drama about a boy trying to impress a girl by killing a bunch of people, a girl obsessed with killing people and a guy who wants to bring him down but ends up pretty much the same angry young man he is facing.

Morals out the window, story telling out the window…

If you are watching this on Netflix I implore you to watch the Anime series which is also currently on Netflix I believe. It might be much longer to sit through but the story is engaging, intelligent and thought provoking. Light isn’t a boy from a broken family, he’s a intelligent young man who is corrupted by power and then joins a mental chess game with another young man who respects the game and his opponent. Its a heartbreaking story, a fantastic piece of art and a absolute classic in its own right.

If you are reading this and have seen the anime but not this travesty of a film I urge you to just ignore it. I’m sure people will hide behind its “based on…” as a reason for why such a poor film was made and named after a wonderful show. It had a great cast but a poor story.

Actually a terrible story that has stolen a classic stories name.

2 thoughts on “Netflix’s Death Note”

  1. I’m trying really hard to separate my love of the anime from how I feel about this film, and I’m currently failing. I’m planning to review it on Thursday and that means at least one rewatch between now and then.

    1. I can’t do it. I’ve watched it twice, once on my own and a second time with another fan. If they had just cut up the story and made it simplistic I’d be OK but they turned it into a generic American teen friendly angst ridden romance story. It just felt like about every other “original” drama you see on Netflix. Just wish they’d left L alone, my heart bleeds for the murder of L’s character. I’d rather his fate stayed true to the anime then what happened in this.

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