I’ll start off by saying a lot of people wanted this movie to fail because, lets face it, we are tired of hollywood trying to columbus everything we love for its own financial gain. If anything, most the people wanted some asian faces for a movie’s whose source material is based on Japan. I still consider this an American Adaption like other films like The Ring ( based on Ringu in Japan), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (movie of the same name in Sweden), The Office, Shameless, 3’s Company, and so on. I think it was very possible to take DeathNote and Americanize it.
I went in with an open mind and semi high hopes to be honest. This film definitely did not do it for me. Source material aside, the beginning of the movie played out like a bad high school drama, and I do mean a bad one. Their attempt to build the past for the main characters of the movie failed and they latched on to the stereotypical ‘high school’ tropes to tell a story. Theres “The Bullies”, “The Jocks”, “The Cheerleaders”, seriously, this school is cut fresh out of ANY 1990s high school tv show. I guess Light is the loner nerd? Light’s character is only barely explained so his ‘motives’ are even less clear even though they try to force them down your throat. Mia’s character is completely left up to mystery. The ONLY inkling of info you get on her is that shes a rebel… or at least it seems that way because she smokes. Far as I can tell she doesnt even have a last name, and her character is left up to complete mystery, so her motives are completely unknown as well. Is she smart? Evil? bad past? who knows. Shes a cheerleader who smokes and takes calculus. So we are left to these mostly incomplete characters to follow.
We move on to other characters of the movie which, there are NOT that many. Probably a total of 6 ‘real’ characters to follow in the movie, all of which hold their own when they are given the chance to shine, which they really aren’t for the most part. L’s character was an interesting one, but mostly came across as weird annoying. Yes his character s basically pulled from the japanese version, but they still make him just weirdly annoying. While the actor does a decent job at portraying L, they were trying too hard to make L the Japanese L. At one point hes even speaking japanese.
Speaking of Japanese, this movie is very confused. It doesnt know if it wants to be an American adaption or a whitewashed version of Deathnote. It does well as separating itself, but then doubles down on whitewashing by having essentially None Japanese people either speaking or writing in japanese. They even go as far as far as taking the names of the main characters from the Japanese version. Personally, I would have named ‘Light’ something along the lines of Sunny, Lucian, etc. Its oddly confusing. Its like the movie stray away from the Japanese version, but then throws it back in your face like “HEY BY THE WAY, WE ARE TOTALLY RIPPING OFF THE JAPANESE VERSION”. There are plenty of ways to pay respects to source material, this one failed on all levels.
The style and cinematography is decent at some points of the movie, but then tends to take a goofy slap stickish turn ever so often. Why did they have to kill that guy in such a goofy manner? Why did they have to who that, We get without the goofiness. Otherwise, the filming definitely was heading in the right direction. The soundtrack choice overall was a decent semi relying on a more ’80s-retro’ soundtrack to set that semi-psycho-horror vibe. There are often times were the music is a bit more distracting than helping, overall the sound team can be given a thumbs up.
The overall story of the film seems so rushed that they didnt even bother to really finish it. From the events that happened, it seems like maybe 3 to 5 weeks have past, but maybe thats not the case, Could have easily been 2 weeks, its verywishywashy on whats actually going on, and for the most part its pretty predictable at times, even more so if you’ve seen the source material. It has one of those “Hey, even though I’m a main character, I’m going to be off camera for a bit” then some OUTRAGEOUS event happens. Obviously the person who went off camera is clearly connected to that event to the audience. The overall plot gets lost in trying to fit too much in a short period of time. As a results, the entire movie just feels rushed and everything is happening so fast that the audience is never really allowed to digest whats going on until the end, BUT low and behold, the film leaves the audience hanging 1 final time.
Whats strange about this film is that its playing on both sides of the fence. On one end its trying to be this Original American Take on Deathnote. On the other end, it’s trying to be Deathnote with American Actors. It tries to separate itself from the source material, but then blatantly rips off the source material. It does try very hard to be good, but fails to really deliver on real level. The style of the film is definitely respectable, and the cast each hold their own respectively, but were not ever really given the chance to accomplish anything. If you hadn’t seen the source material, then the events of the movie would barely make any sense. If you have seen the source material, you’d understand how truly rushed everything was. Ultimately this movie bit off more than it could chew. It failed at explaining the basic essence of “The Death Note” concept and failed at turning the source material into the time frame allowed. It also failed to capture what made DeathNote so interesting. The entire ‘Spy VS Spy, Chess match of Kings, think 3 moves ahead of your opponent’ it partially what made Deathnote what it is. Maybe if it was turned into a short series or multiple movies it would have had more times for story, concept and character development. The audience is never given the chance to really connect with the characters or the story. By the time it starts to really get good its already over and you’re left feeling like “……. thats it”. It feels like a long pilot episode thats still being developed.
Overall worth a watch if just to really get an idea of what was attempted, but don’t expect to be wowed. It had potential tho.