Louis is the best older brother anyone could ask for. He knows this because he’s agreed to help chaperone his younger sister’s school trip to Rome. As it turns out, Italy is full of surprises. Fizzy’s Italian teacher is surprisingly hot, Rome is surprisingly interesting, and Louis is surprisingly falling in love with more than just the city.
I’ll be honest. When I found out that Death Note was getting an Americanized live action adaptation, I wasn’t too thrilled. In fact, I was terrified that something I loved was going to be straight up murdered before my eyes — and I wasn’t ready to give it a shot. In fact, I was really unwilling to budge on this until recently.
However, about three hours ago, the movie came out on Netflix. Sitting there with my housemates, I decided to give the movie a shot and check it out. for those of you who would like to avoid spoilers, this is the cutoff point for spoilers. There are an awful lot of them beyond this point.
Death Note is not a particularly new thing to many of us. If you’ve spent an hour talking about anime or reading manga, you know that Death Note exists. Finding out about the series or the source material that preceded this movie is not particularly hard; the hard part comes in discarding the source material to give the movie a fair shake.
When you look at something like this, you have to discard your comparative lens at the start of the movie to suspend your disbelief. When you sit down to watch something like, say, Game of Thrones, you are undertaking that viewing with the understanding that it’s not going to be exactly like it was in A Song of Ice and Fire.
The same thing must be done for Death Note (2017). When you sit down to watch this movie, you have to decide if you want to give it a fair shake. If not, that’s fine, but that’s what I set out to do.
Starting from the top, the movie itself isn’t bad. If you hadn’t seen the anime before watching it, it holds up to a 6/10 or a 7/10, but likely doesn’t pass an 8 on most scales. Let me explain by starting with some discussion on the main cast before getting into the actual synopsis and response.
The casting of Lakeith Stanfield as L is great, and he dramatically outperforms the rest of the cast; his take on L is both familiar to those who want similarities to what they know and slightly more emotive and human to appeal to the audience. His grasp of the character is magnificent, and I’m sure he studied for this role. I’d highly recommend watching this movie just to watch his performance if nothing else.
There’s only one problem with this: his performance feels slightly hollow when put next to Nat Wolff and Willem Dafoe. Willem Dafoe is a great man and a talented actor… but this is by no means his best showing.
Nat Wolff, comparatively fresh to the silver screen (or technically not, since it’s closer to a direct to DVD release), paints a picture of a very fragmented Light. At times too comedic, too frustrated, and too unbelievable, his portrayal of his character comes across as transparent. It surprised me to find that his version of Light didn’t hold up to the “judge and jury” that the film tries to make him.
Light is at times frustrating and all said, a little annoying. My favorite moment of his in the film comes three minutes in, when a bully punches him in the face and knocks him out.
The funny thing about the casting, though, is that it gives Margaret Qualley, playing Mia Sutton (analogous to Misa, from the series) the chance to shine in a dark way.
Since we’ve now discussed the cast, it’s important to note that the casting for this movie is not to blame or to praise in its success or failure. Whether or not this movie is good does not depend entirely on the choices made in its casting.
The movie itself revolves around Light Turner (an Americanization of Light Yagami), the son of a “hippy” and a police chief. Light, after passing off some homework for money to one of his fellow students, finds the eponymous Death Note when it falls from the sky in the middle of a storm. Light, after meeting Ryuk, is forced to come to terms with the power he now holds… and the consequences that accompany that power.
One of his first confidantes is his fellow student, Mia Sutton; Mia is initially skeptical, but after Light kills a criminal on a live stream, she comes around to his side and the two quickly enter into a strange love affair based on his ability to kill these criminals. Light takes the name “Kira” in order to make law enforcement suspect that he’s actually based in Japan, as “Kira” is a true cognate for the English word “killer.”
Hot on Kira’s heels are his father, who doesn’t know his son is involved, and L, a young detective with a murky past. L quickly deduces that Light is based in Seattle based on the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of a hostage taker, whose name was only released in the Seattle area.
Correctly linking Kira to Light’s father, L begins the investigation in earnest, accidentally pushing the inexperienced boy and his new powers too far. After quick, dazzling victories over the danger known as Kira, L confronts Light in a coffee shop one night, convinced of his foe’s identity.
It’s at this point that things take a sharp turn. Light, in the films, is just a schoolboy in over his head, eager to impress his girlfriend with his “wicked cool” murder powers. He is not the character most loved in the manga or the anime, and this is why the adaptation must be viewed differently. Light’s identity is discovered after the death of several task force members and the public revelation of his father’s name and face on TV. Unbeknownst to Light, Mia murdered those men with a page from the note, attributing it to Ryuk.
When Mr. Turner isn’t killed, L confronts Light in a cafe at night, revealing to him that he’s aware of the high schooler’s alter ego. After Light tries to explain that he didn’t kill the task force members, his pleas fall on deaf ears, and L tersely informs him that he’ll be brought to justice.
After this, things take a steep, steep increase in pace. Light and Mia manage to take control over Watari using the Death Note, with the rule in place (via the notebook) that a person can be controlled for two days before their death. Light, in order to circumvent Watari’s death, intends to burn the page containing Watari’s name before he dies, sparing him.
Unbeknownst to him, Mia takes the page from his notebook… throwing a spanner in the works.
After the death of Watari, Mia reveals that she’s been planning to take the Death Note for herself. Light is then forced to flee by a vengeance driven L, given the ultimatum that if she doesn’t get the notebook by midnight, that he will die (as she’s written his name on her page).
L catches up to Light in the back of an alley as Light tries to meet Mia at the spot of their last date to hand over the notebook. He tries to explain what happened, but L doesn’t listen… and despite having Light at gunpoint, is knocked out from behind by a nearby citizen who overheard Light admit to being Kira. Grateful for what Kira has done, he lets Light go.
Light makes it to Mia atop a ferris wheel at the pier… and tells her not to take the book, as he’s written her name in it, putting them at a stalemate. Only one page of the book can be burned by its holder (Light), and unbeknownst to Mia, Light has made her death conditional. If she takes the book, she will die.
She takes the book and dies.
Light, having written his plan out in advance before fleeing L earlier, is saved when he falls into the water below the pier and is rescued by an old man, whose name he wrote in the book earlier. At the same time, another old man (both criminals) takes the Death Note for two days while Light recovers, filling out pages for him to give him an alibi.
This is explained to Light’s father while Light recovers in the hospital. The movie comes to an end as L realizes the meaning of a clue Light left him during the movie’s main chase scene; finding a stray page of the Death Note, L contemplates writing Light’s name… and Ryuk comments on the interesting nature of mankind.
Back to the review, though. The narrative pacing of the movie is rushed in the front half, for obvious reasons. The pacing that ensues around the climax of the movie, though, is great. The reveal that Mia is actually the antagonist of the movie makes sense and was well thought out. It’s not blatant, but it is foreseeable if you pay attention to her character throughout.
The cinematography is… amateur. It’s not very refined, and most shots make up for in color what they lack in substance. The camera work, for the most part, resembles a college student’s final short film.
Characters often abandon the rules established for them by their characterization in the first half of the movie in ways I’m unsure of. L turns into an action star in the last thirty minutes, and Light is… well, he’s annoying all the way through, but he never really gets a solid definition. The only way to sum up his character in the film is “inept,” but it does bring you to mentally treat him like a villain, which is good.
Its ending is vastly different from its source material (as L is alive), but ultimately more satisfying. The problems that plague the movie throughout, though, never really go away.
Despite this, most cast members put on a strong performance at least once in the film, and the movie follows a nice, neat arc. Reveals are carefully done and at multiple points, I was on the edge of my seat. Gorey action scenes (usually gratuitous deaths) aren’t cheap; they reinforce the notion that what Light is doing is wrong, even if he’s doing it for the right reasons. At no point do I sympathize with the character, which is a little frustrating, but also familiar.
The soundtrack… I don’t like it. It’s too “eighties” for me. It tries too hard to sound like Miami Vice, for unknown reasons. The music is too heavy handed, and often too easily applied to each scene. At no point am I left to wonder the nonexistent subtleties of its soundtrack.
This movie is a solid thriller, with a satisfying ending, a decent cast and a good narrative arc. Despite this, Death Note (2017) does not follow well with its source material, which it uses primarily as a guideline. If you’re expecting to see familiar faces from the manga (or even the anime), you will be disappointed.
“Are any of the levers marked?” said Ponder, scrabbling through Leonard’s sketches. “Yes, but I don’t understand them! Here’s one marked ‘Troba’!” Ponder scanned the pages, covered in Leonard’s backwards writing. “Er… er…” he muttered. “Do not pull the lever marked ‘Troba’!” snapped Lord Vetinari, leaning forward. “My lord!” said Ponder, and went red as Lord Vetinari’s gaze fell upon him. “I’m sorry, my lord, but this is rather technical, it is about machinery, and it would perhaps be better if those whose education had been more in the field of the arts did not…” His voice faded under the Patrician’s stare. “This one’s got a normal label! It’s called ‘Prince Haran’s Tiller’!” said a desperate voice from the omniscope. Lord Vetinari patted Ponder Stibbons on the shoulder. “I quite understand,” he said. “The last thing a trained machinery person wants at a time like this is well-meant advice from ignorant people. I do apologize. And what is it that you intend to do?” “Well, I, er, I…” “As the Kite and all our hopes plunge towards the ground, I mean,” Lord Vetinari went on. “I, er, I, let’s see, we’ve tried…” Ponder stared at the omniscope, and at his notes. His mind had become a huge, white, sticky field of hot fluff. “I imagine we have at least a minute left,” said Lord Vetinari. “No rush.” “I, er, perhaps we, er…” The Patrician leaned down towards the omniscope. “Rincewind, pull Prince Haran’s Tiller,” he said. “We don’t know what it does–” Ponder began. “Do tell me if you have a better idea,” said Lord Vetinari. “In the meantime, I suggest that the lever is pulled.” On the Kite, Rincewind decided to respond to the voice of authority. “Er… there’s a lot of clicking and whirring…” he reported. “And… some of the levers are moving by themselves… now the wings are unfolding… we’re sort of flying in a straight line, at least… quite gently, really…” “Good. I suggest you apply yourself to waking up Leonard,” said the Patrician. He turned and nodded at Ponder. “You yourself have not studied the classics, young man? I know Leonard has.” “Well… no, sir.” “Prince Haran was a legendary Klatchian hero who sailed around the world on a ship with a magical tiller,” said Lord Vetinari. “It steered the ship while he slept. If I can be of any further help, don’t hesitate to ask.”
– never let the imminent destruction of the world stop you from being dramatic: the Havelock Vetinari story |
Terry Pratchett, The Last Hero
If you don’t like that machine, get rid of it. Because I love you exactly the way you are. I feel the same way about you. Now, put your glasses back on, you look weird.
This scene summarizes their relationship so well. Amy’s words in
particular are so powerful. You all know Sheldon. He’s brilliant, funny,
he can be extremely brave and he would do anything for the person he
loves. But he is also childish, stubborn, he can be extremely selfish.
Amy still loves him even so much, not despite his quirks and flaws but because
of those. It’s the same for him: at the end, he asks her to put back
her glasses because she ‘looks weird’. Earlier, she has used her
shortsightedness as an example of a flaw of hers - but for him, she’s
perfectly fine, glasses included. Oh, and don’t forget the little kiss on the cheek. It’s such an intimate and sweet gesture. Everything is so perfect in every detail: the way she leans on him, the way he moves up to her…
Great scene from the Brick that wasn’t in the musical:
After Javert finds Valjean lugging mostly-dead Marius out of the sewers, Javert actually agrees to help him. So instead of the musical’s Epic Confrontation, you get this amazing weird scene where Valjean and Javert form an awkward truce and team up to bring Marius home. Javert has a stagecoach on hand, and after they load Marius into it they have to sit together in the back. It is the Most Awkward Road Trip of All Time
So here is that scene but like….with cats (it’s what i do)
My most favorite moment was when, after years of filming it, and being very strict to animation, because you have to be strict with animation, because it’s timing, and picture, and that kind of thing… And I was very strict with it. But I kept doing things, I’d be naughty, and I’d do something… And they’d say, “Sam, you can’t do that! This is not Robin Williams. You cannot do that, you can’t make up little jokes on the side.” But a year after we finished completing the film, they called me up, and they said, “Sam, we’re going to fly you out here. All of the things we said you couldn’t do… You’ve got three hours to do all of them.” So they brought me in the studio, and they just turned the mike on… and I went nuts! I just said anything I wanted to say like Sebastian. I talked like him for three hours, and some of it found its way into the movie. For example: "Teenagers. They think they know everything. You give them an inch, they swim all over you.” That was something that I just made up!