If you had the ability to kill by only writing a name, how would you use this power? We find out one of these possible scenarios in Death Note, an Americanised version of the Japanese Manga and Anime featuring the same characters and made by Netflix. Death Note follows the story of Light Turner, an American high school student based in Seattle, but after a mysterious book called the “Death Note” falls from the sky, Light has the power to bring justice to those who deserve it and fix a corrupt justice system.
While Death Note is based from the anime and manga of the same name, changes needed to be made to allow it to fit into the real world as well as make it more relatable to the audience. While these changes undoubtedly had to be made to I couldn’t help but compare the anime to the Netflix movie (which just in case anyone is wondering, I do believe the anime was better) which was a hindrance when watching Death Note the first time. However, after some re-watches I was able to appreciate the idea of bringing the concept of an ordinary person with a warped sense of justice having the ability to kill at will.
The main character of the story is Light Turner who is played by Nat Wolff. Light is an extremely intelligent high school student before he comes into possession of the death note. But even before he starts writing down names and killing people in the name of “justice” he is portrayed as vengeful as his mother was ran over by a man who paid his way out of jail. Once Light starts reading into the rules of the death note and gets told of its full capabilities, Light begins killing criminals and starts being hailed as a hero as he has lowers crime to basically nothing.
Light’s partner in crime and girlfriend is Mia Sutton, played by Margaret Qualley. Mia somewhat shares Light’s views on justice in that she believes that parents are able to see their children again when Light puts down criminals that may come to harm them. Mia becomes influential in deciding what criminals Light should kill and even taking part in these killings. But unlike with Light where we’re shown just how and why his view on justice is the way it is, we don’t get that with Mia. Mia’s hunger for power starts to get the better of her towards the end of the movie as she becomes manipulative where she tries to steal the death note from Light and kill both criminals and the FBI agents who are after them just for the fun of it. Mia’s relationship with Light is strange as the foundation upon it is killing criminals and is thrusted upon the audience by cringey sex scenes.
With Light and Mia killing criminals left and right and criminals turning themselves in, someone has to come in and put a stop to these killings. “L” who is played by Lakeith Stanfield is a renowned detective and is the main antagonist on this movie. L in the Japanese anime and manga, is intelligent, cunning and even witty. But L in the Netflix’s version of Death Note is impulsive and crumbles whenever any form of pressure is put upon him. L is fairly dull to watch and even when L and Light Turner are face to face the conversation between the two doesn’t feel all that tense which I personally believe is due to L’s presentation.
If there was one thing I could ask for and change about this movie is that the death god Ryuk had more screen time. The apple loving death god Ryuk is by far the most entertaining part of the movie as he provides loads of insight and has a sinister presence as he is almost always looming in the background. Ryuk’s purpose for being in the movie is delivering the death note to various different owners, it’s unknown just how long Ryuk has been doing this for but it’s made clear that the death note has had various owners. s Why Ryuk does this is fairly unknown as well, an assumption could be made that he is doing this for his own entertainment as at the very end of the movie he states “you humans are so interesting” while laughing or it could be that it’s a way of keeping the cycle of life and death going as there are no other death notes (that we know of) or other death gods at that.
Death Note was a good attempt at bringing the Japanese manga and anime series to American shores through switching the plot and making it more suitable and realistic to audiences. However, some of these changes harmed the film and could have been left with the original source material.