Earlier this summer, Netflix finally released their live-action version of Death Note. If you’ve been dragging your feet to watch it in some effort to stand up against live-action adaptations… I get it. Alas, I’m going to put my pre-judgements aside to offer this honest review.
There are MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD, so be warned.
In the first 30 minutes of Death Note, you’d think the movie’s writers just copy-and-pasted the show’s story.
It’s almost identical. You meet Light, see him get the Death Note, meet Ryuk, begins his campaign of murder as Kira, and his detective father is put in charge of his own son’s investigation.
But there are some differences. They give Light more backstory – his mother died in an car accident and the killer walked free (that’s why Light wants to rid the world of criminals). Misa Amane’s character is removed and replaced with Mia, Light’s broody teen girlfriend who gets involved in his kill spree.
There are a few other differences, but mostly we’re running parallel with the original at this point. The second act is where those similarities fade.
Some of the scenes are familiar – L is introduced and he’s still a weirdo that really likes candy. He uses logic to deduce who Kira is. He even makes some strategic moves to try and expose him.
But they leave out most of the plot and character development. Compared to the series, there is about 2% of the cat-and-mouse games between Light and L. They jump from introducing L, to L confronting Light, to the story coming to a climax.
Calling this portion rushed would be an understatement. They teleported to the ending.
The final act is the opposite to the anime – it’s a total rewrite. Mia goes batshit crazy and tries to take the Death Note, L loses his cool, and Light has a change of heart and tries to stop the killing. The story ends with Mia dead, Light in the hospital (with the Death Note), and L confirming that Light is Kira. That’s it, roll credits.
The Good News
Let me first say that Death Note is probably the best live-action anime adaptation I’ve ever seen. The casting is superb, the cinematography is excellent, and the script is actually pretty good. The actors especially did an awesome job. Also, Willem Dafoe is awesome.
The Bad News
Why did they try to cram 32 episodes worth of story into a 100-minute movie?! There was no way they could pull it off… The story was rushed and you never got to know the characters. You never saw Light’s sociopathic intelligence or L’s brilliant logical thinking. There was nothing to explain the Shinigami. There was no Rem. No Near. No Mellow. And no closure.
Despite all this, it was good.
It’s just that… knowing how good the anime was ruined a lot of the enjoyment. People who never watched Death Note will probably appreciate this movie more.
OK, rant over. Let me know if you agree in the comments below.