With the recent release of the American Netflix movie adaptation of “Death Note”, I thought it was time for me to check out the first live action adaptation of Tsugumi Ohba’s manga. So here we go.
Ladies and gentlemen… “Death Note”.
Light Yagami (Tatsuya Fujiwara) is a highly intelligent young man with a bright future ahead of him. And one day he finds a notebook that just fell from the sky. And it turns out that Light can kill pretty much anyone he wants by writing the person’s name in the notebook. So he uses this opportunity to become a mysterious vigilante simply know as Kira, killing criminals and fugitives left and right. This attracts the attention of mysterious investigator L (Ken’ichi Matsuyama), triggering a game of cat and mouse where they try to figure out each other’s identities to eliminate the other one. So now we have our plot. And is it any good? For the most part, sure. And I say that because it’s not without it’s flaws. The basic premise is great, and a lot of the developments in the story are good. Problem is that the plot at times also manages to drag, rush, and feel disjointed… all at once. This happens of course happens because they try to cram about nine episodes of anime into a two hour long movie. So some scenes feel like they’re rushed through, and some parts don’t have the smoothest transition which is the reason for some bits feeling a bit disjointed. And the dragging is because some scenes are just a bit slow, and not in a good way. But there’s still enough intrigue in the plot to keep it from being all out bad. It’s fine.
The characters here are pretty interesting. Light (like I said) is a highly intelligent young man, top of his class. So what happens when you give such a person a notebook that can kill people with the stroke of a pen? A really fascinating, smug, and slightly scary guy. I was rooting for him, but I also felt that he was a bit of a smug ass… which is what makes him so interesting. And Tatsuya Fujiwara is really good in the role. L, the eccentric and highly skilled detective that is hunting for Kira. He’s weird, he’s funny, and he’s just an interesting character. And Ken’ichi Matsuyama is really good in the role. Then we have Ryuk, the apple-loving god of death following Light around. He’s as cartoonishly hyper as he should be without sacrificing any of the creepy aspects of the character, which is great. He’s voiced by Shidô Nakamura, and he does a really good job capturing the feel of Ryuk. Then there’s a whole bunch of supporting characters/performances that I won’t go over in detail because I don’t have the time or will to do so, but let’s just say that they do a good job.
The score was composed by Kenji Kawai and I think he did a good job. The score is pretty eerie and helps create a feeling of unease in the movie. And it’s just overall well composed. Now, mild spoiler I guess, though it isn’t about a story scene, but rather the end credits. During the end credits they play the Red Hot Chili Peppers song “Dani Calfornia”. I have nothing against it (it’s a great song), but it felt a bit random and I just had to bring it up. I have no opinion about it being used other than… weird. Oh well.
This movie was directed by Shûsuke Kaneko and he did an okay job. His directing feels a bit bland for the most part, though at a couple points he uses some pretty nifty camera tricks elevating those moments. But for the most part his directing was pretty bland. Also, can we talk about Ryuk? Not as a character, but his look in this movie. They decided to make him a fully CG character, and while his design is spot-on from the manga and anime, it doesn’t look very good. It’s like bringing a cartoon into a serious live action set… bit jarring. It’s not the biggest problem for me, but I did feel like it was worth noting.
While this movie doesn’t have too much of a presence on the sites I use, it does exist to some extent. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 78% positive rating. On Metacritic it doesn’t exist at all. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,9/10.
“Death Note” is a pretty good live action adaptation of the manga/anime. It has an okay plot, good characters, really good performances, good music, and okay directing. My only flaws with it comes from the plot feeling a bit messy (as I explained earlier), and Ryuk looking a bit… meh. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Death Note” is a 7,77/10. So while flawed, it is worth a rental.
My review of “Death Note” is now completed.
Don’t expect a review of the sequel. Maybe expect a review of the Netflix movie… maybe.