Reboot Analysis: Netflix’s “Death Note” (Spoilers)

Let me preface this by saying I was one of those who were extremely disappointed that they did not cast any Asians as main characters. So going in, I was skeptical to say the least. I understand that American reboots of Asian films are not obligated to cast Asians. But it would’ve been nice if at least one of the main characters were. Of course that didn’t happen, so that’s all I’m going to say about that… for now…

346 Reboot Analysis: Netflixs Death Note (Spoilers)

Nat Wolff’s Light

The story picks up quickly just like the original does with the main character being given the Death Note book within the first 20 mins or so. Wolff is a decent actor. I’ve seen him in other things so I knew what to expect from him. I can say between him and Tatsuya Fujiwara from the OG, there really is a close similarity between the way they portrayed Light. They’re both just kind of regular dudes who are given the opportunity to wield this incredible power. It’s more about the way the characters were written, I guess. The original Light only got more evil, if anything. The American version of Light really transforms and the book gives him more confidence than he had before. Of course, being sort of an outsider and then having this beautiful classmate interested in him already before he even gets the book, I’m sure, did amazing things for his character on its own.

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Here is where I was particularly skeptical being that I loved Kenichi Matsuyama’s L. Maybe it was the way he perched on his couch like a big bird chain eating candy. Maybe it was how mysterious and understated his L was. He was just fascinating to watch. Keith Stanfield’s L, on the other hand, is a completely different character. While he still carried that air of eccentricity that set him apart from the other investigators, Stanfield’s L is a spaz. He’s way more frantic, completely on the opposite end of the spectrum from Matsuyama’s L. So at first I was like, WTF? But I have to say, he grew on me quick. Keith Stanfield is an amazing actor and the writers crafted dialogue so believable and natural that his L just worked for the scope of this production.

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The Shinigami in the original Death Note is really freaky looking. They did a great job with his CG and I particularly enjoyed the way he bounced a little while he was hanging out, almost as if he was breathing. So the idea that he’s immortal made that part of him even more creepy. I also liked the way his lighting was equal to that of those around him, underlining the exclusivity the shinagamis share with the one who possesses the book because no one else can see him even though it really seems like he’s right there and not hiding off in some dark corner.

 Reboot Analysis: Netflixs Death Note (Spoilers)

Ryuk from the American version always seemed to be standing in a shadow. Of course that added to his creepiness because his eyes glow in the dark. Willem Dafoe does an amazing job of voicing this character. He channels that same sort of throaty rumble when he talks, much like Nakamura Shido. And the laugh… Overall, the American version is darker in general, but I felt like it worked okay in the film.

 Reboot Analysis: Netflixs Death Note (Spoilers)

Plot – Storyline

So another reminder that this is an American adaptation we’re talking about. Odds are the story will get watered down and lose the nuances from the original, which it did. The plot maintained a very narrow scope focusing mainly on Light and his relationship with his girlfriend and father, and managed to completely avoid the deeper message of the original and thus, causing it to hit something of a mid-field ground ball instead of a home run. Having the book’s victims write graffiti on the walls in Japanese instead of English was the only bone they threw, aside from Watari’s character who was played by Paul Nakauchi. Also missing and a bit confusing was when Misa was going rogue with the book but didn’t get her own shinagami like in the original.

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This deserves a mention because they actually did a great job melding images with the soundtrack. It’s a beautifully shot film. There’s no denying that. Some of the close-ups were amazing.

If I hadn’t seen the original Japanese production, I would probably have enjoyed the Netflix version a lot more than I did. But trying to ignore all that, I’d say it wasn’t so bad. There were times when the plot seemed to fast forward or skip over important elements of the original story which made it difficult to get sucked in. It’s clear who the demographic is aimed at and chances are, the folks at Netflix are probably hoping for something of a Twilight-esque response to the film. I doubt they’re going to get that, though. The fans over at Rotten Tomatoes aren’t as generous with the polls hovering around 40%. Overall, I don’t feel as if I totally wasted my time in watching this film. It was actually better than I thought it was going to be. Rating: C+ (Minus points for the blooper reel at the end)

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