Movie Review: Death Note delivers its own death

The Netflix film Death Note, adapted from the manga “Death Note,” attracted a lot of attention on the internet, as well as controversy. The attention it has gathered is no surprise considering the immense international popularity of its Japanese original.  Nat Wolff, co-star of Paper Towns, plays Light Turner, and two actors, William Dafoe and Jason Liles, were used to bring the supernatural death god, Ryuk, to life on screen.

The plot is focused on a supernatural object known as the Death Note. It can kill anyone whose name is written in it.  High school student Light Turner stumbles upon the Death Note and uses it to end the lives of those he sees fit, and in the process gains the affection of his love interest, Mia.

One of my biggest issues with Death Note is that it is heavily focused on romance.  The movie centers on a stereotypical edgy teen romance, even though there was great potential for more psychological elements. There was not enough character development because most of the story is about Turner using his new weapon to entertain his manipulative girlfriend.  The movie’s attempt to take certain parts of the original’s story, reuse it, and adapt it to an American setting was not the best.  

There is a lot of controversy on the internet over the lack of diversity in Death Note.  The setting of the film was adapted to the United States, and people complained that the main cast should have at least consisted of Asian Americans.  

The movie made references to Japan and featured a few scenes in the country as a way of showing respect to where the original story came from, but this decision was too forced.  It looks as if producers considered potential controversy over white-washing of the film, which usually happens when Japanese anime and manga are adapted for American audiences.  

Changes are usually fine in adaptations, but this movie took them too far. I have seen the anime before, and noted many drastic changes in the movie.  The names of the main characters and their roles stayed the same, but their personalities are nothing alike. Turner and his rival, L, are geniuses in the Japanese version, but the movie portrayed them as ordinary youngsters fueled by emotions. Misa, the Japanese counterpart of Mia, is impressionable, making her the complete opposite of the manipulative Mia. It just feels like Death Note is an entirely different story with only superficial similarities.

While I do have some grievances, the movie was enjoyable for the most part.  Some scenes were funny, even though it seemed like the movie was trying to present itself seriously the whole time.  The producers did a thorough job bringing out conventional American culture in Death Note at the cost of washing away a lot of the original story’s uniqueness.  This movie does not live up to the originals’ prestige, but it does its job in entertaining viewers.  Anyone who has seen the anime or manga and enjoys unusual romance stories should check this film out.

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