You have the power to stop all crime on the planet. Crime rates will drop and the world will be a utopia. The only problem is that you have to kill all of the criminals in the world to achieve this goal. Would you do it?
Death Note is a new movie on Netflix based off of the manga and anime of the same name that follows the story of Light Turner, a high school student who finds a notebook with powers. If he pictures somebody’s face and writes their name, they die.
Because it was based off of a widely loved anime, this movie had a lot to live up to. It ended up completely failing the Death Note name. It was one of the worst movies this year, with only a couple of even decent aspects.
Starting with the good, it had interesting set design. There was a very specific aesthetic the sets were going for, and it met that goal well. It depicted a grounded yet obviously crime stricken world surprisingly decent. From graffiti to messy house interiors to crumbling buildings, it was all gritty and captivating to look at. The other good part of the movie was the voice acting for Ryuk, the Shinigami, or death god. Willem Dafoe, the voice actor, fit the character, building on what the anime had for the English dub. It was gritty, deep and added to the atmosphere. However, the rest of the movie was terrible.
The plot was awful, filled with gaps, and badly paced. Even if the movie wasn’t an adaptation it would have been bad, but taking note of the source material, it was even worse. The original anime deals with all sorts of moral dilemmas and is focused on battles of wit. The movie, on the other hand, barely resembles the original and tries to be an action thriller. It attempts to use plot points from the original, but instead rushes them to a point where the viewer doesn’t care about anything happening on screen. Death Note was trying so hard to be gory and edgy, that it ended up just being pitiful.
For supposedly smart characters, everyone was pretty dumb. They failed to make good decisions or even really think about what they were doing. Great source material was disgustingly warped to fit the bad narrative and new ideas that this movie attempted.
On top of all this, the acting was bad too. Light Turner was played by Nat Wolff, who convinced me never to see another movie he will ever be in. His reactions didn’t feel real at all, and he never seemed to know what to do with his face. He started the movie always looking brooding or confused, widening his eyes randomly and screaming when anything abnormal happened. By the end of the movie, he left the confusion behind and was only brooding, with brief moments of attempted sadness or anger. It physically hurt how bad his acting was, and I’m surprised he even managed to get the role.
The viewers also couldn’t seem to care about or relate to any character in the whole movie and instead actively wanted everyone to die just so it would be over. Characters like Ryuk were such big and interesting parts of the anime, but in this adaptation had barely any screen time and felt tonally different and out of place.
I could go on and on about everything this movie messed up, but I’ll focus on the big controversy surrounding this movie. As an adaptation from an anime, any person could assume that it would be set in Japan with Asian leads. But it turned out Netflix and the people who worked on the movie didn’t think of that. Instead they took the setting, a crucial part of the original story, and changed it to Seattle. With that change, they made all the characters white, except one who was black, just so they could say it was diverse, despite the rest of the whitewashed cast.
The casting was a huge mistake, and it changed the whole movie. These people didn’t fit their characters and it was plain offensive. There are many fantastic Asian actors that could have been cast, but again the American film industry decides to cast white people.
Hollywood continues to make mistakes, and after all the whitewashed flops in recent history like Ghost in the Shell and Avatar the Last Airbender, they will hopefully learn from their errors. Maybe if the industry cast more than just white actors and made an effort to diversify their movies they could start making good movies again. Then we wouldn’t have to see films like the heaping pile of garbage fire that was the remade Death Note.