DIRECTOR: Adam Wingard
Matthew Kevin Anderson
Light Turner is a bright student. When a mystical book titled the Death Note falls into his lap, he soon has the power to kill any person whose name is written on the pages of the book. With the power to kill people, Light decides to rid the world of people he deems as the worst of the worst. As he begins to rack up a large death toll, a famous detective begins to pursue him and bring an end to his killing spree.
Death Note is based on the wildly popular Japanese Manga. Being that I haven't read the original source material or seen the Japanese movie adaptation of the Manga. I've got no real grounds to compare this American remake to the original material. So as I sat down to watch Death Note, I wanted to wait to watch this with my partner who is a huge fan of the Manga. I wanted to see what our opinions on the remake would be and after we had witnessed the film. I found that our opinion on this movie had some pretty contrasting feelings on Death Note.
My partner who I've stated is a bit of a fan of the original Manga hated this vision of Death Note. I even noticed at one stage, towards the third act, he actually fell asleep during the film. I, myself, was actually awake and enjoying this onslaught of carnage. When the end credits began to roll, my partner looked so disappointed. It looked as if some person had personally victimised him. I guess he just felt the same feeling that I feel when someone remakes one of my fave horror films and royally messes it up.
As a person who is new to Death Note, I actually enjoyed this movie. Is Death Note an amazing cinematic experience? No. Is it a fun, hour and forty minutes with some great visuals, an excellent soundtrack, and some solid gore? Yes. Just going off of my own experience of Death Note, this film has some very big problems and those issues do hinder this movie. As a complete newbie to Death Note, if I can sense that this is a troubled story, it must be even more noticeable for fans of the source material.
The biggest problem that Death Note faces is that this story feels extremely rushed. For a series of manga that takes place across twelve books, an animated series, and movies, it's hard to condense that kind of universe into a two-hour film. I don't know what this covers in comparison to the novels but this Death Note feels like the writers have tried to fit so much action into such a short time. They packed in as much death and destruction over such a large time period that everything happens so quickly that it feels like they compromised on the story. It feels paper thin.
The remake of Death Note drops the book right into Light's lap and within seconds of this movie starting, we are immediately thrown into the story of a teenager with the power to kill. We also get an introduction to Ryuk. A seven-foot death god who has a habit of provoking Light to kill people. The plot doesn't give us any backstory of any of the characters. We are chucked into the middle of a world we know nothing about and at times, for a new person to the series, it's really confusing no matter how much dialogue or exposition they give to us. I believe they are hoping that we will go along for the ride and not notice how rushed this all feels.
What Death Note does right is that having Adam Wingard at the helm, he delivers a visually gorgeous looking fantasy horror film. It feels like every single frame of this film is given a different setup or angle. The camera work and cinematography is just so fluidly gorgeous to watch that when the film features horrific moments of gore and splatter, even those moments are filmed in a way where they just look very polished and fantastic. I really do think he's a very talented and visual storyteller.
The gore and bloodshed in this film is excellent. A lot of the death scenes are set up and feel a lot like the Final Destination series. So you will see a lot of creative deaths. We have exploding heads, decapitations, men leaping off skyscrapers and also being splattered by fast moving swat vans. This is sure to please most gorehounds. They really don't hold back on the carnage. The opening death involving a ladder made me clap gleefully while wincing at the sight of seeing someone's skull ripped in half. Gory goodness abound.
I'm not one who takes notice of soundtracks and scores very often. It's rare that I will even buy an OST. The last one that I can remember purchasing was NWR's The Neon Demon. Death Note, however, has a fantastic score from Atticus Ross. As an Aussie, it was also great to hear such a great old school soundtrack. Australian Crawl and INXS were the highlights. A bit of Australian pride in an American production. I will always enjoy seeing Australian bands being recognised in films outside of my homeland. It's always very welcomed.
Lastly, the acting in this film is decent. I think with little to no character development, the actors are still decent enough in their roles. LaKeith Stanfield as L is the highlight in this film. A character who is as equally explosive as he is mysterious. I thought he really owned the role. Nat Wolff as Light is also a solid young actor. I thought he did well in leading this film. While we don't see much of Willem Dafoe, his voice is distinct that going on voice acting, he is still fantastic. I also thought that Shea Whigham as Light's father was also decent in his role. Probably the most seasoned of the entire cast here. You will love to hate Margaret Qualley in Death Note, just wait.
DEATH TOLL: 38 (Estimated) Many More Deaths (Offscreen)
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A teenager is decapitated by a ladder.
- A man is splattered by a swat van.
- An estimated twenty people are brutally murdered in a nightclub.
- A man lands throat first onto a steak knife.
- An army general's head explodes from being electrocuted.
- Six prisoners are found dead in their cells.
- A man is blown up by a grenade.
- A man dies from a heart attack.
- Several police detectives jump off a high-rise building.
- A man's body is seen impacting against the ground and exploding.
- A man is killed in a train crash.
- A teenage girl falls to her death.
- A man is shot to death by a machine gun.
- A guy jumps off a roof and lands on a car.
- A guy commits suicide by asphyxiation in his car.
Adam Wingard's remake of Death Note is a fun and gruesome hour and forty minutes. With great cinematography, visual fx, outstanding splatter, and a solid soundtrack and score. You can do worse than this remake. The cast also tries to do the best they can with a story that feels very rushed. The biggest issue that befalls Death Note is that with such a vast universe that is laid out in the Japanese source material, this feels extremely light on plot. There is so much being packed into such a short amount of time that the rest of the film suffers because of it. Little to no character development and no backstory hurts this film.