Movie Review – Death Note (2017)

OMG, 3.5 readers.  OMG.  Y’all got to drop whatever you are doing (unless you are reading this fine blog) and watch this movie post haste.

BQB here with a review of Netflix’s original movie, “Death Note.”

OMG.  It’s witty.  It’s smart.  It’s original.  It’s a clever idea.  Who knew that such a film was still possible to make in Hollywood?

Light Turner (Nat Wolff) is a typical moody, angst ridden teen, down in the dumps over the untimely death of his mother, which causes him to act out and get in trouble in school.  All this changes when he obtains a mysterious notebook dubbed, “Death Note.”

As Light quickly learns, it is possible for him to write a name and the method of death down in the book and bam – the person named will die in that way.  Initially, Light wields his power on a school bully, but quickly graduates to bigger prey.

The young lad realizes the “Death Note” has been misused by previous owners for petty acts of revenge, but in his hands, he can use it to change the world for the better.  He takes on the moniker “Kira” and summarily executes the world’s most infamous dictators, criminals and villains.

No one is sure how all these baddies are dying, but to the untrained eyes of the masses, it looks like the work of a clever serial killer.  Little do they know it’s the work of a high school kid and a demon with a dark sense of humor.

Some worship Kira and approve of the justice he’s doling out.  Others, like the eccentric private detective known simply as “L” (Lakeith Stanfield) and even Light’s own police officer father (Shea Whigham) see Kira as a dangerous vigilante who can’t be allowed to operate outside the law.

Ownership of the “Death Note” includes the assistance of a rather nasty advisor in the form of Ryuk, a spikey, wild-eyed demon voiced by Willem Dafoe.  As we all know, demons aren’t the best creatures to strike a deal with as they always find a loophole to exploit, and Ryuk is no exception.  Ryuk’s presence in the film is subtle yet understated, coming in and out at just the right times, sometimes to strike fear in our hearts when he toys with Light, other times to act as comic relief when he heckles the boy.  Ultimately, Ryuk is the one who dispenses the death that Light writes about, so these two are stuck together, for better or worse.

Rounding out the cast is Light’s girlfriend Mia (Margaret Qualley) who, let’s face it, like most women, might be good or evil.  It’s up to Light to find out.

Honestly, it’s rare for me to offer up such fawning praise for a movie but this one really deserves it.  It’s so fresh and new and witty that it gets a standing ovation from me, especially in an era when Hollywood is just spoonfeeding us the same old, tired, recycled drek.

If anyone from Netflix is reading this blog (maybe a Netflix exec is one of my 3.5 readers?) I want to ask them, nay, beg them to turn this movie into a full blown series.  There’s a whole formula as to how the “Death Note” book works, the rules of what the owner is allowed to do and not do and the possibilities for people to use the book for good or evil are limitless…so, yeah, if Netflix were to turn this into a series I would watch the ever living shit out of it.

Yes, I know it’s ironic that I’m lampooning Hollywood for making sequels but, yeah…in this case…this movie was really good…and I want more.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.

Tagged , , ,

5 thoughts on “Movie Review – Death Note (2017)

  1. Karen Gray says:

    Have you tried the original Death Note manga and anime? Death Note is well loved and has been around for a long time, I am kind of surprised it took them so long to make it live action and have it join the ranks of Ghost in the Shell *cough – white washing – cough cough* which I have not watched on principle even though I don’t mind Scarlett Johansson at all, Rouroni Kenshin (not white washed) Black Jack, Black Butler, Assassination Classroom and many many others of the like.

    I just watched the trailer…



    (ok, Memoirs of a GAISHA borrowed some Chinese cast also but that in my opinion is acceptable)

    I’m so mad right now. Like pure raging, and likely this will be added to the pile that I won’t watch on principal because I am an originals kinda girl.

    Glad you enjoyed it mind you, though if you haven’t read/seen the originals you might want to give them a look x

    • Yeah turns out I lied it’s not original as it’s based on an anime but it was new to me so I liked it.

      My one complaint is if the book belongs to Light and only he controls it, why are so many people able to swipe it and write in it while he isn’t looking?

      I didn’t like Ghost in the Shell though to their credit the movie sort of explains why Major is Scarjo.

      • Dave Neal says:

        So, first of all, I want to start off by saying, that if you liked the movie, good for you. A lot of people don’t like it when their beloved series get worked over, but at the end of the day, if someone liked it, then the movie survived its ultimate purpose. Second… the movie does not even compare to the original, in any way, shape, nor form.

        You asked why anyone can touch the book? That’s because even though Light “owns” it, it’s just an object that anyone can take, it just so happens that Ryuk dropped the Death Note and Light found it. Ryuk is immortal and bored of his life in another mundane world, and wanted some excited, so he wanted to see what would happen to our world. He could care less if Light keeps the book, or someone takes it from him, he just happens to find what Light does with the Death Note to be “entertainment”. Nothing more.

        To a lot of people, the “Death Note” Anime was a masterpiece, a really good example of what Anime really is, other than two sweaty dudes punching while firing off lazer beams. The Anime was very detailed, and the Death Note only had a few rules, but they were very specific. Light used it too mostly kill evil people, through a strange sense of “Justice”, and L was ultimately brought on, because obviously the police force could not allow someone to run around judging (and killing people). The original series is decently long, and explores Light’s slow fall in delusion, as he has convinced himself he is some kind of merciful god in order to keep going, and manipulates all people in his life in order to reach his ultimate goals, which shift to a darker tone, the longer he uses the Death Note.

        I highly recommend the Anime, it’s split into two Seasons of about 20+ episodes (you’ll quickly burn through them, trust me, their very interesting and tense). However, if animation is not your cup of tea, you will be happy to know that there is a “Live Action” version of the Anime, essentially the “Netflix Series” you had wished for in your review. I personally have not seen the Live Action Japanese version of Death Note, but as I recall, it was well received by fans. I’m pretty sure both versions of the show (that is to say, Anime and Live Action) have English Voice Acting, and as far as I know, the English Actors did a pretty good job (the Anime Dub was pretty decent anyway.

        The originals were not gory like the version you watched either, so if that was not your cup of tea, you will be happy to know that while the Anime and Live Action have blood and moments involving death, they are generally quick and to the point of making it clear how series things are, the show never originally made it a focus, the show was about Light’s perverse sense of “Justice”, not visceral horror.

        Also, Mia (who is actually called Misa in the original) is completely different that what you know. She wasn’t eager to use the book… she was actually very innocent and naive, instead obsessed with Light and his “Justice”, blindly following him, without realizing he was taking advantage of her unbiased attentions. They were sort of in a “relationship”… but mostly just in Misa’s eyes. Truth is, Light is an asshole. But that is why the original series is so memorable. It follows what seems like a nice person through his descent into madness, and “possible” capture. L was not an overly emotional person, he was the equivalent to a modern day Sherlock Holmes, albeit trapped within the body of a relatively shy, awkward teen super genius, and the fun of the series is watching the “cat and mouse game” between him and Light, as they try to figure each other’s identities out.

        I’ve already said too much about the original series’ as it is, I hope I did not spoil too much for you, because fact is there is more to Death Note than just Light and the book itself, the movie you watched actually chose to focus on a very tiny part of grand fictional world.

        As you can see, I am quite passionate about the series, as it is one of my personal favorites, which after all of these years, I can say I haven’t been able to find many other shows that could hold their chin up with it. I hope you endured this far, and maybe I changed and prepared your mind for something new, if your not familiar with Anime. Thanks for your time.

        PS: Assuming this notification system works right and I’m not lazy, I would be more than willing to go out of my way and find you some safe online sites where you can watch the Anime or Live Actions from your computer (but now that I think about it, the “Death Note” Anime used to be on Netflix, although they may temporarily have removed it when the movie came out).

  2. I think maybe it’s just a situation where if you’ve never been exposed to the concept before, you’ll enjoy the first version you’ve been exposed to, regardless of the form.

    I watched a few episodes of the anime version of YouTube this weekend. It’s good and I can see the differences and can see how a fan of the show might be miffed by the movie.

    Some things I noticed though – for example, in the cartoon, Light meets Ryuk, a scary demon, for the first time and thinks nothing of it. It’s like a new co-worker just introduced himself and they start to work together. In the Netflix version, seeing Ryuk for the first time scares the crap out of Light and I suppose you could make the argument that cartoon Light is so cold he isn’t phased by demons but I just think when you go through life thinking demons are fairy tales and then actually meet one, your reaction is to be scared, no matter how cold you might be.

    Cartoon Light, all in all, seems like an unfeeling prick. Netflix Light seems like the most moral person in the story – he feels a duty to use the Death Note well, to not abuse it for evil and feels an obligation to hold it and keep it from falling into the wrong hands.

    As for Mia, this is an Americanized version and, well, it’s hard to talk about gender differences here without someone getting angry but here goes. Women in America have more rights and opportunities than any other females on the planet. Sure, there’s always room for improvement but all in all, it’s better to be a woman in the USA than say, Iran.

    Sometimes women aren’t sure how to use that freedom and it often baffles American men. American women will, one second, want their man to be tough, to be their protector, to be in charge. Thus, at times, Mia is happy to let Light use the note to defeat the bullies being mean to her. At times, she’s happy to do online research into the baddies but let Light decide whether or not they are worth putting in his notebook.

    But then, the same woman who wants her man to be the boss will, quite often, turn on a dip, flip the script and without warning, demand to be the boss herself. So while in Japan, Misa was probably happy to just be Light’s devoted groupie, here in America, if you’ve got a Death Note, chances are, your girlfriend is going to be torn between her feminine voice telling her, “Just let your man be in charge of the Death Note because it would be too stressful to have your own Death Note” and her feminist voice that says, “WTF? This is 2017! Women should have their own Death Notes too!”

    The anime does a better job of explaining Ryuk. Netflix barely touched it, just that he’s here. Until the anime, I didn’t realize that the demons have their own Death Notes and that Ryuk had gotten so bored he went to Earth to give his Death Note to a random stranger just to see what would happen for entertainment purposes.

    As for the blood, guts, gore and swearing, Netflix rolled the dice here. I can tell you as an adult, the blood and gore and swearing brought it home for me. In the anime version, Light gets the book and then in like the next scene, Ryuk is like, “I can’t believe you wrote down so many names so quickly. No one’s ever done that before.”

    I dunno…see with the anime, it’s for kids so there’s only so much gore and swearing that can be allowed. With the movie, I can see the evil dictator get electrocuted, I can see the evil mobster get impaled on a steak knife, the idea that this book lets a person be God and carry out twisted forms of retribution really sell it by actually seeing it, rather in the anime where you just hear about it.

    But for Netflix, that’s a gamble. Gore and swearing will appeal to adults, but the main characters are high school students, and many adults will see that and flip it off, uninterested in what these kids are up to. Meanwhile, when the subject matter is demons and the setting is a high school, the appeal is mostly going to be for kids and yet, by adding the gore and swears, Netflix risks that any kid in a home where the parents are monitoring what their kids are watching are going to miss out. Honestly, a kid shouldn’t be watching the Netflix version.

    There’s the rub. Gen x and Millenial adults grew up with stuff like this so as adults, they’ll be into a movie like this so Netflix banked on that.

    Last thought, yeah I hate it whenever someone tinkers with something I liked to make a reboot. However, I always remember the old version I liked better still exists and if anything, the reboot might inspire more people to watch the old version. More people will see the Netflix version and will go seek out the anime.

    Thanks for sharing. Your comments were insightful.

    • Dave Neal says:

      I’m an adult too, but the gore just seems to be for shock effect. Seeing all The Anime was definitely not for kids (and most of them aren’t), as it handles mature concepts. Just because an animated show doesn’t have limbs being torn off and constant swearing doesn’t mean that it was meant for children. The deaths are shown shortly or off-screen to keep things focused on the moment, rather than the act itself, as the show is about morality and justice, rather than gore and jump-scares. Keep in mind that the Anime was done in 2006, so it was a different Era and unhindered by all the arguments of today, as you mentioned we have to be careful about who we anger.

      I live in the US, so I totally get the differences in culture and what they were trying to accomplish, but because you saw the US Movie then a few episodes of the Anime, you are missing some certain points, that I wanted to point out. However, if I was going to compare the Death Note Anime to anything American, the closest thing that I would say fits, is Breaking Bad. Both are well written, and while not gory, were quite bloody and covered very difficult issues, while involving the main character’s decent into madness. As series, there almost identical really, although Walter White was more sympathetic (in the first season, anyway). In fact, I imagine the same problems would arise if Breaking Bad had a movie of it made.

      Getting started: first of all, it’s a psychological thing. Yes, Light does have very little reaction to Ryuk when they initially meet, but it’s obvious at this point that there is something off with Light, he has no real emotions, like he’s a sociopath or something. He pretty much thinks he is doing the right thing, and when Ryuk comments about how he has not seen so many names written in a Death Note so quickly, its more of a look into Light’s mentality, and intellect, because Light was prepared for some kind of supernatural repercussion for using the Death Note, even if it meant being dragged to hell, which sets up his resolve for much darker things later.

      That’s the biggest problem fans have with the two versions you’ve seen. See, in the original series, you were never meant to sympathize with Light beyond the first episode. Once you realize his real, selfish intentions and the fact that he is basically a serial killer who is willing to even take out innocent people, you know that what he is doing is wrong, and essentially cheer for the people gunning for him, even though they are up against overwhelming odds. Whereas in the US Movie, they make you sympathize with him, giving him a reason to do what he does and make him out to be some kind of Saint, which is exactly what the original Light would have wanted, but did not deserve.

      The one other big thing I want to point out here is cultural differences. See, in Japan, they highly value things like intellect and being good at school, whereas in the US, people like that would be branded a nerd, and treated differently. So the Anime was essentially addressing an upstanding, super popular smart boy that many people would choose as their ideal leader… except that in truth he is a twisted young man with wicked aspirations. Light had everything, he had no “sane” reason to be doing what he was, and L profiles him as a “spoiled childish person who wants everything” as a result of his delusions. In the US version, he is being picked on, so you feel bad for poor weak Light, and compelled to side with him. Light is not a hero though, he is a villain. No one person should have final judgement over a person’s life, for example, in the US we have a “jury of peers”.

      In the US version, L is emotional and unstable, and frankly not explored in all of his complicated layers. In the Anime, L has feelings, he is a person, but he’s paranoid and calculating, he knows they are up against some kind of invisible terror that can kill people on the other side of the world, and is constantly testing those around him, not just in a chess game against Light, but against the police department, to root out anyone that may try to hinder him. He is rich, but when he waits until those helping him are dwindled down to just 5, before explaining that he was prepared to take care of them financially for the rest of their lives for risking themselves helping him, because he wants to be sure that they are willing to go as far as risk their families and their financial security in order to preserve justice and honor.

      L is also very awkward, with the way he sits and basically never leaves his house and only eats junk food, which is exactly what Japanese people would see as a nerd, drawing two parallels between them both, even though L is a very social person… he is just “different”, than the norm. In fact, Light and L are beside each other in public at one point, and a bunch of girls state that Light is so “interesting and attractive” and day dream about him, while making fun of a girl who said L was interesting himself, stating “there is something wrong with you, any sane person would chose Light over the other!”, obviously not knowing who the real Light really is.

      As for Misa, yes, she is essentially Light’s groupie in the Anime, if you want to put it that way. When they finally meet, she flat out tells him that she is his “to use”, although Light does not keep her around, because he is attracted to her. So I guess it’s time for a bit of spoilers I was trying to avoid, but since the Anime was not your cup of tea, I don’t think you will be watching much more anyway.

      So I need to correct you here regarding your thoughts on US “Mia”, because in the Anime, Misa DOES have her own Death Note. In fact, she even made a deal with her Death God and was given their eyes, which effectively allows her to see people’s true names and when they will die. So technically speaking, she is more powerful than Light in the series. However, she is no where near his intellect, and the reason she seems like a completely weak willed “groupie”, is because at a young age, her parents were murdered in front of her, yet despite knowing who did it, the case fumbled around the justice system for years, until it got to the point where the killer actually got off the hook due to some minor technicality that called off the case. This is when “Kira” stepped in and killed the one responsible for her parents death.

      As a result, she came to idolize the person he represented, and sought him out, in a way that actually results in the police almost catching Light, as he was in the middle of a very tightly done cat and mouse with L. When Misa finally hunts down Light all on her own (something the police had failed to do for like half a year) and finds out that not only is he roughly her age, but ALSO rather attractive and the top student in that area of Japan who is about to start college, she falls head over heels in love with him.

      However, the real dark truth is that the interactions between Light and Misa actually represent what an abusive relationship looks like. He sees her as an object, his “weapon” because she possesses the eyes, eyes he needs in order to kill L. She offers him her phone number, with good intentions because she has feelings with him… he accepts it, but does not give back his, instead saying its “risky” and he will call her if he “needs” her. At the same time, in her own naive way, Misa is actually trying to save Light, by placing him in a healthy scenario, as his interactions with her don’t go unnoticed by his family and she becomes known as his girlfriend, although this further develops Light’s mentality, as he still doesn’t care about “trivial” stuff like “love”, only his “justice”.

      Misa even represents unhealthy fixations as well, as she immediately latches onto Light for mental comfort, having long decided that he is this white knight who is somehow protecting her from everything… when really he is tolerating her existence, because IF he angers her… she just may snap and kill him with her eyes. Her introduction to the series actually does throw some interesting curve balls into the mix, helping and screwing up Light’s plans for quite a while, as her obsession with him complicates things.

      Anyway, there is still a lot more to what the Anime has to offer, I really only scratched the surface, as obviously a 40+ episode show has more character detail to offer than any 2 hour movie. If you think you can separate the Movie from the Anime and keep an open mind, I think you would enjoy it for what it really is: essentially a psychological “how catch’em” thriller. The Anime isn’t entirely dark too, there are some funny moments. Despite how cold-hearted they pretend to be, Light and L are still human, and drop their guard sometimes. Misa’s existence may to be a grim reminder to how Light abuses people, but her bubbly innocence generally lightens a lot of the moods.

      At the very least, no matter what everyone thinks of the the US Version, I am grateful for the movie for existing, as it has caused a massive interest to spur in the original content, as expected with the Information Age we live in. In fact, after posting my last response, I basically sat up all night, watching most of the first season again, and reliving that same feeling I felt 10 years ago when I first stumbled upon the series through a friend on Yahoo messenger, back when people still used Yahoo, haha. Anyway, you have my [extensive] thoughts, take them with a grain of salt, I suppose.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: