By Ryan Keating-Lambert
An interesting concept that could go so many ways, but in the end, it chooses the most ridiculous. Death Note’s characters have motivations so illogical and out-of-the-blue, that even the actors seem confused.
High-schooler Light Turner (Nat Wolff) comes across the magical ‘Death Note’ notebook, that will kill anyone whose name is written down. With the help of the books accompanying death god ‘Ryuk’ (Willem Dafoe) and cheerleader girlfriend Mia Sutton (Margaret Qualley), Light embarks on a secret crusade to rid the world of criminals.
First of all, Death Note is based a popular Japanese manga series that hit it big all over the world. From the series a number of Japanese films were made and now there’s this adaptation by Director Adam Wingard (The Guest, You’re Next).
Wingard has made a bit of a name for himself on the indie horror scene but seems to have been somewhat rushed with this film. Death Note’s biggest issue seems to be with its incomprehensible and maniacal characters. There’s no evidence of motivation or careful staging here as the film obviously rushes to fit an entire manga series into 80 minutes.
Both Light and Mia go from policing do-gooders to obsessive killers in the space of 10 minutes, especially Mia who is almost laughable towards the third act. Both actors also struggle to keep up with their characters as they squander about with unconvincing and awkward facial expressions right up until the explosive finale.
However, Light’s genius opponent and tracker ‘L’ was played reasonably well by Get Out’s Lakeith Stanfield, even if the character’s back story was never fully fleshed out. And surprisingly Willem Dafoe’s ‘Ryuk’ isn’t given much screen time aside from the occasional comment and background shadow. What a waste of talent.
In a nutshell, Death Note has been dumbed down and become yet another failed manga adaptation. Perhaps director Wingard is better suited to indie as his adaptation of Blair Witch appeared to suffer as well.
Death Note is now available to stream on Netflix.