Death Note (2017) Movie Review by Darrin Gauthier

Director: Adam Wingard
Writers: Charley Parlapanides (screenplay), Vlas Parlapanides (screenplay)
Stars: Nat Wolff, Lakeith Stanfield, Margaret Qualley

Plot:  Light Turner, a bright student, stumbles across a mystical notebook that has the power to kill any person whose name he writes in it. Light decides to launch a secret crusade to rid the streets of criminals. Soon, the student-turned-vigilante finds himself pursued by a famous detective known only by the alias L.

Running Time: 1 hour 41 minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 43%   Audience  26%

Why I Watched it: I know of the anime series and the manga, the trailer looked interesting and I wanted to see what Adam Wingard could do with the source material.

Random Thoughts: This is a Netflix Original Movie and it dropped on August 25th and I had already heard bad buzz about the film, now I will say this Death Note is  hugely popular, you have the anime series, live action the manga so there were fans waiting to see this and of course they were waiting with their knives out cause Death Note has a passionate fan base.  Of course the bad buzz comes from all the changes that were made, so my review will be about the movie I saw and not the earlier material.  I will say this from what I read and what I know, yeah major changes.

What I liked: The set up and what this note book The Death Note can do is a really cool premise, the death God voiced by Willem Dafoe is odd and a little scary and of course with Dafoe’s voice he’s creepy as hell.  The idea that you could write someone’s name in a book and kill them is a very good idea, it sets up right versus wrong, sets up playing God, fun stuff to play with in a horror/fantasy film. I want to single out the acting, Lakeith Stanfield is very good as L, he’s the best thing in this.  He plays a very weird, different, smart character but he does it in a very unique way, the way he moves, the way he thinks and acts is very impressive, it’s a full performance.  Shea Whigham is pretty much a plot device as Nat Wolfe’s dad but he’s very good here, he’s not a cliche at all, he seems a loving father and he has some really nice moments.  My favorite part is the tension with Stanfield and Whigham near the end there’s a scene at the dinner table that is so good between them, the tension is very high and the emotion is good, better than the actually finale.

What I didn’t like: The first part is decent to good but man the wheels fall off badly by the end.  The main problem with this is they take such a big and expansive world of the source material  and they try to jam it into 1 hour and 41 minutes, too much is loss here, it feels rushed and they take way too many shortcuts and it hurts not only the story but the characters as well.  One wonders why they didn’t make it a limited series at Netflix even if it was four episodes try and make it fuller and have more impact.  Right at the beginning the Death Note falls from the sky and Nat Wolfe just picks it up, I mean no build up, we know nothing yet, we don’t know him at all so we’re not invested at all.  The whole movie is like that, even the character of L should be so much more, if they took the time they could have developed a relationship between the two main characters, L is very smart and of course Light as the Death Note, could be fun cat and mouse and also we could explore each character, what they believe in.

I really didn’t like what they did with Margaret Qualley’s character she’s a cheerleader, nice character description, of course she goes with Light and of course they become drunk with power and of course she becomes darker and tries to manipulate the situation.  The big problem is we don’t know who she is, she ends up as almost the main villain.  I had some problems with some of the acting but it wasn’t the main problem, I blame the script and I blame the director Wingard for not taking more care with this material.  The effects are cheap looking, the gore doesn’t do anything for the story. The worst part is near the end and a couple of songs they play, it’s jarring cause they’re cheesy as hell and they don’t fit what came before it. Bad choices, as I said the wheels come off big time by the end, characters make choices that don’t make sense, they even resort to the old “talking killer” we have a character have to tell us what he did and why, and yes two characters end up hanging off a ferris wheel.

Final Thoughts: It’s too bad cause as we know there’s a good story here, and I will say there’s some things to like here but the longer this film went the more I didn’t like it.

Rating: 4/10

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