‘Death Note’ Review From the Eyes of A Newbie

Okay. So you read the title and you clicked. By now you know what you’re getting yourself into. A review about a film that’s based on an anime which I have never seen. Yes, that’s right. I have never seen the original ‘Death Note anime. I have heard of it before and even know that Taylor Swift wrote a hit song based on it. With that being said, I will do this review more as if the film is a standalone rather than make heavy comparisons to the source the film is based on since I do not feel qualified to do. Now that that’s out of the way let’s get onto the review.

(Caution: Some spoilers ahead)

In Death Note a high schooler, Light Turner (Nat Wolff), comes across a mysterious book that when in ones possession, that person has the ability to write down anyones name and have them killed in any physically possible way. While using the book for what Light and his girlfriend Mia (Margaret Qualley) think is the good of humanity, they go overboard and catch the attention of the authorities as well as super detective “L” (Lakeith Stanfield). Now the chase is on for L to catch Light before more people die. 

The premise of the film is both unique and interesting. Even though L finds out pretty early on who is in charge of all of these mass killings, although that is the main drive of the film, it still found a way to keep me interested and that is thanks to the subplots that surround the book. All of the subplots have to do with different relationships that Light has. One is with a very creepy character Ryuk. Ryuk is super creepy voiced by Willem Dafoe who channels his inner Green Goblin to give a chilling voice that makes the character one of the creepiest of all time. The character is basically the conscience of whoever possesses the Death Note book and this makes for a power struggle between Ryuk and Light’s own conscience. Also added into that mix Light’s girlfriend Mia. Mia adds another interesting dynamic to the story because she’s all for what Death Note stands for. She does not care who gets hurt as long as it means that the lesser of the evil prevail.

When it comes to the cast, it’s a touchy subject. I remember that when news broke about the cast of the film, it was quite controversial. Of course everybody has their own opinions and especially fans of the original anime. What I can say is that Willem Dafoe, Shea Whigham and rising star Lakeith Stanfield are a pretty good way to add clout to a project. When it comes to Nat Wolff, he’s mostly known for his work in love stories and he gets to somewhat channel that role but add some much needed darkness to it. He and Margaret Qualley have some decent chemistry, good enough to keep the story moving.

As for where the setting of the film, much of it takes place in Little Japan part of Seattle. It’s a smart way to go about it but not sure if it will be totally satisfying for fans. There are a lot of neon lights (mainly red and blue) that standout even more since the film is filled with darker tones.

What I liked is that Adam Wingard managed to make the film gory. Of course when you do a project with Netflix you are able to get away with more than you would with a film that would be released in theaters because of the rating system. Like I said before, I have never seen the original anime but I get the feeling that it is far more gory. The action shots in the film were done pretty well. From the gory scenes of bodies being decapitated to later  scenes in the third act that are reminiscent of Stranger Things. Which brings me to the music in the film.

Netflix stuck with a sound in which they have revived known as the 80’s. It worked for Netflix on ‘Stranger Things‘ and ‘GLOW so why not going with it again? Although I liked most of the soundtrack used in this Death Note film and it finds ways to fit into the film, it made me feel like I have already seen much of the 80’s element used too frequently as of late. I hope Netflix does not try this 80’s soundtrack much more unless it is in fact a project that takes place in the 80’s.

So is does this film stand on its own? Yes it does. There’s more than enough going on in the film that if the main plot does not interest you, one of the subplots definitely will. A good thing that this film made me do is want to go back and watch the anime.




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