Death Note

Death Note ★★★

"Death Note" isn't a total disaster, but it's an Incredibly frustrating viewing experience. I went into this film with mixed emotions as a fan of both the manga and anime. Whilst also as a big fan of Adam Wingard's previous films, especially "The Guest". There are a few positive things going for this film, firstly it goes without saying that being an Adam Wingard film it has a killer synth-pop soundtrack. This is also his best looking film to date. The film has a stylish moody tone that is interjected with splashes of vibrant neon scenes that illuminate the city of Seattle.

One of the biggest issues about this film is that it tries to adapt the first 25 episodes of the anime. This makes the film feel incredibly rushed as a lot of the manga's mythos is skipped over or relegated to the sideline. This is especially the case with Ryuk, a shinigami (death god) that deliberately allows the Death Note to fall to Earth, but unlike the anime, it makes no sense as to why he allows it to happen in the first place. In the manga he 'accidentally' loses the book to see what a human would do with it out of boredom, but here it seems like he's doing it to just kill as many people as possible. Despite the unclear motivations of Ryuk he's played with menacing fervour by Willem Dafoe, in a role he was born to play.

This also leads me to my biggest complaint with the film, the writing, and the characteristics of the two lead characters. Nat Wolff does a fairly decent job as Light, even as the writers severely dumb down his intellect. Don't go into this film expecting a mental sparring match with L. The one aspect I did like, was that they gave him much better motivation as to why he would initially use the Death Note, and his rationale behind that decision.

However, with that said, the weakest aspect of this film is the characterisation of L, they simply messed up his character. None of his brilliant deductive abilities are shown, or expanded upon in this film, they also make him reckless and impulsive which goes against everything he stands for. I also thought that Lakeith Stanfield's performance was incredibly dull, he displayed zero charisma or likeability, and every time he tried to exhibit any of L's quirks it felt forced and silly.

One of the films biggest positives is Margaret Qualley, she gives the best performance in the film. She's fantastic as Mia, and is an improvement on her anime counterpart. She's more involved with the plot, and does well holding her own next to Light and L.

Overall "Death Note" is a mixed bag, whilst I'm glad they tried to go in a different direction with certain characters it felt too forceful and undid what made the characters interesting in the first place. The script tries to juggle way too many plot lines, and unfortunately drops most of them. "Death Note" is an enjoyable film, but it's not without a couple of major flaws. The film could've easily been improved if the writers put better care into the script, and what made the characters great in the first place. This film had a lot of potential, but it really should of been a ten episode mini-series that would've allowed the writers time to fully flesh out the story.

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