Death Note (2017)

death note poster 2017 movie netflix
5.5 Overall Score
Story: 4/10
Acting: 5/10
Visuals: 7/10

Interesting concept

Poorly executed, scripted bogged down by too much plot

Movie Info

Movie Name:   Death Note

Studio:   LP Entertainment

Genre(s):   Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Release Date(s):   August 25, 2017

MPAA Rating:   Not Rated

death note light mia ryuk nat wolff margaret qualley willem dafoe

A boy, a girl, and their demon who become international vigilante killers together probably doesn’t work out well

Light Turner (Nat Wolff) is angry.  His mother was killed by a man who got off due to his ties and his officer father (Shea Whigham) doesn’t seem as angry as he should be.  When Light is approached by a demon named Ryuk who offers to turn the tables on his enemies, Light decides to take Ryuk’s offer.  Ryuk gives Light the “Death Note” where Light can write the names down of the people he wants dead.  Light realizes the opportunity allows him to avenge his mother and change the world.  When he and his new girlfriend Mia (Margaret Qualley) initiate “Kira” as a worldwide means of vengeance, Light attracts the attention of an unnamed detective named L (Lakeith Stanfield)…and Light learns Ryuk’s “help” might not be as genuine as he thought.

Directed by Adam Wingard, Death Note is a horror fantasy based on the Japanese manga by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata which ran from 2003-2006.  The film premiered on Netflix on August 25, 2017 and received mixed reviews after controversies of “whitewashing” by adapting the story with an American cast.

death note l speech lakeith stanfield

I’m a really crappy detective…

Whitewashing is always a controversial aspect of adapting anything.  More so than replacing actors of various ethnic backgrounds, it is more of a culture appropriation…not just the color of the actors.  The question has to be asked, should a viewer be offended if the story was French (like Snowpiercer) and no one French was cast?  Or the reverse when an English story is appropriated by a different culture?  Is it just race or is it something more?  Regardless, Death Note has problems that stand independent of the whitewashing issue.

The story for Death Note has a decent start with good moral questions.  The Death Note itself seems to have random rules to force questions and issues later on in the movie.  The movie’s rather simple background gets convoluted really quickly with the arrival of the super-sleuth L and issues between Light and Mia.  This all boils up into a really unnecessarily confusing ending which has a strange summation after Light wakes from his coma (I really didn’t get the whole part with the doctor and pedophile which seemed shoehorned into the story…it felt like something that was probably in the manga that was added to the movie unnecessarily).

death note ryuk willem dafoe hospital

I may be back!

The casting wasn’t helped by the cluttered script.  No one in the cast really seemed to develop a personality.  Nat Wolff wasn’t a strong enough actor to emote enough of the story and Margaret Qualley was pretty transparent as the turncoat Mia.  Shea Whigham was underused and Lakeith Stanfield was hard to get a read on as the detective who does a really crappy job in dealing with what he uncovers.  The saving grace was the creepy Ryuk who was voiced by Willem Dafoe, but it isn’t strong enough to hold the movie.

Visually, the movie plays like a manga.  The direction is very snappy (like Quentin Tarantino, but even more panel driven).  Unfortunately, the script feels panel driven as well and this plus the direction leads you into feeling you are reading a comic, but it loses a lot of emotion and character in the process…which doesn’t have to happen as seen in recent comic book movies.

Death Note is a rather dull horror movie that just feels like it combines crazy death aspects of Final Destination with other horror tropes.  The film is set-up for a sequel at the end but it is unknown as of now if that sequel will take form.  I can’t gauge the original manga, but the movie doesn’t work.  I’m ok if Death Note is allowed to die.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

One Comment on "Death Note (2017)"

  1. maddison June 24, 2019 at 12:16 am - Reply

    oh my god this movie disgusts me as a weeb it muddles the story the reason Ryuk is unkillable is BOGUS in the manga and anime light was a smart kid and in the movie, light shows the death note to the first cute girl he sees and don’t get me started on the design on Ryuk it manages to horrify and disgust me at the exact same time! God I wish for this film to have a slow and agonising death and if you liked this film please go watch the original anime or even better read the manga it will change your opinion DRASTICALLY and open your eyes

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