You’ve probably heard by now that Netflix has adapted Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s Death Note. You’ve also likely heard that it’s terrible–and what you’ve heard is correct. Netflix decided to take this mega-popular Japanese manga and twist it and Americanize the absolute crap out of it. Light Yagami was whitewashed into Light Turner and they dropped the whole thing into Seattle. Light Turner (Nat Wolff) is nothing like his source material; he doesn’t seem cool and calculating, he does not seem like a genius and he certainly doesn’t seem like the kind of person that’s able to go head to head with somebody as capable as L.
That brings me, of course, to one of the moderate bright spot of the whole mess. L, played by Lakeith Stanfield, is actually pretty close to the L that you’ll discover in the original manga. He’s brilliant, quirky, and interesting and they surprisingly didn’t whitewash him. Unfortunately, we don’t get enough of him. In the blitz that is this made-for-Netflix movie we instead get broad brush stroked plot lines that loosely connect to the source material.
Sure, adaptations from one medium to the next are not usually faithful, or at least not completely, but in a time when we get the films that Marvel Studios produces, and to a lesser extent DC (excluding Gotham because that doesn’t count as anything) is there really any excuse for this garbage fire? I really don’t think so. At least Ryuk is voiced by Willem Dafoe.
That’s another minor point in favor of this Death Note. Who doesn’t want the mighty Willem Dafoe cackling like a lunatic for almost two hours? Well, okay, we don’t get a lot of Ryuk–probably due to budgetary constraints–but what we do get is another character that at least is close enough to the source to be passable. And, again, Willem Dafoe.
Even with the few marginal spots that seem to shine, Death Note is a mess. Light Turner is a screaming, homework cheating fool; Mia (probably some half-assed attempt at Misa Amane) is one-dimensional and without her own Shinigami (Death God) which makes her extra boring and Light’s father is a shell of his source-self. L and Ryuk are barely passable, but their scenes are too few and always sharing space with Light Turner (who is terrible, if you didn’t get that part) and it’s all not enough to save this.
Do not, repeat do not, bother with this travesty. Netflix has the anime if you are not willing to dip your toes in manga, but if anything about this story interests you, then read the manga. It’s stellar and more than worth your time. VIZ Media is releasing an all-in-one edition soon, so pick that up. But, really, avoid this at all costs. It’s not worth anybody’s time.