This adaptation of the much acclaimed manga series is hilariously bad. All the sequences, from the first to the very last, carry director Adam Wingard’s immensely nauseating hyper-stylistic stamp.
It’s also pretty clear that he probably put more thought into frames than he did into the people and demon gods alike.
Netflix’s Death Note hopes to hop onto the reference literature built by the Japanese efforts. And like most live action endeavours, it was doomed to fail.
Mr Wingard and his screenwriters Charley Parlapanides, Vlas Parlapanides and Jeremy Slater inspire the same sort of laughter in you that a friend flunking an elaborate stunt might.
For the uninitiated, Death Note was first published in 2003 as a manga series by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. Since then it has inspired three live-action movies, an anime series, video games and some cool looking stationery.
If you haven’t heard of Death Note before, please read the manga, or watch the anime. For all the other interested parties, Netflix’s adaptation is a prime example of what happens when you take the anime out of anime and put it through a round of thorough whitewashing – you’re left with a putrid bleeding carcass.
10 minutes in:
It has a Donnie Darko/Final Destination vibe going. A leather bound book drops from the sky. The keeper of the book is bestowed with the power to kill anyone on the planet by scribbling their name and cause of death in the book.
Light Turner played by Nat Wolff is the unfortunate kid. He is also accosted by a certain death god called Ryuk (pronounced ree-yook) whose character is voiced by Willem Dafoe, notorious for his role as the Green Goblin in Spider-Man.
Light Turner is based on Light Yagami, the anti-hero of the Japanese version. Yagami’s character worked because he was cold, calculating and compelling. Light Turner carries an intertextual vulnerability that makes most of the things he does, out of character.
Unfortunately, we can’t credit anybody on Netflix’s payroll for Ryuk’s character concept or design. His shiny eyes are perhaps the only plot devices that make you flip – or feel anything at all. The CGI feels out of place, like it’s a plastic toy that, if you put a match to, would burn with an acrid smell.
20 minutes in:
If this was an attempt to soak your spine in horror, it fails miserably. The only development to the premise set in the first few minutes: Light begins to kill all the most-wanted criminals in the world and adopts ‘Kira’ as his moniker.
25 minutes in:
Feel free to skip most of it. Actually just find something else to watch.
30 minutes in:
Cue Mia (played by Margaret Qualley), who is crazy, horny and bloodthirsty. The two rake up around 400 dead criminals in-between their love making sessions. They also have an oddly twitchy super smart detective called L, played by Lakeith Stanfield, on their backs.
At this point, the plot compression implodes and you need to settle for elaborately executed murders. And for Vancouver pretending to be Seattle.
40 minutes in:
You let the screen emit some background radiation while you do laundry and cook something. You debate whether killing the villain outside a lawful framework is immoral.
50 minutes in:
You give up on keeping track of things. When you witness the death of a very important character in super slow-mo and cheesy music, you are allowed to close tab and call that one of the poorer decisions of your life.