Movie review: Death Note
Differing slightly from the manga on which it is based, Death Note the movie starts with Light Yagami as a disillusioned law student who happens upon a notebook left in the rain. He reads the notebook’s instructions – about how anyone who’s name is written in it will die of a heart attack 40 seconds later – but disregards it as nonsense. Little does he know that the book was dropped on earth by a Shinigami (death god), almost in answer to Light’s search for justice.
From then on, except for a radical and less than successful diversion at the end, the story mirrors the manga, so check out that synopsis for more.
You would think a movie adaptation of Death Note would be a no-brainer. In the manga, you have a brilliant story, thrilling dialogue and what is essentially a series of storyboards. But the first thing the movie’s producers seemed to do was write the name of the film in their own notebook, sentencing it do die of inaction after two hours.
They didn’t seem to notice that Death Note is supposed to be a thriller, a constant battle for survival and oneupmanship. They also didn’t tell Tatsuya Fujiwara, who portrayed Light Yagami, that he’s supposed to do more than just brood and smirk. In fact, they made his character completely two dimensional – negating any empathy we could have for him.
The film’s creators also decided to stray from the manga in some key moments – both in terms of the complexity of Light’s battle with L and the final scenes which don’t exsist in the manga at all. The result is that too much is left unexplained and seems to just happen, making many actions seem unmotivated.
The entire movie moves at a slow, plodding pace – the exact opposite of the page turning manga. But just in case you think it’s not fair to compare the two, I watched the movie with a friend who hasn’t read the manga and the movie also fell flat for him.
However, despite veering away from the manga, the movie retains all of its important characters. We have Ryuk the Shinigami – magically brought to life by incredible CGI work – L, well acted with all his eccentricities, L’s assistant Watari, the pop princess Misa Misa and Light’s father – played by Chairman Takeshi Kaga from Iron Chef. More than once I found myself wishing Kaga would bite into a yellow pepper and shout “Allez! Cuisine!” to kick start some action.
What worries me about this movie is the rumours swirling around that Hollywood is interested in Death Note. I can only hope they go back to the manga for inspiration and not this bland adaptation.