Death Note, an anime series from 2006, is a cult classic. It is a unique and thought provoking story, blending psychological horror with cat and mouse crime drama. The show serves as a gateway to the anime genre, one of the shows that found mainstream appreciation. Naturally, someone in Hollywood floated the idea of a westernised live action movie.
The trailer for Netflix’s live action adaptation polarised fans. Some found the remake stylish and dramatic, they were excited to see the finished product. Others accused the producers of ‘white washing’. Politics aside, Netflix’s adaptation of a fiercely protected source material, is fantastic.
From the first few minutes it is clear that this version of Light is very different to that of the anime. At first I thought the movie version made more sense, now I see them as two sides of the same coin.
The anime version of the protagonist has it all. He is an almost genius level prodigy with a perfect family life. He appears more like a politician than a student. Therefore, it follows that he would have a god complex after receiving the power of the Death Note. He sees himself as the person to nurture humanity into a utopian society.
On the other hand, Netflix’s version is the angsty, bullied teen that is angry at the world. This Light Turner is a loner, he watches people do bad things from the outside and he thinks he can make the world a better place.
The world that surrounds Light Turner is fascinating and enthralling. Once again Netflix releases an in-house product that takes you into another world and encourages repeat viewing. Not only is it stylish and dramatic, but it is also full of subtext and foreshadowing. This leaves you with a feeling of things coming full circle.
An example of this is Light and Mia’s first trip to the ferris wheel. They disagree on what to do with the Death Note and Light angrily tells her it is fortunate the book belongs to him. The scene closes with her staring at him as a reaction. The movie’s climax brings them both back to a pod on the ferris wheel, once again fighting over the Death Note. This time, leading to Mia’s untimely death.
Willem Dafoe’s voice accompanies the soundtrack masterfully, weaving cinematic magic. Dafoe plays the death god, Ryuk. The character was a very dramatic element of the TV series so it was wise of Netflix to cast Dafoe as the voice actor. His unnerving portrayal of the death god was an integral part of the grand finale’s effectiveness.
In the final sequence, Ryuk delivers an iconic line of his TV counterpart: ‘You humans are…interesting’. The line is delivered to Light, who lays in his hospital bed, as the reality of his situation comes crashing down around him. It is the first time we have gotten a proper look at Ryuk and he looks frightening as he directs a knowing and menacing cackle at Turner.
Meanwhile, Light’s nemesis, L has located a page of the book. Having gone insane in his pursuit of ‘Kira’ he seems to be moments away from writing his name in the book, killing him. It is a chilling moment, a horror movie style ending of the cycle beginning again. The message is that power corrupts all that it touches.
In short, the producers at Netflix did a superb job with some pretty impressive source material. They are even talking about a sequel. There is a lot more material that they could adapt, I sincerely hope they do.