Before we actually get to the meat of the review, there are a couple of things I need to get out of the way.
The part where I talk about Char Siew.
The whole issue of “whitewashing” will not be factored into the review, though, it begs for an interesting conversation. Some people are pissed off that Japanese (or at the very least Asians) actors were not cast in the lead roles. After all, Netflix’s Death Note is based on the Japanese manga and anime of the same name. I’m not too bothered. This isn’t a historical story nor is it a historical-esque story (i.e Mulan). If the upcoming live action Mulan is set in China but has a white girl playing the titular character, I would be right there with you with my giant flaming pitchfork. China doesn’t need a white saviour.
When I discovered that Narendra from The Social Network is actually played by Max Minghella, a WHITE GUY, I spit out the Char Siew I was munching on in disgust. They should have hired an Indian guy to play an Indian guy. Instead, they chose brown facing and caused me to waste delicious Char Siew. But the Netflix Death Note situation is different.
These aren’t white people (and black people) playing Japanese characters. The filmmakers took the Japanese anime/manga and created an American version of it. Netflix Death Note is set in AMERICA and features American people. Some are white, some are black. Light is a white guy played by Nat Wolff. L is a black guy played by Keith Stanfield. It’s not like their names are Kerichi and Hiroyuki. Calm your tits people. This is more than fine.
Also, I’ve never actually read the manga or watched a single episode of the original anime. And so I can’t and won’t compare it to the source material, which I hear is awesome. With that said, let’s get cracking.
The part where I actually review the movie.
Death Note has an interesting premise. A young boy is presented with a magical notebook that allows him to have anybody around the world killed just by writing down their names and thinking of their face. What would you do if you were given Godlike abilities? How will you use it? Will you use it at all? You have the ability to kill the pedophile down the street, the rapist that got away or your mom’s abusive ex-husband. Heck, you can kill OJ freaking Simpson and it’ll take you less than two seconds. It seems easy from the outside, doesn’t it? Of course, i’ll kill them! Kill them all! But when push comes to shove, do you have the stomach for it? Most people don’t. Which is why in firing squads, there is more than one shooter. Some of the guns are filled with blanks. The shooters don’t know which guns have real bullets and which ones have blanks. This helps them sleep at night. You can go to bed thinking, maybe, just maybe it wasn’t you that shot the real bullets and killed a man. It’s disappointing that Netflix’s Death Note failed to explore these areas.
20 minutes or so into the movie Light mentions in passing that he and his girlfriend, Mia has killed over 400 people using the Death Note. Really? In the span of a couple of weeks, you guys killed 400 people? Just like that? It’s that easy, huh? It is at this point, that I immediately stopped caring. How can I care about a story, if the writing of the lead character fails on a fundamental level? Perhaps it would make more sense if Light is a psychopath, except nothing in this movie, suggests that he is. This has nothing to do with Nat Wolff’s performance, which is slightly more than decent. He did the best he could with the material he was given.
Light’s girlfriend is also trigger-happy, even more so than Light. She gets angry when Light tries to get rid of the book. I get what director Adam Wingard along with his screenwriters were trying to accomplish. Sometimes, when you’re given so much power, it starts to corrupt you. It becomes an ugly addiction. Much like Smeagol in The Lord of the Rings. But the screenplay is so thin, that it doesn’t make sense how and why Mia (Margaret Qualley) would find killing people such an easy task. Who is she as a person? Why is she this way? Literally, the only thing we know about her is the fact that she’s a cheerleader. “I’m a cheerleader,” she says with such oomph. I guess we’re supposed to go, “OHHHH!! She’s a cheerleader. No wonder she likes killing people. I get it now.”
Was she bullied? Did she join cheerleading as a means to drown out childhood traumas? Why? What? When? How? Like I said, I eventually stopped caring.
In the trailers, we see Ryuk the Death God: A scary looking entity that lurks in the shadows. In the movie, Ryuk lurks in the shadows for a bit, but then he sorta gets bored of being the evil scary dude. So, he chooses to chill out in the light instead, exposing his comical rubbery hands, cracking jokes and eating apples. It’s an absolute boner-killer. But, William Dafoe has so much charm and charisma, that he manages to make the character entertaining. In fact, the material is so crappy, the performances are what saved it from being regurgitated ballsacks.
This movie brings up another interesting concept:
The part that should’ve had nudity.
Is it even possible to get rid of evil altogether?
Again, it’s probably mentioned once in the most nonchalant way before moving on to other seemingly more important things like, 101 nonsensical ways to kill someone OR we-just-killed-someone-celebration-sex OR making out in the rain OR perhaps the most riveting philosophical question in all of mankind: What will you do if someone else tries to f*ck me? It’s cheesy bullsh*t and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t somewhat entertained by its ridiculousness.
It reminded me of the Final Destination franchise also known as The Ultimate Background Noise franchise. The Final Destination movies aren’t good, consisting mostly of nonsensical death scenes and teen angst. But if you need to watch something for 15 minutes while you’re having dinner, it’s perfect. It doesn’t even matter which point of the movie you start at, either. Beginning, middle, end? Who cares? Want something to watch while doing your laundry? Final Destination it is. Netflix’s Death Note is like that too. It’s not good enough to warrant your attention, but good enough to keep you entertained while you’re feeding your fish.
Death Note will be out on Netflix on 25 August.
Hey, you! Yes you, hot stuff. Are you looking forward to Netflix’s Death Note? Does it matter that there are no Japanese actors? Leave a comment below and let me know whatchu think.
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