DISCLAIMER: If this movie will be your introduction to the Death Note series, then I implore you DO NOT WATCH THIS MOVIE!! I highly recommend that you watch the original 37 episode anime series. Hell, even the Japanese live action movies were a better intro into the series. Hell, even the 2015 live action drama, was better… Please, if you listen to nothing else in this review please take my above recommendations into consideration. Ladies and Gentlemen, as always I am The Gentleman Snark, let’s try to dissect this series. Here I thought Light Up the New World was bad…
Warning: Spoilers will be discussed, I am not sorry for them and read the above paragraph if you haven’t watched this movie yet. In addition, I will address this movie’s Light as Turner.
The story of Death Note is fairly easy to understand so I’ll put it simply. High School prodigy happens across a notebook with the power to kill anyone by writing down names. Soon they meet a Shinigami decide to use the power of the notebook to punish the bad people in this unjust society. In doing so, they deem themselves as a god of a new world. Meanwhile, a famous detective takes notice of this mass murders and decides to stand against these abhorrent crimes. In doing so the high school prodigy becomes enraged and decides to take out anyone that dares to stop him in his pursuit of a perfect world. Thus the long grandstanding showdown between Kira and L begun with the world as their chessboard. Believe it or not, no matter how simply I put the plot of the story, this movie still managed to butcher some of the key details of the story…
The Best Character of the whole movie
Let’s begin with the positives, shall we? Willem Dafoe’s performance as Ryuk was absolutely brilliant. You can tell that Dafoe did enjoy his role as Ryuk. In addition Ryuk’s character within the movie stayed faithful in the original adaptation along with consistent throughout the movie. I can honestly say that Ryuk was Ryuk in this movie, which was something I was really concerned with but they managed to pull it off. Next, Keith Stanfield performance as L could be taken as a tad bit questionable and neurotic. However, considering character he played, I thought Stanfields performance was well done with the eccentric detective. L’s character stayed relatively consistent throughout the movie. Though there were a few key issues I had with the character, which I’ll get to later. Next, I do appreciate SOME of the liberties they took. For example: They made Turner an unpopular nerd that is subjected to bullying.They made it more realistic than the original by giving Turner more of a tragic backstory. This is because in the original, while Light saw the negatives in society, but he wasn’t exactly subjected to them, mostly just a bored observer to it. However, in this movie, Turner has a first hand experience of how unfair the world can be. To be bullied, dealing with unfair teachers, and a reluctant/strict widowed father. This makes Turner’s decent a lot more believable and somewhat justified. I’m happy they didn’t give Turner a sister or a mother in this rendition, because in the original, Light’s mother and Sister had no real purpose in the story. The sister was used as a minor plot device in the original, but we never see either of them again. I enjoyed how they changed some of the rules to the Death Note. Making it so that only the keeper of the note can see and hear Ryuk and not just anyone that touches the death note. This allows and justifies Light being able to be more open and maybe even creative with the death note. Next, NO EYE DEAL, I was torn whether this fact should be a pro or a con. However, after watching the movie in it’s entirety, I concluded that adding the eye deal would’ve made the plot more ridiculous and too nebulous for the casual watcher. Lastly, I like the ending to the movie as it was the closest that we get to see the original Light in action.
Believe it or not, they are the main characters
Ok, where do we begin… No, seriously, I don’t which part of the movie I hated more, so I will just go with “dealer’s choice”. I hated the fact Watari was Watari, now let that sink in. To explain, in the original series Watari was L’s assistant on many of the detective’s adventures. Watari was the quintessential Alfred to L’s quintessential Batman. However, WATARI WAS NOT HIS REAL NAME!! See in the movie, Turner decides to use Watari to get L’s real name by writing his name in the death note. Casual watchers may find this to be an ingenious idea, but it should’ve been flawed. Watari was merely an alias he used in the original series as Watari as operated in secret being L’s main source of communication. Watari’s real name is Quillish Wammy. Despite this grave misstep, I would’ve been willing to forgive if it wasn’t for one glaring detail. Turner’s father gave him too much information about the investigation. In the original series, Light’s father never really discussed business which forced Light to hack into the database. In this, Turner’s father is way too open about his investigations and who he was working with. Which is how Turner got Watari’s name, which was Watari. It’s not even about comparing series it’s more on common sense which a lot of characters seem to lack in this movie. Next, next there was no psychological aspect in this movie whatsoever. The Death Note series is famous for its moral ambiguity and being a psychological thriller. NONE of which I got from this movie. We only get two intricate plans from Turner and only one worked. Even L didn’t do much in terms of trapping Kira, the most L did was try to provoke and test Kira but no concrete way to corner Kira. All of this probably stemmed from my LEAST favorite character in this entire train wreck.
Worst Character of the whole movie
Mia Stutton is the one character I thought was unnecessary. I’ll give her some credit, as Mia wasn’t used as a slave like Misa. However, I still hate her character because the dynamic between Mia and Turner turned this movie into an Emo romantic comedy….WHY?! To put this simply for fans of the original series, Mia in this movie is basically what Light became in the original series. Her intentions were good at first, but the moment she realized law enforcement was after them, she decided to take them out immediately, even going as far to almost take out Turner’s father. This causes a rift between the two that brings an element of unnecessary drama which is why I say this movie was more of a Emo romantic comedy then and actual horror. Last point on cons, they made Turner a lot more sympathetic. One of the many beauties of the series is one will descend into madness over doing what they believe is right. I stated in my pros that it was a good thing to give Turner an element of tragedy to justify why he does what he does. However, his character stays rather constant after he get’s the death note. He is determined to only kill criminals, even after FBI and L openly challenged Kira, Turner was still against killing them. Therefore choosing to only kill criminals regardless. Throughput this movie Turner turned out to be the voice of reason and realized very quickly he was tricked by Ryuk. I like the fact that Turner was more self aware of his actions, but it came at the cost of the story. Because many of the key events of the story happened without Turner being aware or a part of it due to Mia’s intervention.
I will give this film credit, on it’s own the movie is a decent watch that will keep you engaged. However, most of it’s faults stemmed from the fact it tried to be an Americanized version of Death Note. What they should have done instead was to turn this movie into a spin-off/sequel from the original. In other words, instead of making Light Tuner a wannabe American version of Light Yagami, they should’ve made Turner his own new character. By doing so they would get rid of the constant comparisons of the movie to the original. This is Tokyo Ghoul and Tokyo Ghoul Root A issue all over again. In addition, they would have a lot more of a fun time to get away with most of the stuff they tried in this movie. Look they had some interesting plot points they could’ve used with Ryuk warning light that nobody has written more than 2 letters in his name. I felt that was a warning showing Turner’s inevitable downfall by Ryuk’s hands. However, most of Ryuk’s mysterious hype, from the warning in the death note and Ryuk being in the book Turner was reading, went nowhere. Not to mention that I never felt like this was a moral battle, or just a showdown between Turner and L. It felt like the real showdown Turner was in the middle of Mia and L’s moral debates trying to get Turner to see their point of view. Of course, because Mia was the one doing all those horrible things under with Kira’s name, Turner took all the blame and ended up with L’s full wrath on him. The movie from start to finish Turner just felt like a victim of circumstances being lead around by the nose by either Mia or L. Never did I really feel like Turner was really taking charge of a situation until the end of the movie with the Ferris wheel scene. I could go on and on about the glaring flaws with this movie, but I’ll this simple. If you are a fan of Death Note, DO NOT WATCH THIS MOVIE, because I guarantee you will find this movie both boring and cringe worthy as many of the plotlines was predictable. In addition the pacing wasn’t the best either. If you are not a fan of Death Note and never heard of it, then chances are you will find this movie a decent watch. However, I ask you to please watch or read the original source material as it is a lot better than this.