On The Small Screen Reviews

Death Note – Review

There’s always that one kid in school who is just a little different, they have a head on their shoulders; separating themselves from football playing hooligans who don’t care about their education. At face value, our leading man, Light doesn’t seem anything other than that until he his chosen for a task that has the potential to change the world as he knows it. When he finds himself in the possession of Death Note his once seemingly boring life is spiced up with young teenage love and deadly power.

Adapted for Netflix from the original Japanese Manga of the same name; Death Note deviates from the source material somewhat but nevertheless is an entertaining supernatural tale that anyone who likes a good trip down demon lane will enjoy. Scared out of his wits after being terrified by Death God Ryuk voiced by none other than the distinct tones of Willem Defoe, Light decides to put this new found power of controlling when someone dies and how to the test. Sharing his thoughts of wanting to rid the world of all evil people, cheerleader Mia becomes his sidekick devoted to the cause and of course, him. Signing his work as ‘Kira’ (the Japanese word for light) the two rapidly create a trail of breadcrumbs that has his police officer father and the quirky private investigator L’s attention. Ultimately, this becomes a story of morals. Light is doing something good, but he is still taking lives that he shouldn’t be.

Lending his directing skills to this death infused narrative is the talented Adam Wingard. Shot in a similar way as the fabulously twisted The Guest, beautiful tracking shots work seamlessly alongside serene music transforming the copious gruesome murder scenes look like a piece of blood splatter artwork. However, at times this comes across as a little premature;  directly linked to the pacing as we are thrown straight into this story and when other points are catapulted throughout it can become a tad overwhelming. This would have worked much better as a TV series, allowing for all themes and characters to be fully explored. In the final throws, this felt rushed leaving you wanting an explanation and desperately wanting a greater insight into L and his company.

The decision to cast white actors as the lead characters will have anime fans rolling their eyes. Nat Wolff as Light holds his own as the lovable eccentric ‘geek’ alongside ‘The Leftovers’ star Margret Qualley as girlfriend Mia who brings a sinister streak to Light’s good nature providing passion and excitement to their new found love. Get Out’s Lakeith Stanfield steals the show here bringing energy and originality to his idiosyncratic, non-sleeping investigator L.

If you are a hard core Death Note anime fan, perhaps this won’t wow you. Yes, it’s cheesy, a bit ludicrous and has many moments of ‘that would never happen’, but just remember that this is fantasy, make-believe and it’s simply meant to be an adventure for the viewer’s mind to get lost in.


Death Note is out on Netflix now!

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