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Death Note is a 2017 American neo-noir supernatural thriller film loosely adapted from the Japanese manga of the same name created by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. The film is directed by Adam Wingard and written by Charles Parlapanides, Vlas Parlapanides and Jeremy Slater. The film stars Nat Wolff, Lakeith Stanfield, Margaret Qualley, Shea Whigham, Paul Nakauchi, Jason Liles and Willem Dafoe, and follows the story of an American high school student named Light Turner, who finds a mysterious supernatural notebook known as the "Death Note", which can kill anyone whose name is written in its pages.

Death Note
DeathNotePoster.jpg
Promotional poster
Directed byAdam Wingard
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based on
Starring
Music by
CinematographyDavid Tattersall
Edited byLouis Cioffi
Production
companies
Distributed by
Release date
  • August 25, 2017 (2017-08-25)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$40 million[1]

The film was released on Netflix on August 25, 2017, and received mixed reviews. A sequel is currently in the works, with Greg Russo attached to write the screenplay.

PlotEdit

In Seattle, Washington, high schooler Light Turner stumbles across the "Death Note", a mysterious leather-bound notebook with instructions that state that by writing a person's name down within it, that person will die in the manner prescribed. Light is sent to detention after confronting bully Kenny Doyle harassing cheerleader Mia Sutton, and there meets the death god Ryuk, the notebook's owner. Ryuk convinces Light to use the notebook; Light writes down Doyle's name and shortly witnesses him killed in a freak accident. That night, Light tries it again, using the name of his mother's killer, Anthony Skomal, and learns the next morning from his father James, a police detective, that Skomal died as Light had written. At school, Light shows Mia the book, and demonstrates by killing a known criminal felon during a televised hostage situation. The two decide to work together to rid the world of criminals and terrorists, using the name "Kira" (derived from the Japanese trans-literation for "Killer", so as direct investiagative attention away from their continent).

Kira's actions draw the attention of enigmatic international detective "L". L deduces Kira is a student based in Seattle with close ties to the police, and indirectly concludes Kira can only kill by knowing the name and face of their victim. Working with James and police, L has several FBI agents track Light and other suspects. Light refuses to kill them when Mia suggests it, but soon the agents commit mass suicide, which Light believes Ryuk made them do. James threatens Kira over public broadcast but when he fails to be killed, L confronts Light about being Kira, and prepares the police to thoroughly search Light's home. Light decides to use the Death Note to force L's personal assistant Watari to travel to Montauk, New York and find L's adoption record there; Light plans to burn the notebook page with Watari's name once he knows L's name to stop Watari's death, and then kill L. Mia helps to sneak the notebook out before the search.

Light and Mia go to the school prom, using the event to ditch L and police. Light recovers the notebook just as Watari contacts him with L's name, but Light cannot find the page in the notebook. Watari dies before he can reveal L's name, being "Lebens Dorn". Light discovers Mia took Watari's page, was responsible for the FBI agents' suicide, and further has written Light's name in the book, set to kill him at midnight, but she offers to burn his page if he turns the notebook over to her. Light tells Mia to meet him at the Seattle Great Wheel and flees. Meanwhile, L learns of Watari's death and becomes unstable, leaving on a personal manhunt against Light, while James orders L to be detained. L corners Light, but a passer-by, hearing that Light is Kira, knocks L out, letting Light escape. Mia meets Light at the Ferris wheel some hours later, and they take the ride to the top. There, Mia steals the notebook, but realizes too late this was Light's plan: Light has written her death in the notebook contingent on her taking the book. The Ferris wheel collapses, and Mia falls to her death, while Light and the notebook fall into the nearby waters. The page with Light's name lands in a burning barrel in front of L's eyes.

Prior to meeting Mia, Light had used the book to coerce a criminally-charged doctor to rescue him and put him into a medically-induced coma, while having another criminal recover the Death Note and continue Kira's killings before returning the book to his bedside, killing both after their role is complete. When Light wakes from the coma, he finds James there, who has come to conclude Light is Kira. Meanwhile, L has been ordered off the case, but in defiance he raids Mia's home, finding the notebook page with the FBI agents' names and upon deducing its capabilities considering writing Light's name on the page. In a hysterical fit, he contemplates writing Light's name. At the hospital, Light tries to convince James that his actions were "the lesser of two evils", prompting Ryuk to laugh and comment that "humans are so interesting".

CastEdit

  • Nat Wolff as Light Turner / Kira:
    A bright yet isolated high-school student who discovers the titular "Death Note" and uses it to kill criminals by writing their names and causes of death, in a bid to change the world into a utopia without crime, and thus, alongside Mia Sutton, becoming the world-famous serial killer known as "Kira", while being both praised and feared by law enforcement agencies and the worldwide media and public.
  • Lakeith Stanfield as Lebens Dorn / L:
    A nameless, highly-intelligent and esteemed—but also socially eccentric and quirky—international consulting detective with a past shrouded in mystery and who is determined to capture "Kira" and end his reign of terror.
  • Margaret Qualley as Mia Sutton / Kira:
    Light's classmate and girlfriend, who assists him in his world-wide massacre of criminals as the god-like vigilante: "Kira", eventually seeking to kill those who seek to stop them and becoming dangerously obsessed with the book's power. In an interview with io9, Adam Wingard revealed that rather than being based on original manga character Misa Amane, Sutton as a character is based on the sociopathic qualities of Light Yagami.[2]
  • Shea Whigham as Detective James Turner:
    Light's father and a veteran Seattle police detective, who assists L in finding the mysterious "Kira", unaware that he is his own son.
  • Paul Nakauchi as Watari:
    L's assistant and foster-father.
  • Jason Liles and Willem Dafoe as Ryuk:
    A demonic Shinigami (god of death) and the original owner of the Death Note, who begins communicating with Light when he receives the book and inquisitively observes his activities as "Kira". Liles played the character in costume, while Dafoe provided voice work and performance capture for the facial elements.

ProductionEdit

In 2007, the Malaysian newspaper The Star stated that more than ten film companies in the United States had expressed interest in the Death Note franchise.[3] The American production company Vertigo Entertainment was originally set to develop the remake, with Charley and Vlas Parlapanides as screenwriters and Roy Lee, Doug Davison, Dan Lin, and Brian Witten as producers.[4] On April 30, 2009, Variety reported that Warner Bros., the distributors for the original Japanese live-action films, had acquired the rights for an American remake, with the original screenwriters and producers still attached.[5] In 2009, Zac Efron responded to rumors that he would be playing the film's lead role by stating that the project was "not on the front burner".[6] On January 13, 2011, it was announced that Shane Black had been hired to direct the film, with the script being written by Anthony Bagarozzi and Charles Mondry.[7] Warner's studios planned to change the background story of Light Yagami into one of vengeance instead of justice and to remove Shinigami from the story. Black opposed this change, and it had not been green-lit.[8] Black confirmed in a 2013 interview with Bleeding Cool that he was still working on the film.[9] In July 2014, it was rumored that Gus Van Sant would replace Black as the film's new director, with Dan Lin, Doug Davison, Roy Lee and Brian Witten producing through Vertigo Entertainment, Witten Pictures and Lin Pictures.[10]

On April 27, 2015, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Adam Wingard would direct the film, that Lin, Lee, Jason Hoffs and Masi Oka would produce, and that Niija Kuykendall and Nik Mavinkurve would oversee the studio.[11] Producers stated the film would receive an R rating.[12] In April 2016, TheWrap reported that because Warner Bros. had decided to make fewer films, the studio put the film into turnaround but allowed Wingard to take the project elsewhere. Within 48 hours, Wingard was reportedly approached by nearly every major film studio.[13] On April 6, 2016, it was confirmed that Netflix had bought the film from Warner Bros. with a budget of $40–50 million and a recent draft of the script being written by Jeremy Slater. Production officially began in British Columbia on June 30, 2016, overseen by DN (Canada) Productions, Inc.[14][15][16][17][18] Atticus Ross and Leopold Ross composed the score for the film.

CastingEdit

 
The cast and crew of Death Note at the 2017 San Diego Comic-Con

On September 29, 2015, Nat Wolff was cast in the lead role.[19] On November 12, 2015, Margaret Qualley joined the film as the female lead.[20] In June 2016, Lakeith Stanfield joined the cast.[21] On June 30, 2016, it was announced that Paul Nakauchi and Shea Whigham had joined the cast.[22] On August 2, 2016, Willem Dafoe was announced to voice the Shinigami Ryuk.[23] In the wake of Dafoe's casting, Brian Drummond, who voiced Ryuk in the English dub of the anime, voiced his approval citing the casting of Ryuk.[24] Oka, one of the film's producers, announced that he also has a role in the film.[25]

Early casting announcements, similar to other Hollywood productions based on Japanese manga such as Dragonball Evolution and Ghost in the Shell, resulted in accusations of whitewashing.[26][27] In response, producers Roy Lee and Dan Lin stated that "Our vision for Death Note has always been to...introduce the world to this dark and mysterious masterpiece. The talent and diversity represented in our cast, writing, and producing teams reflect our belief in staying true to the story's concept of moral relevance—a universal theme that knows no racial boundaries."[18]

Wingard addressed the concerns over the film, explaining that the film is an American take on the Death Note story, stating, "It's one of those things where the harder I tried to stay 100 percent true to the source material, the more it just kind of fell apart... You're in a different country, you're in a different kind of environment, and you're trying to also summarize a sprawling series into a two-hour-long film. For me, it became about; what do these themes mean to modern day America, and how does that affect how we tell the story." Wingard also stated that he mainly attempted to make a unique and different take on the original manga, while also trying to keep the core themes and elements of the original manga intact, such as the cat and mouse dynamic between the main protagonists: Light and L, the themes of morality and justice, the difference between good and evil, certain characteristics and elements of the original manga characters (such as Light's father still being a police officer, L's mannerisms and personality traits, along with his background and past originating from a secluded orphanage, Light being depicted as an intellectually-gifted and introverted high school student, Ryuk's personality traits and affinity for apples).[28]

ReleaseEdit

The film was released on Netflix on August 25, 2017. On July 20, 2017, the film was screened early for audiences at San Diego Comic-Con International 2017.

MarketingEdit

On March 22, 2017, Netflix released a teaser of the film on YouTube.[29] An additional trailer was released on June 29, 2017.

Critical receptionEdit

Death Note received mixed reviews.[30] On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 38% based on 71 reviews, and an average rating of 4.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Death Note benefits from director Adam Wingard's distinctive eye and a talented cast, but they aren't enough to overcome a fatally overcrowded canvas."[31] Metacritic gave the film a score of 43 out of 100, based on 14 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[32]

Jeanette Catsoulis for The New York Times wrote that the film "feels rushed and constricted" compared to the volume of the source material, but praised how Wingard's direction focused on "mood over mayhem" to make the adaptation his own.[33] Peter Debruge for Variety said that he felt that Wingard took the film adaptation towards a Donnie Darko-styled work that would capture the interest of more Western audiences compared to the original work, but made the work capture the feel of a theatrical film rather than a work confined to its original medium. Debruge also wrote that despite the philosophical concepts of murdering via the Death Note, "the movie never quite reckons with just how twisted a concept it’s peddling, and that’s easily the scariest thing about it".[34] Brian Tallerico for Rogerebert.com gave the film one of four stars, stating that the changes that Wingard had made from the original work did not serve any artistic or thematic purpose, nor captured the cat-and-mouse game between Light and L that was core to the original work, and because the producers "refused to make Light the antihero he needed to be", the addition of Mia as a love interest "[left] the project hollow at its center", but mainly praised the performances of Stanfield and Dafoe.[35]

Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, the original creators of Death Note, have praised the film, with the former stating, "In a good way, it both followed and diverged from the original work so the film can be enjoyed, of course by not only the fans, but also by a much larger and wider audience".[36]

ControversyEdit

A few months after release, it was discovered that the images of the train accident in the movie were real footage of a 2010 train collision in Buizingen, Belgium in which 19 people died. Both the rail operator and survivors have criticized this as disrespectful to the victims.[37]

SequelEdit

In an interview with Heat Vision, director Adam Wingard stated that Netflix had wanted to make at least two films, if enough people watch the first one. He said: "There are definitely lots of places to go, and we know generally where we would take it. Hopefully people will watch it and Netflix will order a sequel. They definitely are ready to. They just need people to watch it."[38]

On August 22, 2018, it was announced through a THR report that a sequel was in the works, with Greg Russo reportedly writing the script, after Sarandos called the film a "sizable" success.[39]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Death Note – PowerGrind". The Wrap. Retrieved August 29, 2017.
  2. ^ Trendacosta, Katharine (August 28, 2017). "Why Netflix's Death Note Is Really an Origin Story and Where a Sequel Could Go". io9. Retrieved September 10, 2017.
  3. ^ Kitty Sensei (January 14, 2007). "Here're a few hints of the second and concluding part of Death Note the movie, The Last Name". The Star. Archived from the original on August 2, 2009. Retrieved September 1, 2009.
  4. ^ "Warner Brothers Acquire Live-Action Death Note Rights". Anime News Network. May 1, 2009. Retrieved May 1, 2009.
  5. ^ Fleming, Michael (April 30, 2009). "Warner brings 'Death' to bigscreen". Variety. Retrieved May 1, 2009.
  6. ^ Weintraub, Steve (November 22, 2009). "Exclusive Interview: Zac Efron and Richard Linklater on ME AND ORSON WELLES; Plus Zac Addresses DEATH NOTE Rumors". Collider. Retrieved April 10, 2016.
  7. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr (January 13, 2011). "Warner Bros Taps Shane Black For Japanese Manga 'Death Note'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 14, 2011.
  8. ^ Loo, Egan (November 2, 2011). "Shane Black Describes Changes He Opposed to Warner's Death Note". Anime News Network. Retrieved April 10, 2016.
  9. ^ Connelly, Brendon (April 24, 2013). "Shane Black On His Death Note And Doc Savage Movies". Bleeding Cool. Retrieved April 10, 2016.
  10. ^ Whitehead, Donna (July 10, 2014). "{TB EXCLUSIVE} Gus Van Sant Takes Over "Death Note"". The Tracking Board. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
  11. ^ Kit, Borys (April 27, 2015). "'Guest' Director Adam Wingard Signs On for 'Death Note' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 10, 2016.
  12. ^ Goldberg, Matt (February 22, 2015). "Exclusive: 'Death Note' Movie Rating and Tone Revealed". Collider.com. Retrieved April 10, 2016.
  13. ^ Sneider, Jeff (April 6, 2016). "Adam Wingard's 'Death Note' Jumps From Warner Bros. to Netflix (Exclusive)". TheWrap. Retrieved April 10, 2016.
  14. ^ Kroll, Justin (April 6, 2016). "Netflix Lands Adam Wingard's 'Death Note' Starring Nat Wolff". Variety. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
  15. ^ "In Production". Creative BC. May 10, 2016. Retrieved May 12, 2016.
  16. ^ Mirchandani, Amar (June 3, 2016). "Live-Action Manga Movie 'Death Note' Filming in Vancouver". 604 Now. Archived from the original on March 5, 2017. Retrieved June 3, 2016.
  17. ^ Idea, Nimfa (June 8, 2016). "'Death Note' Live Action Pic: Netflix Set to Kick Off Production in Metro Vancouver This Summer". Movie News Guide. Archived from the original on March 5, 2017. Retrieved June 8, 2016.
  18. ^ a b Trumbore, Dave (June 30, 2016). "Adam Wingard Shares His Notes on 'Death Note' as Production Begins". Collider.com. Retrieved June 30, 2016.
  19. ^ White, James (September 29, 2015). "Nat Wolff Finds Death Note | News | Empire". Empire. Retrieved September 29, 2015.
  20. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr; Hipes, Patrick (November 12, 2015). "'Death Note' Movie Sets Margaret Qualley As Female Lead – Update". Deadline.com. Retrieved November 15, 2015.
  21. ^ Kroll, Justin (June 10, 2016). "'Short Term 12's' Keith Stanfield to Star With Nat Wolff in Netflix's 'Death Note'". Variety. Retrieved June 11, 2016.
  22. ^ Barkan, Jonathan (June 30, 2016). "Adam Wingard Starts Writing His 'Death Note'". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved June 30, 2016.
  23. ^ Sneider, Jeff (August 2, 2016). "Willem Dafoe to voice the Shinigami in Netflix's 'Death Note' (Exclusive)". Mashable. Retrieved August 2, 2016.
  24. ^ Brian Drummond [@BrianDrummondVO] (August 3, 2016). "Sorry to not be playing that apple lovin' Shinigami again, but what a great choice! @WillemDafoe" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  25. ^ Abrams, Natalie (November 17, 2016). "Hawaii Five-0: Masi Oka exiting after seven seasons — exclusive". Entertainment Weekly.
  26. ^ Leon, Melissa (September 30, 2015). "Hollywood's Anime Whitewashing Epidemic: Nat Wolff to Star in 'Death Note'". The Daily Beast. Retrieved April 10, 2016.
  27. ^ Jaworski, Michelle (November 13, 2015). "'Death Note' whitewashing accusations grow as it casts female lead". The Daily Dot. Retrieved April 10, 2016.
  28. ^ Sanchez, Miranda (June 29, 2017). "How Netflix's Death Note Alters the Original Story With Its American Setting". IGN.
  29. ^ Opam, Kwame (March 22, 2017). "Watch the first trailer for Netflix's live-action Death Note movie". The Verge.
  30. ^ "'Death Note' Reviews Are in, and They're Not Great". Inverse. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
  31. ^ "Death Note (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 2, 2018.
  32. ^ "Death Note reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved September 6, 2017.
  33. ^ Catsoulis, Jeanette (August 24, 2017). "Review: In 'Death Note,' When Danger Calls, Reach for a Notebook". The New York Times. Retrieved August 30, 2017.
  34. ^ Debruge, Peter (August 24, 2017). "Film Review: Nat Wolff in 'Death Note' on Netflix". Variety. Retrieved August 30, 2017.
  35. ^ Tallerico, Brian (August 25, 2017). "Death Note". Rogerebert.com. Retrieved August 30, 2017.
  36. ^ O'Connell, Sean (August 17, 2017). "What The Original Death Note Creators Really Think About The Netflix Remake". Cinema Blend. Retrieved August 18, 2017.
  37. ^ "Netflix under fire for train crash images". BBC News. January 3, 2019. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  38. ^ Couch, Aaron (August 25, 2017). "'Death Note 2': Netflix Sequel Will Happen If People Watch First Movie". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
  39. ^ Outlaw, Kofi (August 22, 2018). "'Death Note 2' Confirmed for Netflix Release". ComicBook.com. Retrieved August 24, 2018.

External linksEdit