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Netflix Originals are Marketing Ploys: AKA, the Death Note Movie Review.

So anyone who really knows me knows that I grew up on anime. When I was about 11, my older brother gave me a list of animated shows to watch on my tiny iPod. One of those shows on the list was Death Note (based off a manga, but for convenience’s sake I will only talk about the anime).

It’s very hard to sum up this show in a few words. Here’s the wiki.

The show holds a special place in my heart as one of the best bonds I have with my older brother; I hold Death Note to a very high standard.

The show also holds itself to a very high standard. For at least the first twentyish episodes, the characters motivations, ideologies, and respective intelligence are pitted against each other in a one v. one match of wits. The show can make even the most mundane things dramatic. There is literally a scene where the main character eats a potato chip and makes it look cool.

When I heard there was gonna be a movie adaptation of this beloved show, I was immediately skeptical. The show’s amazing by itself, and there was no way a 90-minute movie was gonna prove that. Then I saw the trailer.

The trailer gave me a really good idea of what this movie was gonna be: trash. This was another failed Netflix Original, like Chelsea or Richie Rich.

Then, my nostalgia set in: I wanted this movie to succeed for the sake of my childhood. I knew it’d be a rougher adaptation, but would it be that bad?

Yes. Holy fuck yes. It’s that bad. I’m insulted that Netflix took something so great and made it into something so backward. So… trying my best to ignore the terrible changes to the original (I might make comparisons), what are its problems as a general movie?

It doesn’t know for whom it’s written.

Death Note is considered to be one of the most popular animes in Western culture, and has a very devoted following. Yet this show takes everything we loved about the anime and strips it down to bare bones. Even still, I think I’d be genuinely confused with the movie if I’d never watched the original show. So… it’s not really written for the new fans, nor the old ones. There isn’t a clear demographic.

Yes, it’s enticing to watch something for nostalgic reasons, but that doesn’t mean the movie was meant for those nostalgic people. Who was this for?

The casting is questionable.

Nat Wolff sucks as Light Turner. He’s not particularly attractive nor funny. He’s not great to watch star in a high concept show about killing people.

To give the actor a bit more credit: Light Turner is an annoying edgelord whose actions are, at best, motivated by pussy. I bet it’s pretty hard to do a good job with that.

Margaret Qualley’s character shouldn’t even exist, but the actress does her job. She is a gorgeous girl, but with very unthreatening features (soft eyes, cute smile, the girl who plays the artsy-but-kind love interest in a John Hughes film). Her character is scary and creepy, so some part of me would’ve loved to see a Faye Greener-esque beauty; artificial, scary, unnatural. The kind of beauty that wants to get people in trouble. As much as I dislike her acting, Cara Delevignnenenengnee (whatever) has the features I’m looking for.

Lakeith Stanfield was one of the best performances in the movie, but still an odd choice. A lot of people were surprised that L was going to be black (anime L is a pale English/Japanese guy with black shaggy hair), but most people were unfazed by this change. Even still, I wish he wasn’t dragged into this role, I think he’s so much better than Death Note.

Willem Dafoe did not show up enough. When he did, his voice was super great. Most of the time he wasn’t even there, so I find this casting choice pointless. Why have someone so awesome show up so rarely?

The side characters were boring. The acting matched the side characters as uninspired and average. Enough about them.

There are so many plot holes.

How does L know that Light Turner could be the killer? How can the Death Note be used with conditional circumstances (if x happens, then y dies). Why does Ryuk say that no human has successfully written his name in the Note, when the Note has a page that says, “Don’t trust Ryuk”? How did no one find the Death Note when Light’s bag is confiscated in the first scene? Why is Watari’s fuLL FIRST AND LAST NAME JUST… WATARI? WHY DOES LIGHT USE HIS OWN EASILY TRACEABLE CELL PHONE TO CALL WATARI? WHY DOES LIGHT IMMEDIATELY SHOW MIA THE DEATH NOTE?


That was rambly. I don’t care.

It’s poorly edited.

I can give you a pretty good idea of the movie’s editing by pointing out something you see before you even turn on the movie:

Ignoring the stupid description, a Redditor pointed out a little hiccup in the right-hand corner. See that? That’s the fake latin text that Microsoft Word uses as filler in templates. Lorem Ipsum Dolor Sit Amet. That really shows how LITTLE these fuckers cared.

There are also weird cuts that look so stupid I laughed. I don’t notice every flaw in a movie… but I can see a train if it’s coming right at me. The mediocre editing was that blatantly obvious.

There’s also a scene with this weird forum-esque layout… and the usernames are literally registered user, guest, and admin. Wow.

The music is jarring.

I think director Adam Wingard spent a majority of this movie’s budget on licensing music from the band Chicago.

I don’t mind 80’s rock ballads, but I found them in this movie to be too… ironic. It actually made me laugh incessantly, and then fume incessantly, because Death Note is not ever supposed to be funny (apart from that potato chip scene). They were so unfitting that it was fitting, and then warped right back into unfitting.

Why was this movie even made?

In an interview with The Verge, Adam Wingard was asked how the movie ended up at Netflix. He responds, “I think we just fit into a mold that Netflix is looking for. They want to be doing theatrical films that could play to a mainstream audience, while at the same time doing something off-center… In all honesty, it would be a big risk to play theatrically, because it’s not an easy film to market.”

Ah…. Netflix knows how to market this type of stuff. No matter how bad something may turn out, they keep going for these oddball originals that companies like Warner Brothers can’t market as effectively. This movie was made because it was marketable on this platform and nowhere else. It’s an elaborate cash grab conspiracy; a ruse.

And here we see the TRUE problem of bad Netflix originals. Netflix producers will do anything to advertise to a younger, social media obsessed generation. Netflix profits from nostalgia (Fuller House), edginess (13 Reasons Why), and the millennial zeitgeist (Girlboss).

I fell for it. The nostalgia I feel for Death Note compelled me to give this a chance, even though I knew it’d be bad. The little 7th grader on the bus couldn’t help but want to believe in this. Netflix suckered me, just like it suckered everyone else.

For every good pitch there is a bad pitch right around the corner; Netflix believes it’s still worth swinging at the ball. Of course people were gonna watch Death Note. We were still gonna watch Richie Rich and Fuller House. It’s marketable, isn’t it? In the same way bad Adam Sandler movies are?

Oh, and just to sweeten the deal, Netflix hired Willem Dafoe (established actor), Lakeith Stanfield (a rising star), and Margaret Qualley (daughter of Andie MacDowell).

Currently trending on Netflix… look! There’s the original show, which Netflix has the streaming rights for. More people on Netflix, more potential monthly subscribers, more cash in Netflix’s fat pockets. We’re all fools.

Conclusion (TL;DR)

“This movie is like if Twilight fucked a C- average film school student who had once overheard two people talking about Death Note.” ~RobbSmark

Watch the show. Then watch the movie, and then watch the show with more appreciation. This movie truly failed.

Oh, and Netflix is gonna continue to pump out more garbage. Sorry.

Image Credit:Feature, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Netflix


People call me Suz.
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