Death Note (2017)
I know about Death Note, the manga series, but I didn’t realize how extensively popular it has been. It has spawned an animated series, a video game, two Japanese live action films, a three-part mini series, a TV drama and a musical. Yes, a musical. So it makes sense that an American adaptation (Netflix distributed) is right before us.
Now Death Note, being as popular as it is, means that it has a really fantastic story. And it does. In the manga series, written by Tsugumi Ohba, we have a highschool student named Light Yagami (Light Turner in the American adaptation) find a death notebook aka the Death Note from a death god named Ryuk. Now whoever possesses said death note grants the bearer the power to kill anyone whose name and face they know, just by writing down the name on the page, followed by how you would want them to die. Decapitation? A steak knife to the throat? flattened by a speeding train? You can go as creative and as “Tarantino” as you like. Making things all the more complicated is that Light wants to cleanse the world of all evil and go all out vigilante on the criminals and bad people. But as we all know, vigilantism and righteousness have gray areas. Now, how irresistible is this premise?
Sadly, I think the writers for this American adaptation failed of Death Note (2017) to bring out the compelling bits of the story. I mean they could have at least explored the moral conundrum of having such great power and responsibility. But they hardly scratched the surface on that one. Also, there is a chance that they changed the plot a great deal, although I cannot confirm this for a fact. Will have a look on this later. But still, you can change the source material so long as you still come up with an engaging story. And even the characters felt flat. I mean Ryuk, the death god, is so beautifully rendered in CGI, and beautifully voiced by Willem Defoe. And despite explicitly showing the audience that this death god is powerful and is the one who actually made the Death Note, along with all of its rules…and loop holes. At one point he even threatened Light that he could circumvent the boy’s wishes if he so desires. But all throughout the movie he just ended up being on the sidelines. And the plot felt messy and hurried. The characters’ goals are unclear, the story goes from one loose end to another, and without any clear resolution by the ending. I do love Adam Wingard’s style though. Love the bright neon lights that contrast against the dark background. And he had some cool angles and frames. Plus ala Predestination style that horror fans, most especially, would appreciate. But it’s really all icing and no cake. And as much as you love icing, you will almost always look for the cake. And yes, I am hungry and haven’t had lunch.
Rating: 3/5 Stars
I have been impressed by the teen movies I have seen during the past years. Loved Edge of Seventeen last year, and Me and Earl, and the Dying Girl and The DUFF the year before that. I don’t know what made me think that #REALITYHIGH would come close because it doesn’t. Maybe it’s the title? I was hoping for this movie to comment on social media and how it has created a generational wave of narcissism. I mean, look, I am not expecting an hour-long thesis on the matter, but something a little less shallow would have been nice. Instead #REALITYHIGH is predictable and the characters, stereotypical.
Nerd girl who volunteers at the local pet clinic and is working hard to get into the university of her choice, ends up being befriended by the school’s queen bee and social media princess. Nerd girl soon finds out that the said queen bee isn’t as nice as she seems. Then add some over the top teen parties to that, and a hot athlete whom the two girls are both into. Silver lining would be Nesta Cooper who plays the nerd girl, Dani. I think she’s pretty charming and makes for a solid lead actress. But there is just isn’t much material for her to work with in this movie.
So if you’re looking for something along the lines of say, Mean Girls or Easy A, teen movies that will engage you with wit and humor, and/or honesty. Look elsewhere. But if you’re looking for a movie that you can zone out to, this will do you a solid. Because if you haven’t seen this movie, you’ve seen this movie…a million times.