By G-Man Comments
Death Note is a Movie Worth Seeing
Death Note is a popular manga and anime. With that said, I know there will be some that would dismiss the idea of watching a movie based on them right away. For some reason it seems that some people feel they shouldn't like mangas. That shouldn't be the case. I have recently started reading the Death Note mangas (I'm on the fourth book) and I've been hooked. It's a great read. I was excited at the chance to see the live action version of this from Viz Pictures. I can also look at this movie without any predispositions since I haven't finished the series yet.
Here is the official synopsis:
The story begins when Light Yagami, an ace student with great prospects, finds the Death Note, a notebook dropped by a rogue Shinigami death god named Ryuk. Any human whose name is written in the notebook dies, and Light vows to use the power of the Death Note to rid the world of evil. But when criminals mysteriously begin dropping dead, the authorities send the legendary detective "L" to investigate, and he is soon hot on the trail of Light, who must reevaluate his once-noble goal. Both Light and L believe themselves to be on the side of justice, and the two match wits by trying to show exactly which of them is "good" and which of them is "evil."
Let me first point out that this isn't a Hollywood blockbuster film. Despite that, it does have a high production feel. The filmmakers did a great job in choosing the actors and locations for the movie. Early in the movie we get to see numerous criminals suffering heart attacks. I have to say that each actor pretty much brought a different approach to dying. I'm not sure if it was the actors decision or the directors but it was nice not seeing all the deaths appear the same.
The movie isn't a straight adaption of the manga. In the beginning there seems to be more of a focus on the civil rights of the criminals. Light is not a high school student, as in the manga, but rather a law student in college with aspirations to join the police force. Another change is Light has a girlfriend. This helps give him someone to interact with besides, Ryuk, the Shimigami.
Ryuk looks pretty cool too. I wasn't sure how it would come across. I was afraid it might look a little cheesey. His portrayal was dead on. They brought life to him with the way he moved around and reacted to different things (like not being able to eat an apple).
I'm a little torn with L's character. I know he's supposed to be a little off and mysterious but sometimes he came across more as annoying. I remember him drinking tea a lot but I don't remember him being obsessed with sweets. The actor, Kenichi Matsuyama, does fit the role and does a good job squatting on the chairs and moving around like L did.
Surprisingly the movie managed to expand some other little things that weren't in the manga. I liked when it was shown how L managed to narrow the search for Kira (the name given to L on the internet and press). In the same scene I wasn't too crazy with the robotic voice L used when speaking through his computer. Luckily those scenes didn't last long.
Before seeing this I also wasn't too sure how much would be covered in this one movie. It seems to cover the events of the first two books. There are some differences that were nice changes for the movie. Light's first meeting with Naomi Misora (Asaka Seto) was changed. I thought Seto did a good job with the role but I think I liked the character's portrayal better in the manga.
The ending did catch me off guard. I know there is a sequel (which is showing in a limited engagement in October, see story here). It makes for a good cliffhanger. Since I haven't read the entire manga (yet), I'm not sure if this is how things play out or if this was changed for the movie. I am looking forward to seeing what happens.
As for the movie itself, as I mentioned, it's a Japanese movie that was dubbed in English. That sometimes changes the feel of the film. There were some voice-overs that I didn't really care for. Others were good. Since I don't speak Japanese, it's a small price to pay. The other problem I had was all the Japanses text on computer screens and newspapers. I've seen in animes where this is translated for us. I'm not sure if it was just my preview copy or if that's just how they left it. Regardless, I was still able to follow the story without a problem.
I'm going to give this movie a solid 4 out 5. They did an excellent job overall. It's a great adaption and I think Hollywood moviemakers could learn something from this. Part of me wants to give it a higher rating but since I'm using the same rating system when I review movies like the Dark Knight, it's a little hard. I do recommend seeing this film if you weren't able to see it in theatres. If you've read the mangas or seen the animes, there's no question. If you haven't and are (for whatever reason) against mangas, give it chance. Have an open mind and you'll be entertained.