‘Death Note’

Director: Shusuke Kaneko
Starring: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Ken’ichi Matsuyama, Yu Kashii

Two-Dimensional Characters And Predictability; The Way To A Teenagers Pocket Money.
‘Light Yagami’ comes across a powerful notebook with the power to kill whomever’s name is written within it. He starts to use this newly acquired ability to rid the world of criminals…But is he really any better than those he is taking the lives of?
Adapted from a Manga series, ‘Death Note’ is a teenage phenomenon of the new millennium…With great popularity, comes great wads of cash.

Having not ever heard of this series before seeing the film, I could only take it for face value. Though I am sure if I knew nothing about it, it would be apparent this film was adapted from some form of comic due to various elements across it.
Unfortunately, as a complete piece, this doesn’t flow all too well. It came across as more of a TV serial given that the plot development felt as if it were coming across as episodes. This is one of the films several let downs.

The film started with some nice opening aerial shots amiably edited together, there were some nice shots throughout the film, but unfortunately such shots seemed to be placed at random places rather than being a persistent theme. As well as this, the overall look of the film clearly couldn’t decide whether it wanted to reflect some form of altered reality, or whether it wanted to be a depiction closer to the original medium; in this sense it is somewhat messy. There were also various characters which seemed to have been plucked out from the Manga, being that there was a great deal of bad overacting and certain typically cartoonish characters. Additionally, many of the characters had the physical demeanour of that you would expect from a Japanese Anime.

It is disappointing that they couldn’t treat this film as live-action, it seems that the people involved couldn’t comprehend the difference, or it is equally possible that they sacrificed consistency to please a great deal of existing fans.
This film seems to have a very niche market, being teenagers and existing fans. It is incredibly clear through this film as to why there is such great popularity amongst this series, however I don’t think in this instance it worked well as a live-action film.
For example, the ‘Gods of Death’ or ‘Shinigamis’ were CGI spectacles. This is an unsure aspect, it is clear that they are a key part of the original concept, but it doesn’t seem as if they fit in all too well in this film considering the opening build-up.

The initial development is adequately intriguing, but this becomes lost within the first quarter of the film when the predictability comes into it. Due to ‘Light’s personal usage of the ‘Death Note’, it was foreseen that there would be some kind of internal debate as to whether he is doing the right thing by killing criminals, or whether he is just as bad as them. This is an aspect which is trying to be clever, but just comes across as predictable. As well as that, this element quickly dwindled and wasn’t really referenced again.

There were numerous predictable elements to this film, such as the actions in which the protagonist takes as well as certain characters relationships to other characters. Resultantly any created tension seems lost due to the conjecture of the upcoming events. Assisting this is the dimensionality of the characters. With the exception of ‘Light’, all the characters are either one dimensional or two dimensional and don’t really have any expanded psyche. This made for a set of particularly monotonous and transparent characters.

‘Light’ (Tatsuya Fujiwara) is the only genuinely multi dimensional character within the span of the film, and is actually quite a talented young actor. Some of his performance felt distinctly like that of an Anime character however, and I think this was down to the direction.
‘Light’ also has some good character development, and is possibly the only unpredictable element. This is very gratifying.

However, the basic premise of this is none too special and it’s fairly inane which makes it some very easy viewing. The aforementioned underlying theme of moral questionability seemed to be a bit pretentious, as if trying hard to make the story more than it was. This was some badly executed attempted intellect in which interest is simply lost.

There isn’t really much else to say on this, other than this film does make you want to read the Manga. Despite the predictability and simplicity of the story, it is clear the original medium is greatly aesthetically pleasing, and it would probably have more to it in terms of story and character.
While this film has many various flaws in artistic taste as well as script, this film is actually entertaining and somewhat enjoyable, as a whole.
It’s a film that can be viewed with very little brain power; the more you turn off your mindset, the more likely you are to appreciate the film visually.

Whilst having various discrepancies, it still manages to vaguely capture the uniqueness that quite possibly makes the whole concept so internationally popular. Although the interesting shots are quite clumsily dispersed through the film, there are enough of them regularly to keep you visually enthralled. That isn’t to say, however, that this film is captivating in any way.

Overall, this is a surprising 7 out of 10 because of what it becomes towards the end. The film was pretty disappointing overall when thought about, having many poor points to it, but it’s actually quite pleasurable and more or less satisfying. It’s not bad…But it could have been a lot better.


2 Responses to “‘Death Note’”

  1. March 3, 2009 at 6:55 am

    I complete agree with the lack of depth in the movie. Transferring the manga to anime is difficult, and in that, some of the original flair of the series was lost. The movies seemed to be more transferred from the anime than the manga, adding another degree of separation, if you will. Seeing the anime or reading the manga beforehand certainly prepares you more for the movies, but at the same time adds further disappointment to the movie in that it doesn’t have time to develop the characters and fit everything in, like is possible in the anime and manga.

    If you enjoyed the movie you should definitely go check out the anime, but I always found that Death Note was not worthy of its incredible praise and popularity, but can totally agree with you that it seems to have found the perfect mix to get teenagers (well, teenage anime fans) to love it.

    • 2 haydenreviews
      March 3, 2009 at 3:50 pm

      Thanks for your comment Alan.

      Yes, having not read the book or seen the anime, I assumed there is a lot lost in translation here. I don’t believe it simply applies to just Manga and Anime though, adapting across mediums can often be very difficult.
      Adaptations need a keen writer with a good head, who knows what is able to be sacrificed in order to get basic elements across well.

      I too agree that this isn’t really deserving of it’s great popularity. The base premise isn’t really that special.

      However the movie has inclined me to want to read some of the Manga. When I get the chance, I look forward to it.

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