So, the Death Note Movie Finally Happened...

About a decade ago, Death Note because one of the most popular things among western teens, and it's truly something to be embarrassed about. Despite the series masterful handling of twists and thrills, it was written by a man who honestly seems to think women belong in the kitchen (a rant for another day, and a LONG one) and much of its charm came from the sheer unbridled stupidity. A major plot point in this series was having a TV so tiny that you could hide it in a potato chip bag. The main character had a long con where he gave himself magical amnesia. The series battle of morality ultimately came down to eugenics and social Darwinism (Light actually did want to genocide all the lazy people I am dead serious) versus torture and sacrificing criminals because justice or something. It was basically an early day Mahouka except it was actually engaging and so aggressively stupid and ridiculous that very few people took it seriously once they became functioning adults.

Basically, it's a guilty pleasure, and a very popular one that Hollywood kept trying to workshop into something, but it never happened.

Until now.

Netflix is really taking their chances with original programming now, and Death Note looks like it may be one of their biggest missteps ever, and did you see Iron Fist!? Now, in fairness, the talent involved has promise. Director Adam Wingard is a damn fine horror director, and the cast seems talented. I mean, Willem Dafoe is Ryuk, a bored death god that eats apples and makes bad jokes, while also having a face that looks like a cross between a juggalo and a possessed mime. Perfect casting. I also kind of like Lakeith Stanfield being cast as L, especially with the hoodie look. It seems like a stylish, fun take on the robotic slacker detective with the morality of your average Wubbya cabinet member. But there's also a lot in what little is out there that raises eyebrows.

For one, the creators seem really interested in making this as “mature” as possible, with lots of death, sex, and *gasp* DRUGS! A girl is SMOKING!! SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!! This is utterly baffling because Death Note ran in a shonen magazine, and while the main character was a gaslighting, misogynistic piece of shit mass murderer, he was as interested in sex as I have in trying to understand the WWE beyond John Cena and the Undertaker's interest in puppetry. It's a worrying direction, especially because it's so unnecessary with the goldmine of insanity at hand. No one wants to see Light fuck (unless it's L because Fujoshi), but they do want to see a small boy making it rain money to avoid a public lynching, or another death god with no spine to speak of viciously eating chocolate bars given to him by the US mafia.

Basically, camp is probably a better direction for a crowd-pleaser than taking the material seriously. That's not to say this story isn't ripe for that take, though, but you need a REALLY good script, and I suspect this movie will not have that. Two of the writers are unknown, and one of them is best known for The Lazarus Effect and Fantastic Four 2015. Both of these movies are widely despised. That is not reassuring. The best case scenario here is that they remain somewhat faithful to the source material in plot and characters, but since the camp (if any remains) seems to be trading cultures from far too emotional boys manga to American horror, that's still REALLY troubling. There is no type of camp more tired that modern horror camp. We probably can't expect Evil Dead lunacy, so something more along a PG-13 Saw is about the most to expect.

Now let's assume the movie manages to avoid being racist garbage. I honestly have little issue with Light being a shitty white kid, and nothing I'm seeing so far seems to suggest to me that they're going to make him a sympathetic shooter kid (at least god I hope not), and I don't mind the subtext change if they actually stay conscious of it. Light was a great character because he was basically the worst possible version of a conservative minded elitist, just not quite to the point where he would have acted on it until he got power. I doubt that was intentional since Ohba and Obata don't seem to even understand the concept of self-awareness (they seriously thought Light was morally ambiguous), but that's what we ended up getting. You can still make that work with a white Light, even if it's not as shocking as a model Japanese student doing this because, I mean, look at the news. But I really doubt by how much they're selling on fucking and action that they get this is why he's such a good villain. I also doubt they understand that L ended up being roughly the same as Light, but less a reserved megalomaniac and more a puzzle obsessed shut-in who saw most human life as pawns in a chess game. They seem to get it a little ...except they made L a black guy. In a hoodie.

He's the person representing the law in this movie.


Really, the biggest problem is that I worry they'll try making Light sympathetic without tweaking his motivation. His motivation is the same basic outlook as all of history's worst recent monsters. I doubt they're going to try making him misunderstood, but trying to validate his views is incredibly dangerous. Outside all that, the film's lack of budget is very apparent in the trailer, with some pretty flat looking shots (though L in the hallway was pretty nice), and I'm not sure how they're going to condense the series into a single film. But if history is anything to go by ...don't get excited.

Oh, and they named Light “Light Turner.” Insert Fairly Odd-Parents joke here.


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