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Don’t hold your breath for new Death Note movie

maxresdefaultby Christina Vazquez–“Death Note,” the story of a high school boy who finds himself able to deal death to whom he pleases, began as a manga (a Japanese comic book) serialized in the mid-2000s.  It quickly garnered popularity and was subsequently adapted into an anime series, which remains popular amongst fans of the genre even today.

In an effort to capitalize on that popularity, Netflix released in late August 2017 a movie also titled “Death Note,” presumably adapted for an American audience.  Like the anime, Death Note (2017) is also based on a high school boy turning serial killer, but that is where the similarities end.

In the anime, Light Yagami is a terrifying villain.  He is cold, methodical, and truly believes he is ushering in a new era to the world.  Though his first introduction to the Death Note, a notebook that kills people if their names are written within, is an accident, all Light’s subsequent interaction with the book are anything but accidental, from his initial testing of the Note’s power to his murder of hundreds of people within a few days.

Netflix’s Light Turner is ever a victim of circumstance.  He sees himself bullied by students and administrative staff at his school, and when the Death Note fell into his possession, he only ever used it because he was practically forced to by Ryuk, a death god and the book’s original owner.  Light, burdened by his newfound power, quickly shares the knowledge with a classmate, Mia.

The two develop a relationship that is worrisome at best and dangerously unhealthy at worst, as it is primarily based on a desire to use the Death Note to kill people.  The people killed without due process start out as criminals and thugs, but the situation escalates quickly. Mere children are playing god—one Light nicknames “Kira”—and the power goes to their heads, Mia especially.

Throughout the various murders the duo consider and carry out, it is clear that Mia is the more ruthless of the two, encouraging Light to kill people he otherwise would not.  Ryuk voices the opinion that the Death Note should have gone to her.

Netflix’s adaptation of “Death Note” shifts plot points and character roles as adaptations are wont to do, but the media mogul’s biggest mistake was to change Light’s position from psychopathic villain without compunction to a morally bankrupt but gutless follower.  This topsy-turvy take on the main character greatly negates the psychological thriller aspect of the cult classic story.

The Netflix movie is not totally devoid of merit, however.  Morningside alumna Alex Sullivan comments that “the cinematography was good.”  She also says that while it was not perfect, she thinks the studio “did a good job adapting it for the format and audience.”

Still, if you’re after a good thriller and have the time, watch the original anime.

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