How did this tension filled cat and mouse story turn into a selfish immature teen drama? Well no one said Hollywood was perfect, and I really hope no one had their hopes up on this one.
There are so many reason why I could tell you why this film failed on a personal, biased level. However, I don’t want this post to be seen as just another rant.
The first problem they had was the fact that they were trying to condense a 108 chapter long manga; a 37 episode anime; over 12 hours worth of content into a 1 1/2 hour long film. That in itself isn’t an easy task and I can’t personally find an example of someone who has condensed that much content into a single film successfully. There is so much content to work with and without making major story changes, it doesn’t seem very possible.
Aside from that challenge, but along with the theme of change, the reason why this film failed was namely because it put itself at a weird crossroad. It wasn’t fully changed and westernized, but it also didn’t keep enough of the original content to call itself a successfully integration of old and new. For this film to be better, all this film really needed to do was to cut one character, Ryuk.
I love Ryuk to bits, he is a fun character and provides an interesting perspective on the events and story in the manga. But he simply doesn’t make sense in this US adaptation. For those who read the manga or watched the anime will know that Ryuk is a shinigami, a god of death, a creature that is connected to Japanese culture and folklore.
So to have Ryuk just show up in the adaptation with no real backstory or reason for his existence, he doesn’t serve to be a purposeful character in the slightest. They briefly touched on Ryuk being attached to Japanese history by showing a picture of him the a book, but then there was no follow up. Then all Ryuk really did in the film was egg on Light to use the death note. Ryuk didn’t need to be there, Light could have used the notebook on his own accord. So that begs the question, why was he there?
Simple, fan service.
The elements kept from the original content were there as simple fan service and to keep the fans “happy” by not completely changing the story. But the funny thing is that there were so many other changes made that counteracted those elements that it left the overall story incomplete.
Basically, because there are core aspects of the original story that are so fundamentally associated with Japanese culture it’s hard to translate that over to Western culture without making some major changes. As an adaption, I feel like you are allowed to take creative liberties and change things to better suit your medium, condense content to aid the story and appeal to the audiences you are trying to reach. However, these changes still need to retain the core of the original content and make a sound story.
For example, Japan has adapted American films in the past like “Unforgiven” and “My Fair Lady”. What made those adaptations work was the fact that they took the main concept and then they made it their own, but they went full out. They made changes to appeal to a Japanese audience, playing with their tropes and typical movie characters, while still having a complete story. You can’t borderline copy and paste a moment from the original content and expect it to work in smooth conjunction with so many other story changes.
Honestly if they went all out and took out the inherently Japanese elements from the original story then this film could have been better. It would never be truly Death Note, but the story could have potentially been enjoyable in it’s own right. There are various other reasons that made this film all wrong, but story wise is where it really falls though as being any kind of successful.
So for those of you who watched this movie, what did you think of it? Or what made you not want to watch this movie? Let me know in the comments what you thought and we can rant together, unfiltered and ruthless!