Movie Marathon #12: Death Note

by thethreepennyguignol

Continuing the theme of nicking every aspect of my interests and personality from anyone around, I was introduced to Death Note by my older brother when I was around fourtten. He passed me down the manga when I spent about ten minutes staring at him blankly while I tried to work out why he was reading a book backwards, and I devoured them in a ridiculously short amount of time. I will stand by ther Death Note books as a work of true genius; a ridiculously overwrought, convoluted story that only stops being fustrating after you’ve put down the last book. The art is beautiful, the ideas mind-bending, and the characters ridiculously compelling. With that source material, really-really-how badly could they fuck up the films?

Well, a lot. Seriously. Coming at the films with less an open mind than one that was an endless plane in every direction, I wanted it to be superb, and it was barely passable. You’d think that a manga (and anime) with such heavy influence and general, all-over popularity would have been able to garner, say, some people who could genuinley act. Starring Tatsuya Fujiwara (the lead in the equally dissapointing Battle Royale) as Light Yagami, the sociopathic student who ends up with Godlike powers after discovering the notebook of a Shinigami (God of death), and a perfectly-cast Kenichi Matsuyama as the mysterious and emotion-free detective L who’s constantly one step away from busting Light.

The story’s great but it’s been mangled almost beyond repair in the pair of movies, dobbing in Light’s brilliantly evil character for a matyred young man just trying to put the world to rights. Adapting a twelve-book series into a pair of relatvely short movies was always going to be a mountainous challenge, especially with a fanbase as dedicated as Death Note’s. But it’s not just that they’ve screwed up the plot.

Both films can relax in the knowledge that they have a solid, pretty huge fanbase for their creation, however brilliant or terrible the movies might be, and everything about them-the casting, the direction, the writing- smacks of this. It’s lazy. When you don’t have to fight to get yourself recognised, there’s always the temptation to just sit back on what you already have and point the camera at a couple of teenagers pouting at each other over a table.

Disclaimer: Kenichi Matsuyama is one of the most singularly beautiful men I’ve ever seen in my entire life and I would happily rub my head on his chest for days at a time.

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