Rachel, having watched the anime series and the movie, felt the movie was lacking, while Brad, who has watched the movie and is familiar with the series, felt like the movie was a good drama. Both felt that the film was made for a western audience.
The movie pales in comparison to the series. They create Light as a more redeemable character and made Mira to be a more conflicted character. Mira was driving the negative decisions in the movie, where as in the anime, she was portrayed as a good character. It was also lacking the progression that the show has. While it’s very difficult to create a show into a movie, they lost a lot of character development.
For one, in the movie the death god Ryuk is used as window dressing. Similar to how short, frilly curtains around the top of a window do not actually do more than decorate, Ryuk doesn’t serve any purpose. Whereas in the series he is a more interactive character. He often makes funny, dark observations on humanity and is frequently bugging Light. After watching the movie he was more of a being who could be summoned at will, rather than a god who is always there.
Additionally, the movie lacked the story line of Light eventually working with the investigator to conceal his usage of the death note. This was an important part of the character development because it showed how intelligent Light and L (the investigator) were. The movie portrayed Light more as a stupid kid who was in over his head, and L as making somewhat unbelievable assumptions about a death god committing the killings. In Japanese culture, the idea of a Shinigami, or death god, is not a foreign idea. It would not be crazy to assume that L could make that kind of conclusion. Whereas western culture would be less familiar with the idea of death god. Japanese culture also puts a large emphasis on academics and learning. It would not be outlandish for Light to be an incredibly intelligent young adult. There seemed to be a disconnect as the writers made a western sanitation over an otherwise eastern religious story. This sanitation made the movie’s story line far less believable.
There was also differences in the gore and language shown in the movie verses the series. The movie had way more mature content than the series. This really was not a necessary part of the storyline, and seemed to be trying to attract a certain audience.
Having not seen the series, this movie seemed like an interesting drama. Specifically, the movie appeared to be a philosophical discussion on the traditional Christian God. Ryuk’s character is christianized in the movie. Conveniently, Light can bring Ryuk when he’s needed, and then Ryuk goes away when Light does not want to interact anymore. Light could just forget about the death god as needed. Westernized Christianity often interact with their God the same way. The first time they get in over their heads, they yell and demand that God appear. The traditional Christian God is expected to show up as needed, and then be a God that is all good. The movie appears to communicate that this version of God, a fake God, should be killed because that God has a particular brand of morality.
Just as other authors have tried to kill this version of God (i.e. The Golden Compass), these writers seem to communicate the same sentiment. How would you kill a god and what would the world look like when we have killed God? Historically, ideas have been killed by destroying history or the written word. For example, Nazis killed unwanted ideas by burning the books that held the idea. Destroy the written history, destroy the people. This symbolism was used with the death book.
The additional gore and language could be specifically to pull in the crowd of people who would be willing to question the traditional idea of the Christian God. Typically people who have negative experiences in their lives are open to questioning their beliefs. People are content to do what has always been done, and accepting what your church leader says without question is easy to do. There is often a culture of sticking to the basics and not looking into deeper doctrine. By including more gore and language, it protects their idea from religious people that are not interested in questioning their beliefs. Again referencing the Golden Compass, religious people who were not open to changing their view of God hated the book. Keeping this group of people from the audience of the movie, protected Death Note from irrelevant criticism.
Rachel’s Follow Up:
The movie was definitely in your face about the idea of a false God or a God not worthy of worship. It also captures the essence of the Death Note, but the details were off, making the movie less enjoyable. What the writers did with the movie, making it more inaccessible for viewers, did they help or hurt their cause? Will they actually convert people to a better image of God?
Reviewed by: Bradley L. Kelly and Rachel E. Kelly
Transcribed and Summarized by: Victoria Bartholomew