Death Note (2017)

Adaptations are hard. Change too much and you'll only be pissing off fans of whatever it is that you are adapting. Change too little and those same fans will wonder what the point of making a new adaptation was at all; if all that the new version accomplishes is to retell the original story, why not just watch the original?I only bring up the inherent challenges that come with adapting an existing property as a way to be kind to the people behind the 2017 adaption of the hit anime/manga "Death Note". It seemed only fair that if I was going to write a review about how this movie is an absolutely irredeemable garbage fire of a Death Note adaptation, that I should at least start the review by acknowledging that this film was in a bit of a no win situation from the moment that it was announced. They could either stay incredibly close to the source material and have people complain that nothing was different, or change a lot and have people complain about all of the changes. The filmmakers definitely decided to go with the latter choice, but stopped short of creating a new story and characters. The result feels like a greatest hits version of the anime that is playing over an 80s teen movie.This disconnect is apparent almost immediately as we are introduced to our protagonist, Light Turner. The filmmakers chose to change his last name from Yagami to something decidedly less Japanese, which makes sense given the different setting of the film. Yet they chose to keep the name Light. Again, this is understandable as Light is an iconic character. The odd part to me is that the uniqueness of his name is never commented on or justified in the movie. (There is an offhand comment about how Light's mom was a hippy, which is maybe meant to justify it, but I digress) Even in the anime, characters frequently comment on what a strange and unique name it is. It also serves as a contrast to Light's dark motives and cold demeanour. But Light Turner is just a regular guy. The name serves no purpose besides reminding us of a better version of the same story. It feels like the film just took the hero of a generic teen horror movie and slapped the name Light on him.I feel like I could go character by character through this movie and try to explain why each one bothered me, but in an attempt to keep this under 2000 words I'll try to focus on what I see as the big underlying problem: the movie completely misses the essence of what Death Note is. Death Note the anime/manga is the story of a bored kid who decides to become a monster in an attempt to save the world. Light Yagami is not tricked or tempted into using the Death Note. He doesn't use it for personal gain or to pick up girls. He finds a powerful tool and decides to use it in the most efficient and positive way that he can think of. He is so driven that he has already started his crusade against criminals before Ryuk even comes to pay him a busy.Light Turner on the other hand is your standard anti-hero. Whereas Light Yagami is the squeaky clean golden boy of his school, Light Turner is a sullen loner who sells homework and test answers. Turner has a sympathetic backstory about a mother that was killed by a famous mobster. None of these are inherently bad things, but they make it so Light Turner is a fundamentally different character than Light Yagami.The movie feels like it was made by committee, a committee which never decided if it wanted to try something new or do something they knew the fans would like. There's a weird disconnect as they fundamentally change the rules of the Death Note and the personalities of all the characters involved, but they still frequently reference the iconic moments and images from the original series. This juxtaposition is summed up perfectly in an early scene where Light has his girlfriend Mia touch the Death Note, assuming that she will then be able to see Ryuk. He is shocked when this ends up not being the case, and I was too as touching the Death Note and seeing Death Gods played a pretty major role in the anime.Moments like this left me confused about the intentions of the filmmakers. Where they giving a nod to the fans by having Light assume the original rules where in effect? Did they really think the fans would like that? Or was the movie just written by people who had little to no knowledge of the source material? Things like the changes to Light's backstory, changes to the characterization of Ryuk, and the entire relationship between Light and L left me similarly confused. It seemed tough to see it as anything but a massive misstep at best and a giant middle finger to Death Note fans at the worst.Definitely worth getting drunk and watching this though. It moves quickly and has lots of over the top moments.