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Move review: Death Note

Posted on 2008.05.16 at 09:54
Current Mood: amusedamused
Last night I saw a clever and creative movie,  among the best I've seen in a while.  It's called Death Note, part 1 and in Japanese with subtitles.  
I'd vaguely heard of this one before, heard that it was about a boy who finds a notebook and discovers he can kill people by writing in it.  Based on that, I didn't think I'd be interested because it sounded like the typical stupid Hollywood slasher movie.  But it's not like that at all. Death Note is about the line between good and evil, about justice, the corrupting influence of power, and involves a game of hunter and hunted, in which two brilliant minds grapple with one another. What I loved about this movie is that it is so smart, with twists and turns and continually raised stakes, great characters, symbolism, and moral questions to ponder, not to mention two fine-looking protagonists. 

So yeah, this college student finds a notebook lying on the ground.  When he picks it up he can see an incarnation of death - a totally freaky  devil-like being with a face like a clown death mask.  (When he shows up, you have to say, whoa!)  Death introduces himself as Ryuk.  The young man, named Light, soon discovers that he can kill  a person by writing his name in the book if he visualizes the person's face at the same time. Light decides to kill off all the scum in society - people who, as they used to say in the old Westerns, "need killin'."   He hacks into the police data base and searches for criminals. Soon, the media is reporting the mysterious deaths. No one knows who is doing it and, of course some people decide it is divine retribution. Many people approve of the killer, who becomes known as Kira.  But of course, the deaths are outside the law and the police become involved, including the police chief who happens to be Light's father.  Enter a new character named "L" who only speaks to the police through a computer.  In fact, at first you think the character might be a computer.  L begins working with the police to track down the killer and through various statistical models,(fascinating) L slowly narrows down who the killer must be.  As the police close in, in order to protect himself, Light goes from being an avenging "angel" to a cold-blooded killer.  He discovers he can delay deaths or write complicated scenarios that come true, and he employs these in the ensuing cat and mouse game. The twists and turns and complications of this are just fascinating and unpredictable.  I was on the edge of my seat.  And when L finally reveals who he is - wow what a great character. 

There are so many wonderful touches in this.  I love Ryuk's commentary as Light slowly becomes corrupt. Ryuk is a devil type character introducing temptation and seeing what Light will do with it, but also presents him with choices.  At one point Ryuk says something like, "humans are so much fun to play with."  Almost like a dog, Ryuk tags along with Light - watching him.  I love the fact that Ryuk craves apples and chows them down enthusiastically.  I love how amazingly smart both Light and L are - notice the similarity there - they are really two sides of a coin.  And I love the chess-game nature of their moves and countermoves as they attempt to outsmart each other.  And I LOVE, LOVE that L is addicted to sweets and almost absently snarfs down all kinds of candy while he is focussed on the intellectual problem of tracking down his nemesis. At one point, while he's glued to about a dozen video screens looking for patterns, he is also constructing a candy shish kabob by pushing marshmallows and chocolates on a skewer.   L also has a certain resemblance to Ryuk, in the kohl-edged eyes and white pallor and the addiction to food. The ending is intriguing, and open for a sequel.   I think there is a Death Note 2 - which I'll have to go out and rent. 

I understand that Death Note was originally a Japanese manga - found images for it on google and I'll have to look it up.   And Light and L are extremely slashable.  I'm sure it's going on out there as we speak.  They are in kind of like a Superman/Lex Luthor rivalry.   I totally recommend this movie.

Addendum:  Eh well I saw part 2 tonight and I didn't care for it particularly.  Still has the complicated twists in plot, but went on way too long and got weird and no, did not like the ending.  So now I'm not as hot on it as I was. Oh well.


aoi_shu at 2008-05-16 18:11 (UTC) (Link)
To be honest, Death Note is one work that leaves me in doubts. it is good, well made story, but IMHO it is also very very controversial and repulsive.

In a movie Kira is more disgusting than in manga or anime. Thing is, this story created a huge following of Kira. He seems cool, especially to the younger audience, that consumes this in a manga form. It fucking creeps me out - there was this infamous cosplay (costyme play) a photo of a boy in Kira's clothes, who posed on the site of real bus-crash.

There is a second part, which I haven't watched. You might wanna check out the anime too, if you like it. but to be honest, it makes me think of "Crime and Punishment" gone very very wrong.

BTW, I could rec you a couple interesting things.
Also quite thought-arising and also visually entertaining.

One woudl be MUSHISHI (anime is better than movie, but movie is so gorgeously made)

Another anime, visuals alone are fantstic, but stories are even better:
http://www.veoh.com/videos/v8858523tfMBNJG - Mononoke
elfscribe5 at 2008-05-16 19:19 (UTC) (Link)
Hi Shu. Thanks for commenting. I do like discussion. I can see how kids identifying with Kira would be disturbing and it's unfortunate but I don't think the movie glorifies him. If anything, I felt an increasing sense of horror for what he becomes. But the power he has is seductive. It raises the question, what would anyone do with that kind of power? I think the movie gains power from examining the issue. It actually examines that issue by showing how the public becomes fascinated with the killer, at least as long as he is offing criminals. I did come to admire how clever Light is, the same way we admire the clever villain in any movie. Actually, there are many movies these days in which it becomes hard to tell who the "good guy" is, as the methods of both good guy and bad guy are the same. In this case, L hasn't resorted to killing innocents to trap his opponent.
I still liked the movie.
Thanks for the recs.
aoi_shu at 2008-05-17 05:18 (UTC) (Link)
They off l mid-way T-T
Manga and anime is a bit different. In the movie Kira is really horrifying. Manga is more gradual and more.. apologetic.

Maybe this was what got to me more.

Yeha I know. It is good, I had been a fan for alil while, but then there was this point when it was TOO MUCH. Just too much of inhumanity >.< and shown in a kinda *sexy* light if you know what I mean.

Movie is more direct, I think, it didn't leave as much of an impact .. and i haven't seen the other one, cause L is too much LOVE to see him being killed and the rest of genius-detectives are lame^^;

I had been waiting to discuss it too.. cause it bothered me so much ... honestly. i still cannot really form my opinion about it, other than FREAKS ME OUT^^; (maybe it is a good thing)
elfscribe5 at 2008-05-17 05:42 (UTC) (Link)
Hey Shu. Well, just saw part 2 tonight and I'm not near as enamored of it as I was the first part. Too many twists and turns that don't have a good explanation this time and the end . . .yeah. Not good. So, I see what you're saying.
aoi_shu at 2008-05-17 06:00 (UTC) (Link)
beginning was great, but the further you go...
Especially in manga, you see these stretched scenes that add to page count.

Unfortunately i coudln't find Mushishi with english sub on VEOH, I saw French,Spanish, itallian and German. These series is so full of thought and have this quiet quality .. that just puts your soul together. It helped me a lot.

and Mononoke is one of the best too. The visuals are very Art Nuveau style. And stories are very human and emotive.
A wild and untamed thing
rebeccasama at 2008-05-16 23:40 (UTC) (Link)
I loooooove Death Note! It's the best thing I've seen in....a very long time. I seriously recommend the anime to you if you liked the live action movie; it's a lot more detailed. The first few volumes are out in English, and the whole thing is up on www.tv-links.cc as a fansub. I watched a few eps every night when I got home from the library till I was done. I was on the edge of my seat for a week LOL There is a Death Note 2 which I think takes you through to the end of the anime (though from what I understand they changed a few things). I think it's called Death Note: The Last Name. Also, from what I understand they made a spinoff movie just about L but I've not had any luck digging that up yet.

Agreed on L and Light - I have quite a few scanlated doujinshi to that effect if you're interested. :)
elfscribe5 at 2008-05-17 00:39 (UTC) (Link)
Ooh cool. So glad you like it too.
"Agreed on L and Light - I have quite a few scanlated doujinshi to that effect if you're interested."
Oh absolutely, send the links my way. Need, need.
A wild and untamed thing
rebeccasama at 2008-05-17 01:49 (UTC) (Link)

*blathers on about Death Note a lot*

I'm seriously fangirling it. I love how twisty and turny it is, especially the anime. And angsty. And funny. It's just got everything. (I loved the candy shish kabab thing too. Sometimes I get a stomachache just watching L eat.) It's been ages since I've seen an anime of that quality. I'm going to buy the DVDs and the manga when I get back to the States - as far as I know all 12 volumes of the manga are out.

Here are the links... If you want, I'll read through them again later to check for spoilers - I'd feel awful if I ruined the end/anything major for you with my linkage. A few of them I know mention some minor things from the anime (I haven't seen much of the 2nd movie, barring fanvids, yet so I'm not sure what they kept) but the one "Can't Be" I know references something pretty major in the author's preface.

http://community.livejournal.com/chainedheart_dn/profile if you give an age statement you can dl everything this comm has. (Lemony First Love is my very favorite here - it's so cute and sweet! And it's AU so no spoilers!)

Also if you join this board you can dl all these:
(A few are repeats of chained heart but not all.)

Oh, and while I'm at it you may also be interested in their FFVII/Advent Children doujin... (Mostly Cloud/Zack & a hell of a threesome with Cloud/Kadaj & gang O_O) http://forum.nihonomaru.com/yaoi-yuri-48/final-fantasy-7-doujinshis-30722.html

Btw, if any of these links don't work I have all the files saved on my computer and can email them to you. I so wish I could write for this fandom but the boys just won't speak to me. I guess I'll just go back to writing Vincent/Cid *whistle*
A wild and untamed thing
rebeccasama at 2008-05-18 20:19 (UTC) (Link)
So you saw the end huh?


I've only seen clips, but I think it was probably done a lot better in the anime from what I can see. I'm rather interested in the movie that's all about L too.

Are Mello and Near in the second movie at all? *has theory they cut a hell of a lot*
elfscribe5 at 2008-05-19 02:54 (UTC) (Link)
Hi - yeah saw the end and I wasn't as impressed as the first part. I could tell that they were trying to put together something that was much more complicated in a coherent way, but a lot of stuff happened that they then had to sum up for us how it came about and parts got tedious. Also, I really didn't care for the women in this one - someone needs to send women's lib over to Japan. LOL. No, no Mello or Near. I did, however, really like the other Death god Rem. Cool character. And L is great, but he seemed to have less to do in this one than the first part. Huh.
A wild and untamed thing
rebeccasama at 2008-05-19 15:59 (UTC) (Link)
Also, I really didn't care for the women in this one - someone needs to send women's lib over to Japan.

Uh oh. That doesn't sound good. The thing with Misa Misa is the part I find most disturbing, I think. Also, Ray Pendbar is a tool in the anime. I think Light does tend to use women...probably part of his god complex.

I still want to see it but I know they can't possibly cram 37 episodes of anime into two movies. I still heartily recommend watching it though. I'm sure the ultimate fates are the same but it's so much more fleshed out (and there's such a slashy scene between L and Light in one of them...I think it's ep 24....*dies*). And there's a teeny little thing after the credits of the last ep that I like a lot.

Yeah, Rem is cool. We like Rem. I think her relationship with Misa Misa is an interesting contrast to Light's relationship with Ryuk.
elfscribe5 at 2008-05-19 16:07 (UTC) (Link)
Rem is female? The voice was male in the movie and the character looked male. Anyway, yes I'd definitely get the movie if you're into the anime. The first part was great.
A wild and untamed thing
rebeccasama at 2008-05-19 16:52 (UTC) (Link)
Yep, she's a girl as far as I know. Boo for them making her male. She definitly seems feminine in the anime.

*blinks* Ok, I just read a summary of the second movie. Wow they changed a lot. L ends up a bit differently in the manga/anime for sure. Where did you manage to find it? Amazon only has the first movie as coming out in Sept I think and no word on the second other than the Japanese import which is region 3.
elfscribe5 at 2008-05-21 04:57 (UTC) (Link)
My daughter had a friend in her Japanese class who had them in Japanese with subtitles. Didn't know they were a rare item. LOL.
dark_malignity at 2008-05-18 03:43 (UTC) (Link)
have been avoiding it like the plague ever since the manga came out. (i'm allergic to "cool") but if elfscribe says its good then hmmmm..... *considers watching movie*

i also thought it was slightly off-putting because it glorifies wierdness. not in the sense that we should love people in spite of them being wierd, but as if you NEED to be create yourself as wierd for people to take an interest in you.

my bro who DOES do deathnote said that the second movie is completing the story, so that first and second movie together is the entire series... like it was done because there was too much to fit into one movie.
elfscribe5 at 2008-05-19 03:00 (UTC) (Link)
Hiya Dark.
Well, as you can see from my raving, I really liked the first part. The second part, as I said to Rebecca sama, seemed like they were trying to sum up a lot of complication, and it got really confusing, all the ends and outs started not to make as much sense. It got to be too much. Didn't like the way the women characters acted either. Although Rem,the second Death god in part 2 was way cool. And yeah, that's right, part 1 and 2 are parts of the same movie. But I think I'd have been happy for it to end where it did at part 1. LOL. So anyway, I'd still recommend it. I liked the L character, a lot, even though he is odd, but it was his very oddness that made him so intriguing. That and being so bloody smart.
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