I went to see Death Note last night. After stuffing ourselves with sushi at Oishi, Jen, Rockstar, and myself headed to the local AMC. We settled into some seats in the crowded and stuffy movie theater, and waited for the start of the show. Once the movie began, Rockstar, unhappy with the volume, called the movie theater and asked them to turn up the sound, which they did. Hey, and he didn’t even have to leave his seat! Too bad Jen wasn’t as successful getting the guy next to stop breathing so loudly (!)
The movie was pretty good, though I thought the beginning dragged out for too long, as criminal after criminal mysteriously keeled over and died. It seemed to take forever to get to any mention of the Death Note, which I found a little confusing. Unlike the manga, Light is a college student, studying law, and he’s become disenchanted with the legal system. Watching murders and thugs be allowed to walk free, he’s just pitched his law book into a trash heap after a frightening encounter with a murderous maniac when he stumbles upon the Death Note, which claims that once a person’s name is written within its pages, that person will die. Scoffing at the instructions, he writes a felon’s name on a whim, only to discover later that the man fell over dead. Hey, maybe there’s something to this creepy book after all!
The transformation from idealistic young man to emotionless, calculating killer is fascinating. At first, as his morals kick in, Light attempts to return to book to where he found it, only to meet Ryuk. Light decides to keep possession of the Death Note, and to rid the world of evil. He becomes so convinced that what he’s doing is a benefit to society, that it’s good and just, that when he feels threatened, nobody is safe from his pen. He sneers at lesser mortals, supremely confident in his intellect and his ability to keep several steps ahead of the police. He begins to experiment with the instructions he writes in the Death Note, honing his skills at murder. The web he weaves becomes more and more intricate as he toys with the lives of others.
As the strange rash of deaths continue, Light’s police detective father and the eccentric L are introduced. I loved the casting for most of the characters, especially Kenichi Matsuyama as the clever, sugar loving L. While Ryuk’s perpetually grinning visage was visually compelling, the CG for the rest of the shinigami wasn’t very convincing. There was a lack of fluidity when he gyrated through the air, which was distracting. At least he looked kind of scary. I didn’t like the dub, and would have much preferred to see the movie subtitled, as I usually find English voice actors stiff and wooden.
My biggest gripe about the movie was the lack of text translations. In a movie where writing is so central to the plot, it seems extremely short-sighted that all of text was left an undecipherable mash of kanji and katakana. Text was constantly flashing across the screen, be it text messages, newspapers, computer screens, or Light’s scribbles in the Death Note. It was very irritating not being able to read it all.
Overall, I found the movie a good way to spend two hours. I got caught up in the plot, and was only distracted when one of my companions decided to start throwing chocolate covered peanuts at me. It was a bummer that everything ended on a cliffhanger, so I’ll be making plans to see the second movie when it’s released. What I really want to do is watch the DVD when it comes out, so I can see Death Note subbed. And hopefully all of that pesky text will be translated, too!