Movie review: Death Note

Movie reviews

Hello!

The latest of Netflix’s original films (and, arguably, the most interesting one) is streaming worldwide, so, let’s talk about it. This is the review of Death Note.

IMDb summary: Light Turner, a bright student, stumbles across a mystical notebook that has the power to kill any person whose name he writes in it. Light decides to launch a secret crusade to rid the streets of criminals. Soon, the student-turned-vigilante finds himself pursued by a famous detective known only by the alias L.

2017’s Death Note is a live-action adaptation of a beloved anime/manga franchise. The Netflix’s version of this IP has been called the ‘American adaptation’ with the hopes of stopping or minimizing the criticism on the topic of whitewashing. Weirdly, I haven’t seen the same argument being used to defend Ghost in the Shell. Also, I find it strange that, in this day and age, somebody would make a movie purely for the American audience, when it is definitely gonna be seen all over the globe.

Writing

Death Note’s script was written by Charles Parlapanides and Vlas Parlapanides (the duo behind 2011’s Immortals – a Henry Cavill pre-Superman film), and Jeremy Slater (who wrote, oh no, 2015’s Fantastic Four). Going in line with the idea of Americanization, the screenwriters efficiently grounded the film’s story in an American life by opening the movie with the sequence set in a stereotypical American high-school. This was a first and a very obvious change from the original material. As I’m not familiar with neither the original Death Note anime or manga, I’d be interested to find out what other changes occurred? How were the characters different (excluding the race switch)? How much of the original plot-points were retained? Were the changes made because of the Americanization or for some other reason? The picture still did have some Japanese elements (mainly two: the word ‘Kira’ and its meaning remained and a few minor Japanese characters were involved in the narrative).

Speaking about the fantasy part of the story – I found it very fascinating and now I get why every anime fan loves Death Note. I thought that the film set up the mystical side of its story very well, although Light’s transition into being the full-on Kira figure was a bit sudden. Nevertheless, I did like that the movie raised questions about the vigilante justice (on a massive scale) and questioned the limits that some people might be willing to push past. Other, more real-world-related topics, which were touched upon in the film, were bullying, anti-socialness, and the unproductive parent-child relationships.

As the narrative is usually made or broken by its characters, let’s discuss them. I very much enjoyed the writing for Light. I loved how smart he was and, yet, how he still made stupid mistakes appropriate for his age (like telling his girlfriend about the book, although, I’m quite happy that the scriptwriters allowed him to ‘show and tell’ rather than act like Iron Fist, who only tells his story without any proof and expects others to believe him). Light’s opposite and equal – L – was also quite nicely realized. I loved the fact that the stand-off between these two was happening on a whole other level of brilliance. Their genius-ness could be seen in 1)L’s initial detective skills and 2)Light’s ability to avoid culpability in the end. I also liked how the main difference – one’s readiness to kill and other’s refusal to, was highlighted in the movie.

Another important character in the film was Mia, Light’s girlfriend. The writing for her was the worst, mostly because the secrets and the reveals, related to her, were fairly obvious. However, I noticed an interesting parallel between Death Note’s notebook having an influence over Mia similarly to how Tom Ridley’s diary had a hold on Ginny in HP2.

Directing

Adam Wingard directed the 2017’s Death Note and did a good job. His previous work mostly belongs to the horror genre and it looks like he brought elements of it to Death Note too and turned the psychological thriller/detective thriller into more of a horror film. He did that by using plenty of jump scares and really gruesome and gory violence. The graphic content didn’t detract from the plot but it didn’t add to it either. The final product also definitely had a feeling of a Hollywood film, due to its soundtrack (by Atticus Ross and Leopold Ross) and all the slow motion (so the Americanization of the property continued from the script into the visuals and the sounds).

The character design of Ryuk was quite good. He looked terrifying enough and kinda reminded me of the clown in the new IT film. I applaud the filmmakers for using mostly practical effects – puppets and costumes -to bring this character to life (CGI was only used for the face). I’ll comment on the look of the other characters in the acting category.

Lastly, the 3rd act of the film was quite strong. The final chase (L going after Light) was neatly paced and I liked its instrumental score and the urban setting. The ferry’s wheel sequence was also exciting and entertainingly crazy, especially when all the characters came clean.

The director’s next project is Godzilla vs. Kong for Legendary’s MonsterVerse.

Acting

Nat Wolff was really good in the lead role of L. He played the lead character as a psychotic but vulnerable genius.Wolff is slowly building his career, he first popped on everyone’s radar with a small part in The Fault in Our Stars and later starred in the John Green follow-up movie Paper Towns.

L was played by Lakeith Stanfield. The actor had previous small roles in Selma, Straight Outta Compton and Get Out (which I’m going to review in a couple of days). The idea to cast an African American actor in the role added some diversity and accuracy for a US-based film. Still, I don’t think that this type of diversity can work as an apology for not casting Asian talent in any of the lead roles. And yet, while the character did not retain neither its original race nor the iconic hair, his sitting position remained the same, which was a nice. Also, if we take the character’s look on its own and don’t compare him to anyone else, I have to admit – L did look very cool .

Mia was played by Margaret Qualley (The Nice Guys). I thought that she was the weakest of the cast. Her character’s shadiness was very obvious, presumably because the actress performance lacked subtlety. Willem Dafoe voiced and did the facial expressions for Ryuk. His voice fit the character neatly and the facial expressions were sinister enough.

In brief, Death Note was an okay adaptation of a beloved anime (but honestly, the bar has been set pretty low by Ghost in the Shell). Whitewashing aside, the film had a couple of writing problems, but, in general, was enjoyable.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Death Note trailer 

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Movie review: Interstellar

Movie reviews

Hello!

On Monday, I went to see Interstellar – the newest film by the genius Christopher Nolan and this is going to be my review. Sorry that it comes out 4 days later than it should have – my PC crashed once again. SPOILERS AHEAD.

IMDb Summary: A team of explorers travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity.

First of all, let’s begin by saying that I knew almost absolutely nothing about the film before going to see it. I have watched the trailer but deliberately didn’t read any of the reviews or articles about it. Only piece of information I had was that this was a Nolan movie and that was enough for me to get excited. Moreover, I enjoyed last year’s Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity (you cannot not talk about Gravity when talking about Interstellar; everybody will compare them because they came out so close to each other).  I also wanted to see if McConaissance is continuing and was curious, whether this was Anne Hathaway‘s role that will finally stop all the hate she is getting.

Directing

As I have previously said and you have already probably known if you live on this Earth and go on the Internet regularly, this movie is directed by Christopher Nolan. I called him genius in my introduction because I really admire his work, The Dark Knight is a peak of superhero movies and simply a masterpiece, Inception is a psychological mystical thriller that questions reality and Interstellar is a bit of both.  It has the ability to question people’s existence like Inception and also an emotional impact of The Dark Knight. I really want to watch other, older Nolan movies, like Memento, Following, and Insomnia. He is probably the only director that big studious trust with huge amounts of money (Interstellar has cost $165 million) and a lot of creative freedom. This movie is an original idea in a reboot, sequel and spin-off world. I hope that this Warner Bros-Nolan relationship will continue because it has been working great so far.

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Acting

Matthew McConaughey was amazing in his role as Cooper. The McConaissance continues. I hope he will receive at least an Oscar nomination. While I might think that the whole movie won’t get a Best Picture nomination (more about that later) he definitely deserves another Best Actor nomination and/ or another win (however, the competition is really strong this year – actually, it is getting stronger every year). The reason why I believe he should be nominated is that he sold the emotional connection between the father and daughter. You were really rooting for him to come back to his family. His scenes in space while piloting a ship or crashing one were also really well acted and believable.

Anne Hathaway’s character Brand wasn’t my favorite in the film and you know why? Because she just reminded me so much of Sandra Bullock. They both even look kind of the same. And I didn’t really understand some of her decisions when they were in space, they seemed a bit stupid. Although, her character was right in the end: They should have gone to the third planet because that one was survivable. I love Anne as an actress (even did a whole post about her), but they could have casted someone else instead of her.

INTERSTELLAR

Mackenzie Foy, who you might remember as Renesmee from Twilight saga, was really good in her role as young Murph. She sold the other part of the father- daughter relationship and I believe that she will go far as an actress. Jessica Chaistan who played the adult Murph was also really good; I could believe that Foy could grow up looking someone like Chaistan, so good casting of that role. I wasn’t familiar with Chaistan’s work before but I really want to know more about her and to watch more of her work – she got me hooked.

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Michael Caine wasn’t a particularly likeable character and I didn’t really connect with him much. He wasn’t used enough as in his other recent film – Stonehearst Asylum (review).

TARS voiced by Bill Irwin was such a likeable robot, I loved his humor.

Wes Bentley was quite good in his role as well but, when SPOILER they killed him off,  I wasn’t really surprised. They definitely weren’t planning to kill off Oscar winners or fan boy favorites in the first hour of a 3 hour film.

Murph’s science partner/ love interest (?) was also a so-so character; he kind of appeared out of nowhere two hours into the film. He was played by Topher Grace and, after googling him, I had found out that he was Murph’s husband,.

Cooper’s son played by “the other Affleck” (Casey Affleck) was also an undeveloped character. It seemed that his father forgot all about him or even didn’t care much in the first place.

Matt Damon as Doctor Mann was really good in his role but his intention were unclear to me.

Addressing the longevity of the film, it didn’t seem too long for me because I was really engaged in the story. However, I do believe that the first two hours felt quite disconnected from the final act.

Story

The film tried to connect 2 different plotlines: family drama and astronomy/end of the world crisis. I believe that they really succeed for the bigger part of the film. At first, they started with a family story that quite coincidentally turned into a space odyssey. Then they moved to a science fiction part of the film and exposed the viewers to a tremendous amount of real scientific facts about the universe. But then, the movie kind of lost it for me because it ventured into mystical and supernatural territory. Everybody, who has seen the movie, knows which part I am talking about. While I do love physics and astronomy and believe that people will be able to understand dimensions and space-time as physical elements and will reach huge scientific heights someday, I couldn’t wrap my head around it at that very moment. I had the same problems with Luc Besson’s Lucy with Scarlet Johansson. Do you remember the scene where she is transferring her brain, which is working 100 percent, into a computer? And that computer turns into…. I don’t even know how to describe it. But in both cases, I felt that the ending was too detached, too unrealistic and too unimaginable for a human mind and even a bit illogical. And the concluding idea that love is the most powerful and, moreover, a quantifiable element tried to turn movie back to a family drama storyline but didn’t succeed. It sounds like I am nitpicking the movie but I actually really liked it and I am only thinking how Nolan could have made it even better. I had the same problem with another Nolan movie The Prestige
– the mivie was so grounded and the ending was completely out of the ordinary. Still, it’s a great film that messed my mind up (in a good way.)

I don’t have a favorite scene of the film because there were just so many great ones both visually and story wise; I do have a favorite scientific part of the motion picture – relativity theory. The running of time and different speeds of it fascinate me. I like to imagine that people will learn how to manipulate time and that we will learn how to live forever by travelling to places were time runs slower.

Visuals

The visuals of the space were breathtaking and that flying thought the wormhole scene was one of the most beautiful shot scenes I have ever seen. They also did an amazing job with Earth’s scenes and really established it as a horrible place to live.

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Music

I loved the musical score of the film by Hans Zimmer. It was even more memorable for me than Inception’s dunnnnn (Inception sound effect).

All in all, I had a great time watching this film, though some people didn’t like it as much (it has the lowest score of all Nolan movies on Rotten Tomatoes and critics aren’t super nice – that’s why I think it won’t get a Best Picture nomination). Personally, it appealed to me with the portrayal of unbreakable bond between father and daughter because I have a strong relationship with my dad. It satisfied the nerd side of me with the whole scientific stuff and once again made me believe in humanity and showed that we can go far as a species if we just work hard. I had issues with a few actors but the great performances of McConaughey and Chaistan as well as Foy made up for all the problems. Lastly, while the conclusion of the story was unbelievable and a bit insane, I really do hope that we will find a way to achieve inter-dimensional communication one day.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Interstellar trailer

interstellar3(Google Images)