(SFX> Magazine, Future Publishing)
Like law-enforcers who go up against Death Note‘s killer with a notepad, this Netflix remake is brave but futile. Transposing the franchise from Japan to Seattle, the film tries new twists and takes on the famous story, but loses too much of the original’s appeal. It even seems scared of Death Note‘s wicked wish-fulfilment; “You too can be a godlike mass murderer!”
High schooler Light (Natt Wolff) discovers a magic notebook that lets him kill anyone by writing his or her name in its pages. This version of Light is vulnerable, vengeful (his mum was killed by a criminal) and needy (he’s barely got the Death Note before blabbing about it to the girl he likes). The changes are interesting at first – the film’s opening half hour is good fun. But the battles of wits and fiendish strategies are scrubbed away. Light still has his arch-enemy, the great detective L (Keith Stanfield), but you never believe they’re the smartest people in the world, as the film dissipates into daddy issues and boring chases. Willem Dafoe is great as the cackling death god Ryuk, but he isn’t on-screen nearly enough. The film’s unlikely to draw many newbies to the franchise, though broadminded Death Note fans might find it diverting as ‘What-if?’ fanfic.