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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Death Note the Movie: First Impression


Death Note movie screenshot

Watch the trailer (Quicktime Movie)

I just came back from watching Death Note live action and it turned out to be a rather good adaptation of the manga. The film came with several trailers including a full trailer of Honey and Clover live action. Watching film in Japanese cinema turns out to be a rather expensive experience since the film itself will set you back 1300 Yen (around $13 dollar). If you do want to watch something, I recommend buying pre-purchased ticket from ticket seller because not only the price is usually similar to the one you buy from the box office, you actually get a better looking ticket (the promotional poster is printed in the ticket). The cinema also sells promotional items related to the film so I couldn't resist buying the live action movie guide (700 Yen). In Japan, you can also bring hot foods into the screening and the cinema actually sells things like french fries and Takoyaki. So if you're not careful, a trip to the cinema can go up to 3000 Yen (around $30) in one go.

Anyway, I'll try to summarise the plot but since I don't have the movie in front of me, I can't remember specific details. Also, please be aware that this summary is full of spoilers. The movie begins with a shot of the Death Note falling on a street in the city. The scene then cuts into the hand of a man writing on the note and as he does this, criminals after criminals begin to die from heart attack. At one point, the man writes the name of all criminals inside a prison, causing pandemonium within the prison. The film eventually reveals the holder of the note as Yagami Raito/Light and he is now seen standing in the middle of a large television screen (possibly in Harajuku or Shinjuku) waiting as a famous criminal exits a building. Much to his disappointment, however, the police hides the face of the criminal in order to protect him from "Kira", the 'God' who supposedly killed the criminals. Raito is not happy about this but has no choice but to close his note.

Death Note movie screenshotDeath Note movie screenshotDeath Note movie screenshot
Death Note movie screenshotDeath Note movie screenshotDeath Note movie screenshot

The next day, Raito meets his girlfriend, Shiori, and when the two overhear students talking about "Kira", Shiori points out her dislike of this 'God'. Raito, however, openly tells Shiori that he too would do the same thing if he is "Kira". Shiori doesn't believe this but a flashback then reveals that Raito has been frustrated to see criminals after criminals escaping the justice system and at one point almost became the victim of a Yakuza. One night when walking on his own, however, he discovered a note in the middle of the street. Upon reading the instruction, Raito found it hard to believe but ended up writing the name of a criminal he heard from television. The next morning he woke up and found out from the newspaper that said criminal was found dead due to heart attack. Soon Raito decided to use the note to exact revenge on the Yakuza who threatened his life. When the two meet face to face on a railtrack.

He did this because the rule of the note states that one must remember the face of the person whose name is written on the note so that person with similar name doesn't get accidentally killed. Raito freaked out after seeing the Yakuza died in front of his eyes. But when he tried to return the note to the same street, he's confronted by the Shinigami that owns the note, Ryuuku. After conversation with Ryuuku, Raito believes that he can use the note to get rid of the criminals. Meanwhile, Police is not happy with "Kira" because they believe that he has been handing out his own version of 'Justice' to the criminals. Because of this they hire a professional detective known as "L" to find out "Kira" real identity. One night, there is a supposedly international broadcast featuring Lind L. Tailor, the detective who promises to stop "Kira". Raito is not happy to see this and decides to write Lind's name on the note to show the world that no one should interfere with him.

Death Note movie screenshotDeath Note movie screenshotDeath Note movie screenshot
Death Note movie screenshotDeath Note movie screenshotDeath Note movie screenshot

Right in front of many viewers, Lind L.Taylor can be seen getting a heart attack and ends up dead. The program is immediately stalled and Raito can be seen smirking with satisfaction. Much to Raito's shock, however, a large L on a white background suddenly appears in front of the television informing him that Lind L.Taylor is actually just a criminal being used to see if "Kira" will respond upon seeing his face. The police now realises that "Kira" needs to see the face of his victim before killing him. L also informs "Kira" that they too now that "Kira" resides in Japan because this broadcast has actually been limited to the country and not worldwide. Ooh, talk about being busted. In his attempt to throw off the police, Raito decides to kill criminal randomly so that they'll have trouble guessing his identity. The plot, however, starts to thicken when an FBI agent called Rei starts to follow Raito and Shiori after suspecting Raito as "Kira".

In order to get rid of Rei, Reito writes a detailed instruction on Death Note involving a criminal who hijacks the bus that he, Shiroi, and Rei are in. Due to the situation, Raito manages to persuade Rei to show off his badge to prove that he's really FBI. After Raito finds out Rei's name, he kills the criminal by making him pick up a piece of paper from Death Note, thereby making him capable of seeing Ryuuku. The guy immediately run away from the bus in fear before getting hit by incoming car. Meanwhile in another part of the town, a teenage talk show host known as Amane Misa seems attracts the attention of a crazy stalker. Back to Raito, he manages to blackmail Rei to write down the name of other FBI agents by threatening to kill everyone in the train unless Rei does what he says. After Rei serves his purpose, Raito kills Rei using the Death Note. However, Rei's fiancee, Misora Naomi was also there while Rei got a heart attack.

Death Note movie screenshotDeath Note movie screenshotDeath Note movie screenshot
Death Note movie screenshotDeath Note movie screenshotDeath Note movie screenshot

Meanwhile the entire police fear are in fear after they heard that "Kira" has killed many FBI agents. Because of this, Raito's father, who's the head of the investigation, allows those who want to leave the case to do so. As a result, there are only 6 detectives on the case plus L and his assistant, Watari. The 6 detectives agree to continue their investigation with L on the condition that L reveals his true identity. Because of this, L agrees to meet them and in the process reveals himself as none other than a teenage genius with addiction to sugary foods. At the same time, Rei's fiancee, Naomi, introduces herself as another person to Raito before telling him outright that she knows Raito killed her fiancee. Raito tries to kill Naomi by writing her name on Death Note but since her name is fake, Raito fails to kill her. Back to L, the teenage genius also suspects that "Kira" is actually Yagami Raito much to Raito's father unhappiness.

In order to prove his son's innocence, Raito's father agrees to allow L to videotape his house 24/7 for 7 days. Raito, however, proves to be as clever as L and while the camera is on, he pretends to be the good, upstanding student. Despite this, he manages to kill a criminal to throw the police off his track. Eventually L has no choice but to remove the camera from Raito's room but he never lets go of his suspicion of the guy. One day, Naomi gives L a call and asks him to see the security camera feed from an art museum. It appears that Naomi has taken Shiori hostage and asks Raito to come to the art museum with Death Note if he wants to save his girlfriend. Raito does come to the museum but he pretends that he does not have the note and that he's distressed to see Shiori being taken hostage by Naomi. Naomi tells Raito that unless Raito starts to write her real name, which is "Naomi" written in Katakana, in the note. Raito, however, still refuses to do this.

Death Note movie screenshotDeath Note movie screenshotDeath Note movie screenshot
Death Note movie screenshotDeath Note movie screenshotDeath Note movie screenshot

Raito's father who sees the entire incident on the monitor decides to send police to save Shiori. Upon hearing the siren, Naomi becomes distracted, allowing Shiori to run away from her. Raito then runs to Shiori trying to protect her but before he can do this, Naomi already fires her gun multiple times and ends up killing Shiori. Shiori then dies in Raito's arms while Naomi kills herself by shooting her own brain. Meanwhile, Misa is now being chased around by her stalker who wants her to die with him. Before the stalker can get to her, however, he suddenly gets a chest pain and promptly die from a heart attack. Misa is surprised to see this and even more so when she sees a black note falling from the sky. Back to Raito, Ryuuku finds out that Raito actually engineered Naomi's death using the Death Note. He actually already found out her name through his own investigation and wrote a scenario whereby Naomi will kill herself in distress after shooting Shiori.

Ryuuku is confused upon hearing the explanation because by doing this, Raito ends up killing Shiori. Raito suddenly stops crying and reveals to Ryuuku that he also wrote Shiori's name in Death Note to facilitate his plan. Ryuuku is shocked to hear this and realises that Raito is evil to the core. He then asks the boy if he actually loved Shiori all of these times but Raito simply shrug it off and tells the Shinigami that he's not sure. Raito's father then comes to check on Raito's condition so Raito uses the opportunity to ask him to join the police force who's investigating "Kira". He claims that he now hates "Kira" after what happened to Shiori and wants to find his real identity. Raito's father is hesitant to grant this but L suddenly appears in the museum and tells Raito that his request is granted. Raito is shocked to see L at first, but eventually regains his composure and later on his smirk. The battle between the two genius will begin in the second movie.

Death Note movie screenshotDeath Note movie screenshotDeath Note movie screenshot
Death Note movie screenshotDeath Note movie screenshotDeath Note movie screenshot

Impression:

Manga readers will realise by now that the movie differs slightly from the manga. In the manga, Raito/Light finds the note inside the school ground and not in the middle of a street. Raito is also depicted as a university student and not a high school student anymore and now has a girlfriend called Shiori. At first I thought that the addition of the girlfriend is to give Raito a more sensitive and kinder side. Wow, I was completely wrong. This addition is used to show that Raito is really evil through and through. If he's capable of killing his girlfriend in cold hearted manner, then it's obvious that other people won't matter much to him. I can't really remember Naomi's story from the manga but I don't think she actually held anyone hostage in that version. In addition to this, L does not appear until halfway through the movie while Misa only appears in limited scenes mostly involving the stalker. Their role will probably be increased next time though.

I think the movie did a fine job of transferring the manga storyline. The story manages to retain a little bit of the manga's complexity, something that is rare to see in a live action adaptation. I'm not particularly impressed with Fujiwara Tatsuya's portrayal of Raito though. He does look evil in some scenes but I can't shake the impression that I'm seeing Fujiwara Tatsuya playing evil. On the other hand, Matsuyama Kenichi really nails his role as L. The way he holds the cellphone and his mannerism in general is perfect. I wish the make up artist toned down his make up a little bit though. He looks particularly white in some scenes and the eyeliner comes off a bit heavy at times. Toda Erika also shines as Misa, who looks really beautiful in this movie. She also makes Misa seems less ditzy from what I've seen so far which is a pleasant change. She does still speak in that third person way (calling herself "Misa") though, which is a relief to know.

Death Note movie screenshotDeath Note movie screenshotDeath Note movie screenshot
Death Note movie screenshotDeath Note movie screenshotDeath Note movie screenshot

The production quality of the movie itself is a mixed bag. Ryuuku looks good in general but when the camera zooms in on the creature, you can't help but thinking that you're looking at a CG creature. I think he'll work better if the animators had spent more time creating better texture for his face. In the film, his face and body is white/grey, which is the basic color of a shape created in 3D program. As a result, I'm immediately reminded of a 3D program upon seeing his face. I didn't pay that much attention to the soundtrack although two songs stand out the most. The first one was Manatsu no Yoru no Yume which plays out as Raito takes Shiori on a date to the museum. The other is the ending theme, which is basically Dani California from Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Overall, I'm quite happy with the first movie and hope I'll get to see the second one soon. It'll be interesting to see it released at the same time as the anime version of the story.

Note: The screenshots are taken from the trailers and not from the actual movie. I simply re-arrange them according to how they appear in the movie.

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