Follow TV Tropes


Film / Death Note (2017)

Go To

"It's bigger than me. It's bigger than us. What they want is a god. So let's give it to them. Let's give them a god, let's make a name for him. A god that never lets anybody down. It's not gonna solve a few crimes. It's gonna solve all crime."
Light Turner

Death Note is an American film adaptation of the manga of the same name. Directed by Adam Wingard (who had previously worked on the VHS films), the film has been released exclusively on Netflix on August 25, 2017.

The cast includes:

Previews: Trailer 1, Trailer 2. Clip 1.

A sequel is in development. In 2021, Masi Oka has said that the sequel will take into account the criticism fans/critics have made on the first movie.

Death Note contains examples of:

  • Adapted Out: Quite a few characters — unsurprisingly, given the film's runtime of less than two hours, as compared to the much longer Japanese adaptations. Other than L, Watari and James Turner/Sochiro Yagami, none of the other Kira task force members - Matsuda, Mogi, Aiwaza etc. - have counterparts in the film. Also absent is Rem, and given Mia's death at the end of the film, she's unlikely to appear in possible sequels. Near and Mello also do not appear, though it is mentioned that there were other children trained to be master detectives by the same project that trained L, making it possible that they might appear in sequels. Light's sister Sayu also doesn't have a counterpart.
  • Adaptational Badass: Despite never receiving the Shinigami eyes, Mia is a far more ruthless, ambitious, and domineering character than Misa was, to the point where the bloodthirsty Ryuk favours her over Light. She eventually takes matters into her own hands when Light proves himself too weak, and demands that Light cede the Death Note to her in return for his life — she having written his name in the note already.
    • Ryuk himself gets some big time. He can directly interact with objects and people, even knocking down a Ferris wheel with a swipe of his arms in the climax, where as in the manga he can only hurt people by writing in the Death Note.
    • This also applies to the Death Note itself as seen in Pragmatic Adaptation below. Due to many of the rules being unmentioned or simplified, it is far more powerful here than in the original:
      • In the manga and anime, it's explicitly mentioned that the Death Note can only mind control people to a certain extent. If a victim tries to do an impossible task, like write or draw something they don't know or believe, only the cause of death will take effect. In the movie, Light is able to have inmates in various continents write "Lord Kira has returned to punish the wicked" in perfect Japanese despite most of them likely having no knowledge of both Japanese and Kira.
      • One of the rules shown in the anime say that if a cause of death leads to the death more than the intended, the victim will simply die of a heart attack. In the movie, one of the deaths shown was a terrorist leader blowing himself up right in front of his men, also killing them, with no indication that Light or Mia wrote their names in the Death Note as well.
      • A similar rule in the original specifies that even though only one name is written in Death Note, the victim will simply die of a heart attack if it influences and causes other people not written in it to die. This rule is absent in the movie, which Mia uses to her advantage to influence one of the FBI agents to write down the names of the other FBI agents in the Death Note. In contrast, the original Light had to threaten Raye and trick him into writing down the agents names on pages of the Death Note before killing him.
      • While the rules in the original never specify what types of name count, the manga and anime makes it clear that there needs to be a first name and a surname, as shown with Soichiro saying he's written Mello's first name in the notebook before being shot and Light in the manga being one letter away from finishing Near's surname before Matsuda intervenes. Since Soichiro and Light didn't finish writing it down, the Death Note does nothing. Here, the Death Note can take effect even with only a first name, with the Death Note taking effect on Watari using his first name instead of both that and his surname.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Light, interestingly enough. Unlike the original version of the character, this Light is unwilling to kill law enforcement officials pursuing him, and only decides to make an exception in L's case when he is threatened by the latter. Most notably, he writes Watari's name in the Death Note to manipulate him into discovering L's true identity, but does so with the intent of eventually sparing Watari's life by exploiting a loophole in the Death Note. He does end up killing Mia, but that's only after she tries to kill him.
  • Adaptational Intelligence: Mia is a lot more cunning than her original counterpart Misa, to the point where she has a more equal partnership with Light serving as her career, rather than being his glorified pawn. Then again, Word of God says that she's less of Misa's counterpart and more a Distaff Counterpart of the original Light Yagami.
  • Adaptational Location Change: The film takes place in Seattle, Washington rather than in Japan.
  • Adaptational Nationality: The film shifts the story's setting from Japan to America (Seattle, to be specific), and thus, every main human character except Watari is now American, with L being black and the rest of the main cast being white.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • In the original story, Ryuk is an impartial force of nature who gives away his Death Note purely to see what a human would do with it. He merely observes what Light does with the book and makes it plain that using it will have grave consequences. In this film, Ryuk is a malevolent, corrupting influence who encourages Light to use the Death Note for vengeance.
    • Mia as well. Mia exceeds Light as Team Kira's Evil Genius, and like Ryuk is a dark influence on the considerably more apprehensive Light. Mia eventually tries to usurp Light as Kira on the grounds that he's too weak to do what must be done, which is something that Misa would never do.
  • Adaptational Wimp: In the original story, Light is The Ace, a handsome, popular, athletic genius who has many female admirers and outstanding fighting skills. In this film, he's a smart but otherwise fairly average and anonymous teen.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job:
    • Originally an Evil Redhead in the manga, Light now has bleached blond hair.
    • Misa (here named Mia) now has black hair instead of blonde. Ironically, the original Misa's hair colour has been stated to be naturally a very dark brown to black, but she bleaches it blonde as part of her image as a pop idol.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: Ryuk's fondness for apples is preserved but never explained in the film.
  • Adaptation Name Change: A few of the characters have new names to accommodate their Race Lifts. Light Yagami's last name is now Turner, his father Soichiro is now James, and Misa Amane is renamed Mia Sutton. Averted in the cases of Ryuk and Watari, who retain their Japanese names. But subverted in Watari's case; while it was an alias in the original manga and anime, it's his real name here, as shown when the Death Note takes effect on him.
  • Aerith and Bob: The setting change from Japan to Seattle causes this — Light isn't exactly a common name in the states.
  • Age Lift: The elderly, white-haired Watari is played by the much younger Paul Nakauchi here.
  • All Guys Want Cheerleaders: Mia, who was seen cheerleading in the beginning of the movie, is Light's love interest and later girlfriend.
  • Artistic License – Linguistics: In this version Light says that he chose the name Kira for his alter ego because "it actually means Light in Russian and Celtic." In reality, Russian doesn't have such a word save for an uncommon female name which is simply a feminine form of Cyrus, and Celtic is not a language but a group of languages that include Irish, Welsh and Cornish.
  • Bat Deduction: Due to the time compression of the film compared to the original series, L's deductions come off as this since there's never any opportunity for him to truly show off deductive skills. For example, he realistically could not have deduced that Light would need a person's face and name to use the Death Note since his only point of evidence was his public press conference. Especially because at that point in the film, Light/Kira had never actually killed anybody from law enforcement, even the people assigned to investigate him.
  • Batman Grabs a Gun: L, who disdains guns and finds them distracting to carry, takes up Watari's firearm without hesitation in order to personally avenge the latter's death.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Unlike the source material, Mia isn't The Dragon to Light. Here, she's his equal and involves herself in his bloody work with considerably more zeal and pragmatism than Light himself displays. She eventually betrays him and tries to force him into making her the sole Kira, but Light is able to turn this around on Mia instead.
  • Big Damn Heroes: A dark example. Light is saved from L at gunpoint by a passing stranger — who's a Kira worshipper. When a raving L tells the man that Light is Kira, the man knocks him out cold for the sake of "Lord Kira".
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Director Adam Wingard made sure that the film was much more violent than any previous iteration of the story; notably, it's the first adaptation of Death Note to be rated TV-MA since the final episode of the anime. The deaths are incredibly bloody and brutal (a la Final Destination) and range from death by falling to an on-screen decapitation — specifically, the top of a guy’s head being sliced off by a metal ladder, in graphic detail (including a close up on the guy's severed head).
  • Bullying a Dragon: Mia reveals that she has been acting behind Light's back, insults him and then tries to blackmail him by writing his name in the Death Note in a bid to become the Note's new Keeper. What she fails to consider is that Light, while not as kill-happy as herself, has taken a lot of lives with the Note before, still has it in his possession, and now has every reason to use it against her. She does not live to regret this.
  • Cliffhanger: The film ends with one: Light's father confronts him with the knowledge that he is Kira, while L is poised uncertain of whether to write Light's name in a page of the Death Note.
  • Composite Character:
    • L has the hot-blooded personality, black clothing, and grandiose surroundings normally associated with Mello. His wearing a mask to defend himself against Death Note users also brings his successor in Death Note: Light Up the New World, Ryuzaki, to mind.
    • Mia is a close female associate of Light like Misa Amane, but is an Aloof Dark-Haired Girl like Kiyomi Takada. She also shares a lot of characteristics with Shiori Akino from the first Japanese live-action film. Like Shiori, Mia is a fellow student of Light's, and also his girlfriend. And like Shiori, she eventually ends up being killed by Light as part of an elaborate plan of his to divert suspicion from himself. She also has similarities to Sakura Aoi, and even the original Light Yagami.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: A commentator mentions in his radio show that the Kira incident is done as a potential black ops to create a new world order.
  • Darker and Edgier: Impressively manages to be this to the original Death Note, which was already on the dark end of the spectrum when it came to Shōnen. It features liberal use of profanity, graphic violence, and nudity, much more prominently featured than in the source material. Additionally, it is definitely this when compared to the Japan-made movie, which was PG-13.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: L wears all black in this adaptation, contrasting his manga counterpart, who wears mostly white. As a Mythology Gag, he does sport his signature white sweater at one point.
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • Mia Sutton dies at the end of the film, unlike her Japanese counterpart Misa Amane, who survived previous versions of the story (though Word of God said she committed suicide not long after the ending of the original manga).
    • Light's mother was killed by a criminal before the events of the film, which becomes one of Light's main motivators for becoming Kira.
  • Death Glare: Light gives an epic one to Mia at homecoming once he finds out she has written his name in the Death Note.
  • Decomposite Character: Light Yagami was split into two characters: Light Turner and Mia Sutton. Light (Turner) is the main protagonist, the one Ryuk reaches out to with the Death Note, and has the idealism and general motivations of Light from another adaptation (specifically the Japanese TV Drama). Mia, however, has Light's sociopathy, god complex, and overall bloodlust, despite supposedly fulfilling the role of Misa Amane. Tellingly, unlike most other adaptations, Light and Mia are equals and Mia eventually ends up becoming the Big Bad. One can interpret this as the two sides of Light Yagami conflicting with one another.
  • Dies Wide Open: Mia Sutton after falling from the top of a ferris wheel.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: When Light discovers that Ryuk killed numerous FBI agents, he threatens to write the demon's name in the Death Note. Ryuk just responds that he can go ahead and try, but warns Light that nobody has ever been able to get in more than two letters in time (though his name is already in the book, so who knows what that means).
    Do not trust Ryuk. He's not your pet, he's not your friend.
  • Do You Trust Me?: Mia asks Light to trust her when she has the Death Note hidden away somewhere to keep it from falling into the hands of the cops. It turns out he can't, since she wrote Light's name in there to blackmail him because she wants the book for herself. In the climax he asks the same of her if she truly loves him. She chooses not to, which results in her own death due to a very-specifically worded demise that Light had written in anticipation.
  • Elseworld: What the film effectively is to the original Death Note.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Mia and Light's definitions of God help solidify their stance on using the Death Note. Mia uses the Death Note to scare people, going after anyone who slightly threatens Kira's reign while Light only uses it to give people hope, using it to take out criminals, terrorists, and dictators who would otherwise not get their just desserts.
    • When Light asks Mia if she thinks he is crazy, she says she thinks he's not crazy enough, which foreshadows her using the Death Note without Light's knowledge, due to him not being as Ax-Crazy as her.
    • A cross-media piece of foreshadowing: Near notes that if Kira was a normal person, he would have ditched the Death Note as soon as he experimented with one or two kills. The fact that Mia doesn't freak out when Light shows her how the Death Note worked shows how insane she is.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: There are scenes in the movie where Ryuk will appear on screen for just an instant. One example is the chase scene between Light and L.
  • Friend-or-Idol Decision: An odd twist on the trope. Rather than Light having to choose between Mia or the Death Note, Mia is being held from falling by Light. When the Death Note starts to fall from the ferris wheel carriage, she reaches for it and lets go of Light's hand.
  • Genre Throwback: The film is a throwback to the 1980s-style "high concept" teen movie (like "My Science Project" and Real Genius) blended with a Slasher Movie. The underdog teen protagonist, moody John Carpenter-esque synth score, and use of 80s-era ballads by Berlin and Air Supply all contribute to that atmosphere.
  • Goggles Do Something Unusual: L has special shades that fill his eyes with blue light, helping to limit how much sleep he needs.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Mia, the equivalent to Misa, smokes a cigarette during cheerleader practice to establish her as a rebel.
  • Guttural Growler: Ryuk, as voiced by Willem Dafoe.
  • Heaven Above: Death Note kicks off with the titular Artifact of Doom dropping from the sky, implying that the death god that created it lives in the sky, looming above humanity.
  • His Name Is...: Watari is killed just before he's about to reveal L's true name.
  • Homework Slave: Light is a very bright kid, and there are multiple students that take advantage of this, using him to do their stacks of homework.
  • Hospital Epilogue: The epilogue where Light awakens in his hospital bed.
  • Hotter and Sexier: The movie features nudity, something that the anime downplayed and the Japanese films outright avoided. Averted with regards to the original manga, which had moments featuring generous amounts of skin.
  • Icarus Allusion: During their first confrontation in person, L compares Light to Icarus through his use of the Death Note (he doesn't quite know yet how he killed hundreds of people all over the globe, just that it's obviously supernatural). He says his purpose is to make sure Light burns up and crashes.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Mia says this when she confesses to having killed the FBI agents.
  • Indy Ploy: Light's plan in the climax, which results in killing Mia, saving his own life, and providing a perfect alibi against being Kira. He puts it together within minutes of Mia revealing her betrayal. Also doubles as a Secret Test of Character, as the chain depended on Mia taking the Death Note from Light.
  • In Love with Your Carnage: Mia to Light. She's a sexually aggressive Visionary Villain who, in many ways, is far more morally bankrupt than he is. Their relationship begins to sour when he proves himself unable to kill his own father.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: One scene features a montage of Light and Mia making out on his bed whilst picking out criminals to write down in the Death Note, flashing back and forth between the deaths and Light and Mia.
  • It Only Works Once: In this adaptation, burning a Death Note page with a person's name on it will prevent his/her death, as long as the page is burnt before it occurs. But once someone is saved this way, this cannot be used again for them or anyone else.
  • Lady Macbeth: Mia, big time. She eagerly encourages Light to take drastic and increasingly unscrupulous measures that he declines on moral grounds, or at least opposes until she pushes hard enough. Several of Light Yagami's plots, like killing all the agents tailing Kira suspects, are Mia's brainchildren instead of Light Turner's. In the end, Mia is the one who crosses the line from killing criminals to killing innocents, knowing that Light didn't have it in him. This is a notable departure from Amane Misa, who was never anything but a pawn to Light and offered him nothing in the way of counsel or encouragement – he simply didn't need either from her, and he actually gave them to her as a way of manipulating her. If anything, it's a complete role reversal of the characters.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: It's Light's idea to inspire a devoted religion toward "Kira". If one of Kira's devotees hadn't knocked out L when he had Light cornered and Light was beginning to confess everything to him, L may have come to understand that Mia and Ryuk were more responsible for Watari's death. But because he gets knocked out by a Kira fanatic instead, he still ends up blaming Light, and thus has reason to write Light's name down on the Death Note page he finds at the end.
  • Lighter and Softer: A character example. Light Turner is by far less malicious and more innocent than Light Yagami.
  • Loophole Abuse: Light uses the Death Note's ability to control the details of a death to essentially control victims for a few hours, to the point of using people to retrieve information for him, save him from a planned accident and even write other names in the Death Note. This rule is vague enough that Light is capable of controlling people with the Death Note without killing them! Notably, the manga explicitly states that deaths must be both physically possible and a plausible action for that person. Light tries to make the victims write a message in the manga, but it doesn't work.
  • Mood Whiplash: Outtakes and green-screen heavy behind the scenes footage is shown during the credits. It doesn't really suit the tone of the film up to that point.
  • Moral Myopia: Invoked. When L meets Light, he disapprovingly says that if anyone else made the same excuses for killing as Kira, they would be killed on the spot by his hand.
  • More Deadly Than the Male: Unlike Misa Amane, who was ultimately just a Yes-Man to the far more domineering Yagami Light, Mia is much more willing to commit evil than Light Turner is. Light angrily notes at one point that it's a good thing the Note went to him instead of her, because unlike him, she's perfectly happy to kill innocents. She eventually betrays Light and causes Watari's death, knowing that Light was incapable of it. Ryuk is much more impressed with Mia's evilness than he is with Light.
    Light: You killed him.
    Mia: No, Light, I saved you. From yourself. Again. Because every time things get hard, you leave me to do the real stuff. (…) You don't get to feel superior for being a pussy.
  • Mythology Gag: Has its own page.
  • Necro Non Sequitur: Light's first test of the Death Note has him list the cause of death as "decapitation", without any details. The result plays out like a scene from Final Destination. Details  The second murder is similar, but much more subdued.Details 
  • No Ending: The film ends with L deciding whether or not to kill Light. We never find out whether or not he does.
  • No Sympathy: The principal is completely unsympathetic to Light getting beat up by a bully, giving him trouble over doing other students' homework for them and getting paid for it.
  • Not His Sled: Par for the course, given that this is a complete re-imagining of the original story:
    • Kira does not use heart attacks as his signature move in this version, identifying himself by telling his victims to say the name Kira. More explicitly, Mia writes that Light's heart will stop, implying that he will have a heart attack like his manga counterpart, but he actually falls off a Ferris wheel and survives.
    • Unlike in the Japanese versions, Light is not the one to kill all the FBI agents investigating Kira. It is Mia who does it, without his knowledge, and in a manner fairly similar to how Light did it in the original.
    • Much like in the original, Light's name ends up being written in the Death Note. Unlike the original, it's not Ryuk who writes his name, but Mia. More crucially, unlike the original, Light survives, due to a loophole that was added specifically for this adaptation — that if the page someone's name is written on is burnt before the time of death, then that person won't die.
    • Unlike the manga, or every other version, L survives the events of the movie.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You…: In the climax, Light and Mia are dangling from the top of a collapsing ferris wheel. The two both end up falling; Mia lands in a flower bed and Light in the water. The fall leaves Light comatose, but he does survive, unlike Mia, who is killed instantly.
  • Off with His Head!: Light uses the Death Note to cause a decapitation as his first kill.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: In the epilogue, Light is in a hospital bed having just woken up from a coma. He explains to his father how he used the Death Note to save himself, cause Mia's death, absolve his name, retrieve the Death Note and get two more criminals killed along the way.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Watari suddenly leaving L's side without any explanation or indication of where he's going tips L off that something is wrong.
  • Plot Hole: When Light threatens to write Ryuk's name in the Death Note, Ryuk dares Light to try, because no one ever managed to write more than the first two letter of his name. However, we see earlier in the film that a previous user of the Death Note did write Ryuk's full name, as part of a warning message for future users. This was written in the margins of the rules section, though, instead of the blank pages where people's names are killed.
  • Plot-Triggering Book: The movie opens with Light coming across a leather-bound notebook that states that if a person's name is written in its pages, that person will die. In this adaptation, Ryuk, the notebook's owner, convinces Light to use the notebook instead of Light doing this of his own free will.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: With a comparatively small 100 minute runtime, the setup has been simplified in places:
    • Misa (now Mia) is a student at Light's school who already knows him before the events of the film. Her manga equivalent was a teen idol who found Light after she was given her own Death Note.
    • Most of the rules of the Death Note are never mentioned, and some are added or simplified to allow for easier Loophole Abuse.
    • The confrontation between Light and L, in which they attempt to outwit each other many times, is reduced to a single scene. L's deductions in general are treated as a certainty in the film, whereas in the manga he would verify some of his theories such as setting up a fake L on regional TV to confirm Kira's location.
    • In all of the other versions, the name "Kira" is an Appropriated Appellation that the public gives him, but here, Light actively chooses it because it throws the investigators off of his tail and sends them searching for a Japanese citizen. This allows the movie to use the same alias while still making sense for the American setting.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • "Okay, relax, Light. You're asleep. You're asleep and you're...dreaming of some 8 foot tall demon-looking motherfucker."
    • Mia is pretty fond of using the F word at random.
  • Private Military Contractors: Two mercenaries are recruited to assassinate Watari at the abandoned St. Martin's estate.
  • Pronouncing My Name for You: The first thing Ryuk does when appearing in front of Light is telling him the name is pronounced "Ree-ook", after the later mistakenly reads his name out loud as "Righ-uk".
  • Race Lift:
    • Light, Soichiro, and Misa are now Caucasian.
    • L is played by Lakeith Stanfield, who's African-American.
    • Watari is a special case: a white Englishman in the manga and anime, he's Japanese here, as he is in the Japanese live-action films and TV series.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Ryuk, naturally.
  • Remake Cameo:
    • Chris Britton, who dubbed Soichiro in the anime and Japanese live-action films, has a role.
    • In the Japanese dub, Maaya Sakamoto, who voiced Kiyomi Takada in the anime, voices Mia Sutton.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Light at various times throughout the film (in a far cry from the calmness and composure Light Yagami is known for), but most notably (and hilariously) when he sees Ryuk for the first time.
  • Serkis Folk: Averted for Ryuk — he is portrayed in-costume by a double, augmented by makeup and CGI effects, and is voiced by Willem Dafoe (who also provides mo-cap for Ryuk's face, which may be a minor subversion). Notable, as the 2006 film had Ryuk (and the other Shinigami) as completely CG characters.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Silence Is Golden: The moment where L finds out about Watari's death is followed by a silent shot of him screaming in anguish.
  • A Sinister Clue: The very first thing we see Light doing is write with his left hand.
  • Slow-Motion Fall: Mia falling from the Ferris Wheel.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The scene where Light and Mia fall off the Ferris Wheel is set to Chicago's "I Don't Wanna Live Without Your Love".
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Both Light and L survive the events of the film, in a serious departure from previous adaptations. Also, like the 2006 Japanese film but unlike the original manga, Light's father survives. Although, the ending does leave it ambiguous as to whether L decides to kill Light with the Death Note.
  • Spikes of Villainy: Ryuk's new design forgoes the feathered look of his shoulders and hair, transforming them into spikes reminiscent of porcupine quills.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Wingard's earlier film, The Guest; between the neon, the synthesizer music, and the Soundtrack Dissonance with 80s songs (including a notable use of Air Supply), the two films are fairly similar stylistically.
  • The Starscream: Mia, when she decides Light isn't worthy of being the Death Note's owner.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: One of the trailers shows the Ferris Wheel collapsing. This makes it pretty obvious what's going to happen once we see Light and Mia in the Ferris Wheel earlier, and particularly once the final action scene gets going.
  • Trashcan Bonfire: Near the end of the movie, the Death Note page with Light's name in it floats down from the collapsing Ferris Wheel and falls into an oilcan with a fire in it, causing the page to burn up.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Despite working with him to create Kira and being fully aware that he is a intelligent killer, Mia underestimates how dangerous Light can be at the film's climax. She never imagined that instead of backing down and surrendering the Note in the face of her writing his name, he would hit back by writing down her name and manipulating things to escape his death.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Mia's reaction at the film's climax, when she realises that Light wrote her name in the Death Note.
  • You Killed My Father: Light's second victim with the Death Note is the criminal who ran over his mother and got away with it.

"You humans are so... interesting."


Video Example(s):


Willem Dafoe as Ryuk

Every Death Note fan agrees that no matter how bad the film was, Willem Dafoe really nailed it as Ryuk.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / TookTheBadFilmSeriously

Media sources: