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  • Author's Saving Throw:
    • One of the complaints from the first screenings were the Light/Mia sex scenes. These scenes were removed from the released cut.
    • A common question asked by some viewers about the manga was "What if that criminal was acquitted or wrongfully convicted?". Light and Mia are shown to target people such as cartel members, terrorists, and enforcers in dictatorships. Light even asks Mia that exact same question when visiting the Kira website.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
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    • Did Light genuinely try to use a loophole to spare Mia or was he simply tying loose ends? However, his remorseful reaction in the moment and when later recounting having to kill Mia to his father heavily suggests the former.
    • Did Light actually feel guilt over the murder of the FBI agents, or was he concerned with the undue police attention he would have to face because of it? Or both? Ditto for the murder of Watari.
    • Light steering L towards Mia's page of the Death Note, was it a mistake on his part prompted by fear? Was it intentional to incriminate Mia and solidify further his alibi? Or was Light deciding to put his ultimate fate in L's hands?
    • L's action in the ending. He appears to be ready to write Light's name in the note... but is hesitating. Is he thinking If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him or hesitating for a different reason?
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    • The entirety of Ryuk's appearance to Light in the hospital, laughing and saying "humans are so interesting!", at the end relies on this. Is he here to kill Light after L wrote his name down, and is amused because L is basically becoming Kira to kill Kira? Or is he laughing and saying humans are interesting because L decided not to write Light's name down and kill him even when he had a perfect opportunity to?
    • Mia and just about everything to do with her relationship with Light. Did she actually have feelings for him like her manga counterpart or was she a Manipulative Bitch suffering from hybristophilia who eventually became addicted to the notebook's powers?
    • Is Ryuk really an example of Adaptational Villainy? Given that he's dealing with a less proactive version of Light, he probably feels the need to push him further than manga Ryuk ever had to.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
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    • Mia Sutton. Is she an improvement over Misa Amane, a bastardization made to service Light's Draco in Leather Pants treatment, or might not even be Misa's actual counterpart?
    • Light Turner. Most fans of the manga and anime hate that he was changed from a cold, calculating mastermind into a bullied nerd desperate for a girl's attention but others think it's a clever Deconstruction of these types of characters and a very sympathetic anti-hero
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: Watari singing to L in their car after he had investigated a Kira crime scene.
  • Broken Base: Some fans thought that the Race Lift complaints were hypocritical, considering that this movie was never intended to be a faithful adaptation, but an "American version" of the original Death Note manga, and the fact of there being four previous Japanese live action adaptations already.note  On the other hand, other people retorted they weren't really criticizing the movie for being different from the manga and anime, as much as they were upset that Japanese-American actors were being turned down for an anime-based movie comprised of originally Japanese characters in favor of white actors, when Hollywood is predominantly white already and these white actors would have an easy time finding work elsewhere. The Japanese movies didn't really change anything because Japanese-American actors can't exactly be cast in them, and while the American movie could have gotten away with casting characters like Watari or even L as Euro-American, that isn't the case with characters like Light and Misa who were explicitly intended to be Japanese.
  • Critic-Proof: Despite being bashed to no end by critics and especially fans, Death Note made Netflix enough money that they greenlit the sequel. The sequel is seemingly stuck in Development Hell for the time being though as of 2019, the most Netflix producers would say is that 'something' was in the works, and with COVID-19 slamming most filming to a halt in 2020, the likelihood of a finalized sequel before 2021 is slim.
  • Ending Aversion: Fans of the series decried the ending of the film as completely antithetical to the original anime, where Light manages to contrive a way to officially escape suspicion as a Kira suspect and outsmart L, effectively meaning he's gotten away with all of his crimes. In addition, the final part of the ending that implies L will write Light's name into the Death Note as revenge goes completely against his character as a detective who wants to bring about justice through the rule of law (though it is implied he won't go through with it because of this). It's been accused by many of feeling like the movie was made by members of the original series' infamous Misaimed Fandom who actually saw Light as the perfect hero of his delusions.
  • Fashion-Victim Villain: Light's redesign, which forgoes his original suave, professional look for a style that has poorly bleached, Messy Hair and eyebags, received this reaction from the fandom. Ironically, his design for this film resembles a trashier version of his rival, L, or Near.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Given that Willem Dafoe is playing Ryuk, and the Death Note usually kills people by heart attack, it's hard to not hear "We attack his HEART!" or "Little girlfriend" in the same way again.
    • Zhao once said that he attended the Light Yagami School of Strategy, concluding that he could "practically predict the future." The Light of this film literally writes out the entire ending of the film by sentencing certain characters to die after completing his orders, meaning that he actually does know the future.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Whilst Light's already somewhat sympathetic, he crosses straight into being this when Mia kills the FBI Agents and tries to goad him into going after his father. Ryuk and Mia screw him up badly. In reality, unlike his main universe counterpart, Light is probably the least evil person the Death Note could have gone to.
    • Also, L after Watari goes missing, and even more after he dies.
    • Mia also has her moments, especially in the climactic scene on the ferris wheel. As insane, pretentious and manipulative as she is, she really did seem to want to make the world better and genuinely wanted her and Light to stay in the Kira business together, even after she were to take ownership of the Death Note from him.
  • Just Here for Godzilla: Several of the film's staunchest detractors have been reported to willingly set aside their issues with the adaptation just to see Willem Dafoe as Ryuk.
  • Memetic Mutation:
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Mia crosses it by writing Light's name to compel him to give her the Death Note. One might argue she did it earlier by killing Watari. At least killing the FBI agents appeared to be out of a genuine desire to protect Light, whereas she killed Watari for her own agenda.
    • Ryuk crossed it from the beginning when he goaded Light into using the Death Note to kill people, suggesting that he only dropped the notebook down to Earth in the first place just so he could get to enjoy watching humans getting killed in a number of creative ways.
  • Narm:
    • L's character trait of having a Sweet Tooth is explained here as him obsessively eating it for... excess insulin to keep his body running for multiple days and only needing to sleep for an hour.
    • The scene where the FBI agents slow-motion walk off the roof of a building to their deaths, especially with the choice of music playing and how it abruptly ends with a split-second graphic shot of a body hitting the ground. This doubles as Nightmare Fuel, as it's the image for the film's Nightmare Fuel page.
    • The entire premise of the climax can be hilarious when you take into account the manga/anime, as one reactor points out:
      "The police are hunting L, who's on a rampage with a gun, who's trying to kill Light, who got manipulated by Misa into working with Ryuk!"
    • It was immediately preceded by Light and Mia screaming at each other and making over-the-top facial expressions. Their reactions are more similar to a pair of teens arguing than two people trying to kill each other.
  • Narm Charm: For some people, the stupid moments make this movie more entertaining. It helps that the source material had its fair share of Narmtastic moments.
  • Never Live It Down: To most of the fans, this movie (along with others like Ghost in the Shell) is ultimately considered as their last straw on not being skeptical towards any possible decent Hollywood adaptations of Anime and Manga in the future, since the release of Dragon Ball Evolution.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Masi Oka as Detective Sasaki, a cop with whom L briefly talks during the Tokyo-based scene.
  • Older Than They Think: Several of the changes that this movie caught flak for (Light's Adaptational Heroism and his truly romantic relationship with Misa, Light's mother being dead, and Ryuk's Adaptational Villainy) actually originated in the 2015 live-action series. Because it was the most recent incarnation of the franchise, it was the one used for reference in this film.
  • Pandering to the Base: The film is a dream come true for the Light fanboys and fangirls, portraying Ryuk as taking a much more direct role in urging him to use the Note rather than just sitting back and enjoying the show, and Mia as the evil one who drove him to all his more questionable acts. At the film's end Light kills Mia and is implied to be on the way to becoming the truly benevolent god of the original Light's delusions... unless L makes a martyr of him, anyway. However, this is offset by Light becoming an Adaptational Wimp in the process, displaying far less of the original Light's intelligence and charisma that made him so popular to begin with.
  • Rated M for Money: The director heavily pushed for this film to be R-rated, most notably adding in more profanity and nudity, and making it gorier to achieve this.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Unlike Misa in the manga, Mia is more intelligent and competent, less of an obnoxious Light fangirl, and even tries to Out Gambit him so that she could take the Death Note. There are viewers who thought that was a huge improvement over the source material, while others disliked the change due to how unlikable and unsympathetic Mia turns out to be in order to make Light look good.
  • So Bad, It's Good: The movie is pretty inconsistent in tone, can be considered a heavily misguided adaptation of the original work, and has more than a few scenes making it come off as unintentionally funny such as the inappropriate choices in music, but this can make it actually very entertaining to watch. It can also be noted that the cast and crew (in the end credits) seemed to have had fun making the film too, so least it can be said it wasn't downright all bad for everybody.
  • Spiritual Adaptation:
    • With how over-the-top and gory the Deaths are, and many of them being caused by supernaturally placed contrivances, this movie feels more like a Final Destination movie than it does Death Note at times.
    • With its premise, not to mention Mia and Light's actions and dynamic, it could be seen as an unofficial remake of Heathers.
  • 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.
  • Strangled by the Red String: A major complaint about Light and Mia's relationship is that the movie doesn't establish much of a connection between the two of them, as they only have a couple of scenes together within the first half hour before getting together. With The Reveal that Mia is a sociopath obsessed with the power the Death Note grants and the fact she never showed interest in Light until he revealed he had a notebook capable of remotely killing anyone on Earth, this may be the point.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!:
    • Light's characterization was easily one of the most controversial things about the film. Many fans were upset by the fact that Light Turner is much more innocent and less malicious than Yagami.
    • Fans were also upset that L is portrayed as a much more wrathful version.
    • As stated before, there are just as many fans who consider Mia to be a downgrade from Misa as there are who consider her an upgrade.
    • Many a fan's reaction to the film's mere existence being announced, with many accusing it of whitewashing (and the reverse with L's race).
    • Another common complaint that the first trailer had sparked was that if you took out the scenes with the Death Note and changed the movie's title, you'd have no idea it was even a Death Note movie.
    • The logical changes made to the plot of the L Arc were also widely hated; see the What an Idiot! section below for details why.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • Watari is seemingly much closer to L in this film, even singing to him despite his ward being a grown man. He gets barely a fraction of the screen time held by the main leads and is killed off well before the climax starts.
    • Many fans had hoped that Masi Oka would star as Matsuda in the film. Instead, he makes what amounts to a cameo, and Matsuda's character is absent.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • Some critics, such as David Ehrlich of Indie Wire, pointed out the film could have justified (or at least made use of) its new American setting by exploring issues unique to the US, such as racism within the legal systemnote  or American interventionism as the "World Police."note  Unfortunately, the movie never really dives into larger social themes, focusing on teen romance drama and crime thriller elements instead. The deaths of high-profile criminals and dictators are brushed over as part of the Kira montage, while the topic of race never comes up in any meaningful way.note 
    • Additionally, the uniqueness of the Japanese justice system meant that the original source material never mentioned the idea that any of Light's victims had been falsely accused/convicted of their crimes. In America, this kind of issue is still incredibly rampant in the criminal justice system, so this would have been the perfect opportunity to throw some extra shades of grey onto Light's character and call out the idea that everyone who has been imprisoned is definitely a criminal. Instead, they go the full Adaptational Heroism route and have every criminal he kills definitely deserve it.
    • The movie implies that Light isn't the first person Ryuk gave his Death Note to, particularly with one page having a warning by a previous user that he can't be trusted and Ryuk mentioning that people have tried and failed to write his name in the Death Note before. Unless this is something that's being saved for a sequel, it would have been interesting to see Light try to dispose of Ryuk.
    • A number of fans believe the film would have worked better as a TV series, and view the filmmakers as trying to cram too much into a single movie.
    • Most of Light's killings and the rise of Kira from rumor to common folk hero to god are glossed over in a quick montage.
    • Some believe that rather than adapt the L arc, this movie should have told its own story set in the Death Note universe.
    • Some also were very disappointed that the "I'll take a potato chip and eat it" scene wasn't in there - some even pointing out that there were perfectly good ways for him to work that line in without having to talk to himself.
    • As pointed out by The Dom Reviews, the movie would have been much better off as a sequel/spinoff to Death Note than an adaptation of it. The idea of Ryuk being bored again and giving the Death Note to an American unrelated to Light would have solved much of the movie's problems. The movie characters' departure from their source counterparts would have become fully justified as they are no longer supposed to be the same people.
  • Took the Bad Film Seriously: Even the movie's harshest detractors will generally praise Willem Dafoe's performance as Ryuk.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: Say what you will about the movie itself, but Ryuk's appearance is simply stunning. Likewise with the Ferris Wheel collapse at the climax.
  • What an Idiot!:
    • Mia not using the Death Note's powers to manipulate Light into passing ownership to her proves to be her undoing.
    • L not taking the same safety measures that he has to keep Watari safe, and then becoming incredibly reckless due to his desire for vengeance afterard.
    • L is supposed to be a super secretive person, not exposing his real identity so he do his sleuthing undetected...so why would he give a public press conference with his eyes and hands exposed, showing the world that he can be identified as an African-American male?
    • Light telling someone he doesn't know that well about the Death Note and what it can do after his first kill with it. It's a wonder how he's surprised when Mia betrays him.
    • Light and Mia talking about the Death Note out loud in public in crowded areas.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: Many of the casting choices raised eyebrows among fans due to all the Race Lifts involved:
    • The biggest one being Nat Wolff as Light himself, because he's best remembered for starring in a universally-hated Nickelodeon kids show. Which is surprising considering his brother Alex Wolff would actually garner a much better reputation thanks to Hereditary.
    • Lakeith Stanfield's being cast as L received some criticism due to being a black, athletic actor playing a character who is known for being incredibly pale and gaunt... and white.
    • Averted with Willem Dafoe, whose casting as Ryuk has been met with virtually universal praise. Even the most ardent anime and manga purists consider him a positive point for the film.

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