Monday, January 20, 2014

why death note doesn't work

DISCLAIMER: yes i'm talking about the live action films


ytr: symphony 7, 2nd movement - beethoven

while rewatching the first of the two movies today i was taking down all these mental notes as to why this movie "doesn't work" and how to better it if it were made into a one-shot hollywood blockbuster.

for those of you who i talk to a lot, you will know that i've always considered the possibility of a death note trilogy (quadrulogy at first, before i realised that near and mello should be compressed into one movie instead of going mello, then near.. coz having them simultaneously is what makes it exciting).

i always saw the L saga as a two-part movie, just like how it was done in the live action films. why? because the whole pre-misa, pre-second notebook thing works, and it's a different story with L and light on one side.. and after two movies, people would have grown attached to L.. which is the intention. but who knows.. maybe people will grow attached to him even after just one.. after all.. people grew attached to the joker from just one movie.

so why doesn't the original live action movie work? i realised this when i first watched it.. but today i nitpicked it as to why, and how to improve it. MAKE NOTE: i have not read or seen death note since i finished reading it in sem 1 second year, and finished watching anime and movies in the mid-year holidays of 2012.

IT FEELS LIKE A DRAMAyes, this was my immediate reaction when i first watched it. this was why i felt like it was off.. why it didn't feel blockbuster enough, or strong enough to stand on its own. why it needed part 2 to complete it. and why it merely felt like a live action adaptation. but this can be broken down into many reasons, and please keep note that we are basing this entirely on part 1, coz that's all i've seen today.

PRODUCTION DESIGNplain and simply, it wasn't epic enough. the mise-en-scene was more like reality than anything else, this is why it felt more like an asian drama than anyhting else, which now that i think about it reminds me of soap operas too. i was surprised when i watched the first minute of the making of segment (i stopped it) that light's room was a studio set. it definitely felt like a real room, i'll give them that. but things needed to change here and there. the police office for instance in their first meeting felt too warm. a change in lighting or design to make it seem more clinical, and not to mention consistent between police scenes. the police force needed a definite feel as one particular side of this whole shebang. even L's hotel room, as realistic as it seems to have a rich kid in a perky hotel.. it doesn't fit his persona and the critical situation they are all in, and feels more like real cops sitting in a real hotel room working on an actual case. zzz. and i'll be back coz i'm gonna watch frozen.. i may or may not update this paragraph


wmp: sacred moon - kh 358/2 days ost

TOO MANY SIDE CHARACTERSthe whole thing was very episodic. why? because it introduced characters one by one who stayed on screen with their own parts for like 20 minutes each, very unlike modern blockbusters. to me that's why i like the joker a lot more than bane because he appears countless times and confronts batman in many ways, whereas bane has a single master plan after he cripples bruce. it's the same reason why the epic clash between the pearl and the dutchman is so awesome in "at world's end" (which apparently people hate that movie.. i guess you can't watch it without part 2). because we already spent a movie each cowering in fear of barbossa and the pearl and jones and the dutchman.. a lot of time to develop character and attachment.

the reason why this system works in the manga series is BECAUSE it's a manga series, it's prime objective is to introduce new and exciting twists in a serial manner, a lot more like a tv show than western comics, because shounen jump is weekly. i reckon a more preferable approach to tackling the events/characters in death note 1 is to have raye and naomi both introduced at the start instead of having them appear one after the other (and rather late too). the revelation that light is being stalked works in the manga, but not here.. the whole raye thing moves rather slowly because light has to test his powers. this is a detail that can be omitted in blockbuster movie. (it may or may not be obvious that my arguments from last week are hazy.. god damn yugioh)

CLUMSY PACINGi edited this one in, because it's a big part of the whole "it feels like a drama" thing. everything feels too long. it closely relates tot he too many characters thing, but not only that.. all of their individual scenes take too long. by the time we get back to light it feels like it's been half an hour. and it all feels like a waste of time, because we don't get any more attached or development from these characters in this time. probably because there's too many of them. y'know come to think of it, this whole story might be able to be told without the police force at all. L could just play some ludicrous detective like our dear friend penny-rigged lumberjack in sherlock. but yes, the pacing might also account for it not feeling epic enough, and why it feels to drag on. useless scenes go uselessly long, and with too many characters to focus on, it really feels more like a soap opera than anyhting else.

L IS INTRODUCED HALFWAYyes, in the manga it is a big OO moment when L's face is finally seen, as well as the fact that souichiro is revealed to be light's father. honestly the whole first half an hour of the movie could and SHOULD be condensed into five minutes, to maximise conflict time. if the conflict between light and L should feel more epic, L should be seen from the start (he even is in the manga, albeit in the shadows). besides, audiences are gonna see posters and trailers, you would want your L to be a box office big star, and they would need to get the advertising they deserve.

BORING ONE-DIMENSIONAL HEROINEshiori plays a minor role in the manga, though i can understand why the revamped her role here in the movie, to stir more drama and ultimately create a bigger climax that to my memory.. was worse than naomi's actual demise.. but i can't really remember. shiori is a typical school girl character with nothing else going for her, she's just not appealing at all and i can't really pick out reasons why, because even school girls in other shows have more appeal. of course she's a place holder until the real heroine of the show misa appears, or maybe i'm just a bit :/ coz noone in this movie is really attractive. lel. well misa is i suppose, erika toda is pretty. but naomi was a lot more charismatic in the manga than she is here.

LIGHT IS AN IDIOT AND AN ASSHOLEi mean we know this fromt he manga, but it's played differently. in the manga, light plays the anti-hero. the embodiment of a youthful desire to rid the world of evil, who tragically spirals into darkness himself. we see him AS a light character at first (hurrr) and journey with him into his descent into a monster. that's why by the end of the manga, we want near to kick his ass, but at the start we are so invigorated by it all. in this film, we are introduced to him as arrogant, a guy who wants to be god, he seems less intelligent and more of a douche in the movie. also bad actor, i don't think he can show any of the emotion that light does at all. AND I'M ONLY PICTURING SETO KAIBA RIGHT NOW WHILE I RIGHT GOD DAMN IT YUGIOH

TOO MUCH UNNECESSARY INFORMATIONmisa did not have to be in this movie. this sort of goes with the side characters thing. but misa is not needed in this at all. she is introduced like in the last twenty minutes, and even gets her own scene but for what? also the guy stalking her is creepy and non-sensical. although i'll agree that the second notebook is a perfect premise for the second movie, it did not have to be introduced at the end of this one. the first film should feel complete as it is. but i suppose that's why this one didn't.. because the sequel was assumed, and direct part after it. but it means you can't watch one without the other.

oh and there's no soundtrack in this movie. i really think it would've added a lot more and felt so long and droney.


yes, the second notebook is a brilliant premise for a second installment, and arguably the first death note can stand strong without misa. i realised now she can be thrown into the mix, but it's probably not a good idea to have a character that doesn't meet the other core characters throughout the duration. the question is, would a one shot death note movie work? half the awesome stuff comes from using the eyes and the complication of a second notebook (which at first to newcomers would sound ridiculous but in reality is awesome). and what would be the climatic ending? would it end with L dying? if it did, he could play no part in the second notebook entire misa saga. at first, i thought a death note trilogy would work well: light and L face off, misa appears and L is defeated, near and mello take on light. but perhaps this story is better suited to a one-shot film like inception? and i just realised.. what are the implications of just having two movies? so waht if light defeats L in the first movie.. but i wonder how the second notebook saga would fare with near and mello there instead.. hmmm..... and the plot twist at the end of the second death note movie is one that makes a death note fan like me go OO upon first watching it.

i think the one-shot is the best way to go though honestly, can't guarantee the success of death note in hollywood anyway. but it just feels right for a story like this. although a lot of slow-moving action is going to have to be removed. light testing his powers on criminals in jail, and even his house being bugged so he proves he's not kira even while being watched (as clever as that all was). it just wouldn't fare in hollywood. but perhaps there's a way to include it all.. the prestige sure works nicely and there's a lot happening there. maybe i'll figure out a way some day. but the pacing definitely has to be correct, and the conflict between light and L has to be strong. even all the death note rules have to be used in a better way.

this is what i say about the death note rules: this kind of thing works well in a series. when all the rules of the universe are lay out in front of the audience, they begin to wonder of the implications of such rules. it creates excitement for later instalments. for instance, in the death note manga/anime we know all about the time limits for people to die, how much they can be controlled before death and all about the eyes and such like that. but this realisation is one that i had years ago when i first started reading it: i immediately thought of avatar: the last airbender. because the 4 bending principles were introduced in book 1, and we knew that lightning was a property of fire in this world.. but that just made us think of a lot of things in the future which both didn't surprise us, and felt awesome to realise the legitimacy of it all. plantbending, sandbending, metalbending, etc.

so the rules have to be explained early on in this hypothesized death note film, introduced early, skip testing of abilities while keeping it realistic when light pulls off tricks so as to be believable. L has to be introduced as a threat early too, and his face seen to at least the audience.. but key awesome moments must be retained like the whole "i am L" thing. misa would also have to be strengthened as a heroine if used in this movie, and not be so annoying, useless and a target for feminists to hate on.

i forget if i'm forgetting anything, the perks of finishing this post a week late.

ps. the title screen intro of the death note film feels a lot more awesome than the movie itself. why couldn't they make the whole thing feel like that.

pps. i also considered the possibility of the story without ryuk.. except as the story went on, i started to decide that that might be impossible.. but i can't remember all these contemplations coz they were last week xx
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