death note trailer

Adam Wingard‘s adaptation of the popular anime and manga Death Note has been wracked by controversy, but you got to give them props for trying. I think.

While the movie has not proven to be loyal to the ethnicity of the characters, the setting, and the cultural context, the new Death Note trailer at least proves that the Netflix movie is at least loyal to the dark, mid-2000s emo aesthetic of the original series. And hey, at least Willem Dafoe‘s Death God Ryuk looks better than the Japanese live-action’s attempt at CGI. So, yay?

The second official trailer for Death Note shows much more of the plot than the first trailer. This trailer follows Light Turner (Nat Wolff) as he rages against the injustice of the world, losing a fight to a group of muggers while defending Margaret Qualley’s Mia Sutton.

Face battered and ego bruised, Light is gifted the mysterious Death Note, in which he reads that any person whose name is written in it will die. He meets the menacing God of Death, Ryuk, played by Willem Dafoe, which looks to be a magnetic performance. The two of them get to work, bestowing gruesome deaths straight out of Final Destination on all the criminals of the world, as well as people that Light doesn’t deem worth living. But an antagonist appears! The idiosyncratic L (LaKeith Stanfield, who seems to be giving his all in this Aspergers-coded performance) leads the charge on the investigation against Light, and accuses him of flying into the sun, but promising Light that “I’m the one to make sure you burn.”

It’s grim! It’s gruesome! It’s really dark! (And I mean that literally, the whole trailer seems to be blanketed in shadows)

Here’s the official synopsis of Death Note from Netflix below:

What if you had the power to decide who lives and who dies? We suggest you obey the rules. Based on the famous Japanese manga written by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, Death Note follows a high school student who comes across a supernatural notebook, realizing it holds within it a great power; if the owner inscribes someone’s name into it while picturing their face, he or she will die. Intoxicated with his new godlike abilities, the young man begins to kill those he deems unworthy of life.

To be honest, the more I learn about this movie, the more I cringe over it. Wingard has defended the whitewashing in this film, arguing on Twitter, “There is no conspiracy to remove Japanese culture from Death Note. It’s a fresh version of the story set in Seattle. Also see The Departed. When moving the setting of Death Note to America we of course made the movie about America. Its not just a copy and paste situation here.”

The names may be changed and the setting may be rainy Seattle, but at least The Departed made an effort to embed the story in the police and mob culture of Boston. I don’t want to go into details about how much this movie swings and misses, like how Light’s nickname “Kira” comes from the Japanese pronounciation of “killer,” or how Light’s vigilantism in the original series stems from his resentment of a Japanese justice system that only convicts the most obviously guilty, leaving other lesser criminals to slip by.

Not to mention the dated aesthetics that recall every emo punk rock band that existed back when the manga series was published in 2003. Even the Japanese live-action movies in 2006 toned down the gothic fashion horrors. Those original movies, by the way, are not great, but they have that dude from Battle Royale chewing up the scenery, so they’ve got their charms.

Maybe I’ll be proven wrong, but Death Note seems like an ill-advised adaptation at this point. Hopefully, I’ll be proven wrong when it debuts on Netflix on August 25.

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