Shane Black Signs To Direct Manga Adaptation 'Death Note'

Fans of Shane Black get to be very happy today: the writer/director has just signed with Warner Bros. to direct an adaptation of the manga Death Note, thereby increasing the chance that we might see a follow-up to his utterly wonderful Kiss Kiss Bang Bang sometime before the Mayan-predicted apocalypse. But fans of the man as a writer/director have to take a step back: he won't write the script. He will 'oversee' the script (as almost any director will) as it is written by Anthony Bagarozzi and Charles Mondry. Those are the same guys who were/are writing Doc Savage, the film Mr. Black signed to direct for Sony this time last year.

So what the hell is Death Note?

The manga, by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, is actually pretty huge, having spawned anime and live-action films, TV series, games and more in Japan. Let's go to the basic wiki plot recap:

The main character is Light Yagami, a high school student who discovers a supernatural notebook, the "Death Note", dropped on Earth by a death god named Ryuk. It centers around Light's attempt to create and rule a world cleansed of evil using the notebook and the efforts of a detective known as L, and subsequently his successors, Near and Mello, to stop him. The Death Note grants its user the ability to kill anyone whose name they know, by writing the name in the notebook while picturing their face.

Deadline, which actually uses this signing as an excuse to run a nicely affectionate little recap of his career, quotes Shane Black talking about the manga:

It's my favorite manga, I was just struck by its unique and brilliant sensibility. What we want to do is take it back to that manga, and make it closer to what is so complex and truthful about the spirituality of the story, versus taking the concept and trying to copy it as an American thriller.

Hopefully that's not just nice signing PR quote BS. Because to make this work as a feature that isn't ridiculous and silly will take some dedication and a deft hand. We know that Shane Black can have the deft hand, even if some of his screenplays aren't exactly subtle. So let's hope he can pull this one off.

But will this actually be his next film? Good question. There was Doc Savage at Sony, and he's reportedly written another Lethal Weapon film. (Shane Black became one of the hottest screenwriters of the early '90s due in part to his script for the first Lethal Weapon.) Deadline mentions another old spec script idea that he wants to revive with Joel Silver, too. Honestly, I don't care, just as long as he's back in the director's chair, and SOON. But something written by his own hand would be prefereable.

(And, I've got to say, Warner Bros. is the company that barely shrugged Kiss Kiss Bang Bang into release, relegating what could have been a much bigger success into the trenches of slow word of mouth cult fanbase-building. Something like this probably has more potential, and there may well be different people powering this at the exec level, but if it was me I'd be wary.)