I was really hoping that this would be some kind of joke, but it apparently isn’t.
There’s already been a live action adaptation of Death Note. Two of them, in fact, since the story isn’t easily told in one. I might be in the few as far as thinking that they were both fantastic movies and worked wonderfully as adaptations (I swear I’ll get around to reviewing them both), but the fact remains that it’s already been done, not to mention that L spinoff movie, which I’ve yet to see. All three of those movies have been licensed and released Stateside, so why do we need Hollywood to make another one?
Of course, Hollywood re-making Japanese (and other Asian) films is nothing new, and there are many instances where those re-makes are wildly popular and subsequently profitable. The Ring comes to mind, but I’ve seen neither that nor Ringu, from which it was based. Even so, there’s at least one adaptation that I found to be successful (The Departed, based on a Hong Kong film). But Death Note is not a J-horror and Death Note is not an action drama. And from what I can understand, Warner Brothers will not be basing their movie off of the existing movies, so Death Note isn’t even a movie.
Death Note is a superntural, psychological, suspense thriller manga, and I have little faith that a Hollywood adaptation will 1) make any money, 2) treat the source material right, 3) be a decent movie on any kind of level. Well, at least it isn’t Fox, right?
There are just so many potential problems with this that I can’t imagine enough of them being conquered for this to work. I might draw up a full list later if I feel like putting forth the energy to rant about it (if you want though, Gia’s already got at least five ways they can fuck it up), but for now, here is the biggest issues I see:
As fans, we have become jaded. It’s hard to ignore and forget this kind of abomination, as much as we’d all like to try. Some people say that fans are too critical and can never be pleased, and that might be true to a certain extent, but I like to think that there are actually a lot of people that are willing to give things a chance if given a reason to be positive. After all, I have hope in the upcoming Cowboy Bebop adaptation, and I’m also cautiously hopeful about that Akira adaptation. And it isn’t just the live action medium since, as I’ve mentioned, I love both already existing live action adaptations for Death Note. I was also kind of fond of the Speed Racer movie, if only because it refused to take itself seriously — that works for Speed Racer. It would never work for Death Note.
This might be a more minor thing, but it might be worth mentioning that some fans, while still fans, have gotten sick of the title’s supreme oversaturation across all markets. I mean, the manga finished in 2006. In the three short years since then, there has already been two live action movies, one spinoff, and an anime. Now there’s going to be yet another movie? Geez.
As far as the general audience goes though, is Death Note even the sort of story that would fly in the States? I think the supernatural element would be a huge turn-off both because straight-up monster-looking things aren’t that popular in [serious] American movies and because CG becomes an issue. Ryuk’s design and translation into CG was already an issue for the Japanese adaptations, but if it’s anything less than amazing this time around, people won’t go for it because they will compare it to stuff like Pirates of the Caribbean and I doubt Death Note will have the budget to compete with that.
I wonder if the whole capital punishment theme would cause a stir at all, and if so, would it be positive or negative as far as ticket sales go? Consider that so many schools took issue when Death Note-like notebooks made rounds in middle schools with kids’ “enemies'” names scrawled in the pages — would they be afraid of more stuff like that happening as a result of a domestic movie’s release? It’s also worth noting that The Boondock Saints was a movie that had a similar theme: it had a limited release and poor reviews, but has garnered a cult following since. Death Note already has a cult following, but the cult is hypercritical. Would WB’s Death Note create a new sublegion of fans? People that knew nothing of Death Note before seeing that version?
Warner Bros. must realize how big of a gamble this is. Speed Racer tanked. Dragonball Evolution tanked phenomenally. If they can’t help but do more manga/anime adaptations for some explicable reason, I have to wonder why someone doesn’t pick up a few shoujo titles and have at some chick flicks — why all these crazy shounen and supernatural stuff? Shoujo is, by nature, much, much more suitable for live action. The Japanese understand this — there are tons of dramas and movies based off shoujo. But none by Hollywood.