Will there be a Death Note 2? Netflix recently released the first Death Note film and it seems like DN director Adam Wingard wants to continue the movie series. One thing is for certain. The American adaptation has been noticeably different from the anime, never mind the manga source material, so the Netflix version probably can’t be compared to the 2006 Japanese film Death Note 2: The Last Name.
Wingard recently spoke about Death Note 2017 to Heat Vision. He said the original vision was to pitch the Netflix Death Note movie series as being at least two films, maybe three at most. Still, the director designed Death Note 2017 to be a “closed loop” since “sequels are never guaranteed.”
“On some level, I really love that the [2017 Death Note] movie ends with all the characters damaged. It’s such an unconventional ending for any kind of comic book film, and I really like that,” he said.
Fans of the DN anime and manga have complained that the Americanized characters were “whitewashed,” although the 2017 film changed the character L from white-skinned to black. Wingard says the “whole point” was to do “something different from the source material.” There were discussions about “diversity in casting” and he claims the original Death Note creators “love the direction we took with it. It really was about re-exploring it in a new context.”
Even the grim reaper Ryuk and the Death Note itself were changed for the movie. Known as Shinigami, or gods of death, the creatures extend their own lifespans by ending the lives of humans early. Each Shinigami owns a Death Note, can see the normal lifespan of a human with their Shinigami eyes, and are apparently bored with their meaningless existence. Most of the Shinigami waste away their days and they look down on Ryuk for taking interest in human affairs. Nothing from the Shinigami realm was explained in the movie, so perhaps it will become an issue with Death Note 2.
The Shinigami always look menacing to human eyes, but the Ryuk character played by Willem Dafoe was downright sinister. In the anime, Ryuk stole a Death Note and dropped it in the human world for his own entertainment, but he also enjoyed playing video games and was shy around girls. Ryuk was pretty much neutral in the original story while the movie gave him malevolent intent.
The movie heavily implied that the film version of Ryuk had been giving the notebook to humans for many years. Apparently, these former owners of the notebook met a grim fate because the Death Note movie prop had “don’t trust Ryuk” in the margins. In the movie, Light asks if anyone had tried killing Ryuk by writing his name in the notebook and the Shinigami admits others had tried but reached only two letters.
Wingard said these character changes to Ryuk were made because they “wanted to give the book a history. We wanted to almost imply that it’s really been around since even prehistory, actually.” The production designer “really wanted to give the whole thing a carved out history” by including names written in French, German, Korean, and Chinese.
Dafoe admitted to IGN that he did not read or watch the source material before voicing Ryuk. The actor came up with Ryuk’s voice based on the Shinigami’s appearance and through “trial and error.” When asked if he would return for Death Note 2, Dafoe said it all depended on certain factors.
“It’s like anything. If the script was good, the director was good, yes,” he said. “But I liked the character and if this [film] finds a good reception, I can. Clearly, the story is not completed. It was like a pale version of the original because I can see where this story could keep on going in many different directions.”
Another major criticism by fans was the changes to the personality of Light Yagami. In the anime adaptation, Light was portrayed as a genius strategist who was cold and calculating while enacting his Kira persona. The movie version character was much more sympathetic to audiences, a trait that was shared by the Japanese Light in the older live action Death Note film. Light Turner also screamed like a little girl when he first saw Ryuk, something that would be completely out of character for Light Yagami.
Wingard says the 2017 Death Note movie version portrays Light Turner as “very different” from the source material, but that’s because the director purposefully created the Light and Mia characters using aspects of the anime version.
“Ultimately, what we did was, the original Light character from the source material is in this film. What’s happened is it’s kind of been split into the two characters. Light and Mia in this case make up the whole character. It’s really not just one or the other. In some ways, Mia is almost more like Light from the anime. That was always a conscious choice, because this film was a coupling of those two to give birth — literally — to Kira and to watch that thing unfold and to see how that can go kind of wrong, too.”
The original movie script called for Mia to be a “peripheral girlfriend character Light used the note to impress,” but Wingard believed there was a “real opening” to make Mia “something more.” This decision by the director dramatically changed the plot of the first film.
“Ultimately at the heart of this film, it’s really a tragic teenage romance, or at least that what it became,” he explained.
[Warning: Major spoilers for the Death Note anime.]
Originally, Light’s girlfriend in the anime was named Misa Amane, not Mia, and there’s a female Shinigami named Rem. Wingard did not mention whether he’d like Misa and Rem to be in the Death Note 2 movie sequel, but since Misa plays a critical role as the Second Kira, it’s possible it could happen. But that’s assuming the director intends on using elements of the original plot at all.
If Death Note 2 does happen then that would require a showdown with L, who definitely knows Light is Kira based on the events in the first film. That fact makes it impossible for the movie sequel to follow the source material closely. Originally, Light joined the Kira task force by voluntarily giving up the Death Note to Ryuk, which erased his memories connected to the notebook. The Death Note was given to a man who used its powers for selfish reasons, thus somewhat alleviating L’s suspicion of Light. While being completely unaware of his past as the first Kira, Light helped L investigate the new Kira.
Not knowing L’s name was the one reason Light could not kill L with the Death Note. With Shinigami eyes, it’s possible to see a person’s name floating above his or her head. In the anime version, L is killed by the female Shinigami after Light regains his memories and he convinces Rem that she must kill the detective to save Misa, the Second Kira. After L’s death, Light became the new L because the rest of the task force was not aware Light is the first Kira and they wanted to keep L’s death a secret. But the true identity of Light Turner is known by both L and Light’s father in the 2017 movie, so it seems likely the script will take a completely different direction.
The plot changes in the movie adaptation and the fact that L is still alive also means that the characters Near and Mello have little reason to exist in Death Note 2. In the anime, these characters are introduced after a sizeable time jump. Near and Mello are L’s successors, and Near suspects that Kira has taken over the role of L. If these two characters do make an appearance in the movie series, it will probably be in Death Note 3 or near the ending of the second film.
One major plot point that won’t change with Death Note 2 and 3 is the slow morphing of Light’s character and beliefs. Light’s main goal in creating Kira was to create a new world that is free of injustice. Unfortunately, by using the Death Note, Light develops a cold, ruthless, and malevolent nature. The young man comes to believe any actions are justified since he’s the “God of the new world.” He enjoys the conflict with the detectives and takes pleasure in killing L. In the end, this God complex is Light’s undoing, but will the Netflix movie version create a happier ending for the Americanized Light?
So far, that does not appear to be the plan. Wingard says there are many ways he could take Death Note 2, but the director admits the story of Light is ultimately about his “downfall as a character.” The goal for the Death Note sequel is to have Light go from a sympathetic character to a kind of Darth Vader.
“I saw his trajectory of being sort of an Anakin Skywalker type of thing that progresses over the course of a couple of movies,” Wingard said.
There’s no talk of a Death Note 2 release date, but that possibility depends on audiences. Adam Wingard is just hoping “people will watch it and Netflix will order a sequel. They definitely are ready to. They just need people to watch it.”
[Featured Image by Netflix]