by Kyle Ratsch
As we wane into the latter half of 2017, we are more than accustomed to reboots and remakes. Why is it that some of them are successful and some of them make long-time fans (such as myself) roll my eyes so far into my head that I need to have them surgically unrolled?
As I see it, there are three reasons to do a remake,
I think some of Disney’s remakes have been wildly successful because they addressed all three of these points. Beauty and the Beast, for example, brings a story that we all love to life with CGI instead of hand-drawn animation. CGI is a controversial topic in and of itself, but seeing something real or semi-real (Jurassic Park) is often more cool than not (Land Before Time) and we’re in an age where our technology has advanced to a point where we are able to present images in film that we were not able to years ago. Beauty and the Beast also brings the story to a younger audience, and brings new (even if controversial) messages to a new time.
The Marvel reboots of classic superheroes are also very successful because they compress wildly convoluted timelines from 20-50 years of comics into palatable stories for those of us who aren’t interested in spending months in comic book shops catching up on our hero, or for us who don’t know that “The Amazing Spider-man” and “The Superior Spider-man” are alternate timelines, not frivolous usage of adjectives.
How do these apply to Death Note?
If we ask the question, “what can we improve upon?” for the storyline, one could argue that the story dips after THAT ONE SPOILER WE ALL KNOW AND CRIED ABOUT, and that some of that could be rewritten or maybe even cut out. Most people aren’t as excited about Near or Mello, so I doubt many people would complain if we cut their arcs for the sake of movie run-time, but as I re-read the manga in preparation for my follow-up article, I’m amazed at how hooked I am despite the fact that the story is not new to me. Light is still a lovable and manipulative scumbag, L is still adorable and quirky, yet scary smart, Rem is still such a wild-card that destroys everyone’s plans, and it’s all still good.
Can you honestly tell me that these directors can improve upon anything the manga or anime did? Probably not. It’s regarded as one of the better anime/manga of all time for a reason.
What if this Death Note sends a new message?
Wrapping up a new message in the guise of a well-known story is a useful marketing tool, and something that I’ve seen all through the 90’s, but what message can you send with a story about a notebook that kills people?
Humans can’t use that kind of power? Check.
Human life is valuable and shouldn’t be thrown away casually? Check.
Even well meaning people can develop megalomania if given supernatural power? Yup.
When is it okay to kill people? Heavily discussed in inner monologues.
What is justice? This is often cited as the key difference between Light and L.
Are humans brave enough to sacrifice themselves in the face of evil? Yup.
I’m convinced that the original script of Death Note covers most of the questions and topics that such a situation could pose, and I think that’s one of the reasons that it was so successful. To this day I ask people if they side with Light or L and it still sparks interesting conversation. So good. So effective.
I ask legitimately, can this new movie teach us something new? Maybe. For sure they can teach an old lesson with a new angle.
So why? Why make this movie? The last point still stands: new audience.
“Anime is dumb,” “A japanese movie? Nah, I’m good. I’m gonna go watch “Exploding Cars and Guns 4” are probably things you’ve heard when trying to pitch Death Note to your friends. How about this though?
“Hey, there’s a new crime-thriller coming out on Netflix.” Your average nerd says to his sportsy friend.
Sportsy friend shotguns a beer and feigns interest. “You mean like CSI or something?”
“Yeah! It’s about a guy who’s able to kill without leaving evidence and a detective trying to find him.”
“Woah bro. That sounds kinda cool. It’s not like one of your weird Chinese cartoons, is it?”
“Nah man, it’s got Nat Wolff and Willem Dafoe in it.”
“Cool bro, let’s watch.”
To sports-friend, he’s watching an Americanized Deathnote that he finds relevant to him, and suddenly this show starts sliding in philosophy, and thirty minutes in he’s questioning his morality as he tries to decide if he thinks Light is a criminal or a hero.
That is the person who needs the Death Note remake. The person who dislikes trying media from other cultures, or who can’t see past animation to give a story a try. We long-time fans may have a hard time enjoying this through the tinted lense of one of our favorite shows and may say things like, “I don’t like their portrayal of L” to sports-friend, who is now contemplating whether or not he’s a potential mass-murderer.
You know, I hope it’s good. I would prefer studios to put more effort into original stories instead of remakes, and I happily wait for the day when we finish giving our favorite films makeovers, but maybe this will be a positive spark in a cyclical era.
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