What do you do when you get a Death Note — a supernatural notebook that can kill people? You murder, of course.
Netflix’s live-action film adaptation of the popular manga and anime series “Death Note” dropped its first trailer Wednesday, giving us a glimpse into the destruction that our protagonist is going to cause.
The film stars Nat Wolff as Light Turner, a young man who happens to come across a notebook called a Death Note. The rules are simple: “the human whose name is written in this note shall die.” He begins to use the notebook to kill criminals in an effort to make the world a better place, but a detective (played by Lakeith Stanfield) catches on and they begin a game of cat and mouse.
— Netflix (@netflix) March 22, 2017
At the end of the trailer we get a glimpse of something in the shadows. That’s Ryuk, a shinigami, or death god, and previous owner of the notebook, voiced by Willem Dafoe. Margaret Qualley, Paul Nakauchi, Shea Whigham and Masi Oka, also star.
The film comes from “You’re Next” and “Blair Witch” filmmaker Adam Wingard.
“Death Note” was originally at Warner Bros., where it was picked up in 2009. However, when the studio decided to make fewer films, the project moved over to Netflix.
Twitter has already started to weigh in, noting that it’s another instance of a Japanese story being cast with a white protagonist. Even the names have been changed. Light Yagami, as he was named in the manga, is called Light Turner. The love interest, Misa Aname, was renamed to Mia Sutton (played by Qualley).
Iron Fist (2017)
Ghost in the Shell (2017)
Death Note (2017) pic.twitter.com/W1XDOmjLLz
— Beatrix, Witch of October 28th 2022 (@TheBeaWitching) March 22, 2017
Many aspects from the Japanese source material still remain. For example, the name given to Light’s killer alter ego is Kira, which is a Japanese romanization of the word “killer.” You can see it mentioned on a wall in one of the trailer’s shots.
The trailer’s release comes following recent controversies on Netflix and in Hollywood concerning the whitewashing of Asian stories and roles. Netflix and Marvel have been receiving criticism for “Iron Fist,” which stars a white man who learns Asian martial arts and mysticism. “Ghost in the Shell,” which is based on a famous anime film and hits theaters on March 31, has also received backlash from fans who question the decision to cast Scarlett Johansson as the Japanese lead.
“Death Note” will premiere on Netflix Aug. 25.