‘Death Note’ Trailer: Willem Dafoe Is a Death God
Regardless of how you felt about last year’s Blair Witch, Adam Wingard has earned more than enough goodwill with genre flicks like You’re Next and The Guest to ensure that we’ll be stoked to see whatever he does next. That would be Death Note, his American adaptation of the classic Japanese manga, starring Willem Dafoe as a spiky-headed and mega-creepy, self-described “death god” (I mean, what did you expect).
Nat Wolff (The Fault in Our Stars) headlines the film, which follows a teen who discovers a mystical notebook that grants the user the ability to make someone die just by scrawling their name in its pages. Co-starring Margaret Qualley of The Leftovers and Lakeith Stanfield (most recently seen in Get Out), Death Note has a tight cast and looks pretty intriguing, though the trailer makes it seem a bit more serious than Wingard’s acclaimed genre indies — leaving me to wonder if this one has any semblance of his usual dark humor. Based on the plot, I’d have to imagine so.
Death Note has already elicited criticisms of whitewashing in the wake of similar problems with Ghost in the Shell and The Great Wall, and while it’s difficult to make a judgment call based on the trailer, it doesn’t seem like that’s the case here — Wingard is re-contextualizing a Japanese story, unlike Ghost in the Shell, which simply replaced a Japanese character with a white one (in the worst possible way, no less) without changing the setting and aesthetic.
Here’s the official synopsis from Netflix:
What if you had the power to decide who lives and who dies?
We suggest you obey the rules. Based on the famous Japanese manga written by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, Death Note follows a high school student who comes across a supernatural notebook, realizing it holds within it a great power; if the owner inscribes someone's name into it while picturing their face, he or she will die. Intoxicated with his new godlike abilities, the young man begins to kill those he deems unworthy of life.
Death Note arrives on August 25.