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Comic-Con 2017: Netflix's "Death Note" and "Bright"

In its first ever Hall H presentation at San Diego Comic-Con on Thursday (July 20, 2017), Netflix enlisted Terry Crews to moderate two panels for sneak peeks of two original films: “Bright” and “Death Note.” Although neither movie are comedies, with Crews on hand there was lots of laughter.

“Death Note” is based on a Japanese manga series of the same name (デスノート) written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. and originally published from December 2003 to May 2006. The story is about a high school student, Light Yagami (夜神月) who finds a magical old notebook (the old-fashioned kind of paper)and is urged by a shinigami (死神 or god or spirit of death) Ryuuku to write down the names of people who deserve to die. The black notebook (note being the Japanese borrowed word for notebook) comes with instructions. Light becomes a serial killer known as Kira. In Japanese, the main characters name means night spirit/god and his first name is a specified pronunciation of “Light” for a character that means moon. The nickname he takes as a serial killer also relates to light—kira kira means glitter or sparkle.

“Death Note” has already made the transition to TV anime adaptation in Japan in 2006 to 2007. Konami published Nintendo DS video games. Live-action movies have also been released in Japan in 2006 and 2008. The 2007 animated series is available on Amazon Video.

This Netflix version transfers the action to Seattle. Light Yagami becomes Light Turner On the trailer, we only saw the first rule: “The human whose name is written in this note shall die.”

Think if you could get rid of “All the people that make life miserable, that make life dangerous.”

The trailer presents Ryuk (Voiced by Willem Dafoe) as a tall creature that looks like a spike-haired version of the tree in “A Monster Calls” with the face of DC Comics Joker.Light at first believes this must be a dream. Ryuk coos, “Dreams are places you have fun.” From the second story window, watching a girl being bullied below, Ryuk tempts Light, saying “Put Kenny’s name down and see what happens.” While Light hesitates, Ryuk says, “I know you want to. Go on. Help her.” Once Light has written down Kenny’s name, Ryuk asks, “How.” Light’s choice is decapitation. Now this is going to be bloody.

As the death toll mounts, a detective only known as L (Lakeith Stanfield) tries to figure out who Kira is with the help of Light’s father, James Turner (Shea Whigham).

Nat Wolff, Margaret Qualley, Lakeith Stanfield, Adam Wingard and Masi Oka participated on the “Death Note” panel. According to Masi Oka, one of the producers, this adaptation has the full approval of Ohba and Obata. As director, Wingard commented that Oka is “an otaku” which he then translated as “he’s a geek.”

As Wolff noted, the premise is seductive. When he tried writing his own list, “names were just flying off my pen. It can easily get out of hand.” “Death Note” was a surprise screening Thursday night and will be released on Netflix next month on August 25, 2017.

Crews prepared the audience for the next panel by doing his infamous “dance,” declaring “Hall H is my jam.”“Bright” is a gritty tale with fairies, elves and orcs in crime thriller set is Los Angeles but we’re asked to consider that the orcs might be the good guys.

Directed by David Ayer, “Bright” stars Will Smith as our POV character, an LAPD officer Daryl Ward, who is teamed with the first orc cop played by Joel Edgerton. A young elf Lucy Fry (Lucy Fry) comes into possession of a wand that Ayer described as “a nuclear weapon that grants wishes.” Ayer continued, “This is not a PG-13 studio story.” Ayer praised the hands-off attitude of Netflix.

Smith interjected this is “R-rated grit” that’s “smashed with ‘Lord of the Rings.” This is not the kind of film you want your Tinker Bell-loving tot to watch. Smith would later apologize for not reading the warning that minors might be in the audience.

In the alternative reality of Los Angeles that “Bright” is set in, elves are taller, stronger and better dressed than everyone else—even Smith’s character. Fairies are treated like over-sized insects. Orcs are strong but ugly. Smith noted, “It felt great to be an African American police officer who gets to find someone else to be racist against.”As often is the case with science fiction, “Bright” is “a beautiful snapshot of our world” where “everyone’s just trying to have a good life.”

Ayer noted that this is a world that is stratified, “a world of walls” and “a world of segregation.”

On a lighter note, even in full orc makeup driving down the streets of Los Angeles, Edgerton commented that “The power of Will Smith is no one cared that his chauffeur is a monster.”

After you watch the elves in action from the trailer and the movie clips, Crew noted, “You’ll never look at the Keebler elves the same.”

“Bright” is scheduled for release on Netflix on December 22, 2017, just the right season to be thinking of elves.

Jana Monji

Jana Monji, made in San Diego, California, lost in Japan several times, has written about theater and movies for the LA Weekly, LA Times, and currently, and the Pasadena Weekly. Her short fiction has been published in the Asian American Literary Review.

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