Hollywood has had a long history of actors relying on method acting to portray their characters. From Christian Bale's dramatic weight alterations to Jared Leto's quirky off-screen capers to become the Joker, these stars have gone to great lengths to breathe life into their roles. Although Nat Wolff's case might not be as extreme, he has made his entry into this age-old process of method acting by creating his very own Death Note, as seen in the Netflix adaptation of the same name.
Nat Wolff plays Light Turner, who is in the possession of a notebook that has the power to kill, as long as the owner writes the victim's name while memorizing their face and stating the fashion of their death. As Adam Wingard's Death Note portrays Light as an oppressed outcast, he begins to use the notebook to take care of his bullies, but soon shifts from exacting his personal revenge to killing off criminals.
As this murderous concept seemed too abominable for the actor, Wolff told Screencrush about his method to adopt Light's worldview,
"As soon as I got the role, I was like, 'Well I’d never be able to write any names in the Death Note. You’d have to be a psycho to do that.' But soon I made my own Death Note, I started writing and then it was just flowing off the pen more easily than you’d believe."
Light Yagami (from the manga and anime) has been depicted as a narcissist due to his superior intellect. As these inherent qualities don't allow Light to enjoy the sweeter delights of life, he constantly shows signs of boredom. However, as the Death Note provides Light with a form of catharsis, he easily utilizes his inability to perceive humans as individuals, killing them off with ease.
Considering the negativity that Light brings to Death Note, Wolff should be lauded for committing to the character. However, most reviews have trashed Wingard's Death Note and the introduction of Light Turner has been widely criticized.
'Death Note's Writers Made Several Changes That Didn't Go Down Well
Hollywood always has a hard time adapting critically renowned manga and anime, such as Oldboy, Ghost in the Shell, Dragon Ball and now Death Note. Although the technical departments usually keep CGI and set design at a worthy standard, adaptations falters during the transition from Japanese to American culture. In the anime and the manga, Light Yagami was shown to be a highly intelligent individual who could surely take down Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Gregory House. He was shown to be manipulative, using Misa Amane's affections for his own gain throughout the series. In addition to that, Light used extreme caution to hide his identity, an integral aspect that often led to tantalizing situations. However, Light Turner didn't share these characteristics.
Turner's motivations are vague, as his actions aren't out of boredom and righteousness, but out of affection for Mia Stutten. As the Netflix adaptation spends time revealing Turner's identity to Mia, courting her and massacring criminals in a way that is reminiscent of Final Destination, Turner lacks the complexity of Light Yagami.
Despite Nat Wolff's off-screen efforts to empathize with his character, these changes seem to have alienated franchise's audience, leading to harsh reactions. As for first-timers, watching a self-contradictory character in a reality that constantly breaks its own rules can't have been an enjoyable experience either. However, as Wingard has ended Death Note ambiguously, the director and screenwriters can look back at their mistakes and attempt to make amends in the sequel.
What improvements do you think Light Turner needs to be close to his manga origins? Let me know in the comment section.