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Death Note will remain a psychological thriller, but not like you remember

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Director Adam Wingard is mixing things up

Death Note director Adam Wingard wants his live-action adaptation of the popular manga for Netflix to be a number of things.

At times, the director wants it to play as a comedy; at others, he’s aiming for a story of great romance. Naturally, there will be horror elements taken from the manga thrown into the mix. During a panel at San Diego Comic-Con, however, Wingard affirmed that the majority of the movie would focus on the psychological tension between high school student, Light (Nat Wolff) and renowned detective, L (Lakeith Stanfield).

Death Note wasn’t pinned down by one genre,” Wingard said. “It encapsulates a lot of genres. It’s mostly a thriller, but it has comedy, romance and there’s even a musical mashup, kind of. I’ve treaded the line of trying to play with genre tropes throughout my career, so that’s where my interest comes from.

“I wouldn’t say the movie is really scary; it’s more about the game of cat and mouse between L and Light.”

Wingard’s comments don’t mean Death Note will be an adaptation fans will recognize, though. A clip that played in Hall H (and was later posted on YouTube), introduced the meeting of Light and his shinigami guide, Ryuk (Willem Dafoe). Although the scene included elements of traditional horror, with Ryuk never once stepping out of the shadows, the scene is very different from what fans of the original manga and anime adaptation were expecting. There are scenes where Light makes terrible jokes (something his character wouldn’t ordinarily do), slaps his own face to convince himself he’s not dreaming and even screams in the most ostentatious fashion.

If you thought it didn’t really resemble the Death Note you remember, that was all part of the plan.

Death Note is something that has been adapted before and, for us, this felt like a good opportunity to take something that was adapted faithfully in the past and put our own spin on it,” Wingard said.

That means those looking for a proper adaptation of the original manga created by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata are sure to be disappointed. But for Wingard and the rest of the team, it was always about giving Death Note a different spin and seeing what they could do with the concept that had been given to them.

“We wanted to take something that had a great premise and just breathe new life into it,” Wingard said.

Whether or not that new life is accepted or rejected by fans is yet to be determined. Netflix held a surprise, early screening for some San Diego Comic-Con attendees late last night, so expect to see some early reactions soon enough.

Death Note will be released on Aug. 25 exclusively on Netflix.