Reel SDCC: Netflix’s Bright and Death Note

Bright/Death Note Panel

Netflix has big buzz around Comic-Con specifically because this is the first time the streaming powerhouse has attended San Diego Comic-Con. They’re making their presence known in a big way with several panels and some off-site installations that are proving to be so popular that the line to get into them is resulting in a wait time that nearly rivals the infamous Hall H – anywhere from 3-4 hours long.

Netflix made its first presentation in Hall H by presenting two new original films that appear to be game changers. They both seem to have big studio intentions but without the big studio interference. The moderator for the Netflix event was none other than Terry Crews. It seemed silly at first but one of the Netflix films is directed by David Ayer and they have worked together before. Crews knows how to win the crowd over. He’s funny, engaging and he appears to be as big of a nerd as the rest of us. He’s also excited to introduce the first film of the panel, Death Note.

I’m not familiar with the Manga on which it is based but the trailer we are presented with is fascinating. The movie, directed by Adam Wingard, appears to represent several genres: fantasy, horror and action. And it also has a main villain voiced by Wilhelm Dafoe so how can you go wrong with that?

After the trailer, Crews introduces the cast and crew along with the biggest surprise is that one of the producers is Masa Oaka Lee. Lee played Hiro from the popular show Heroes. Several people in the audience are quick to make the connection and soon he’s quoting lines from the show, which makes us all cheer with nostalgia.

It’s clear that Adam Wingard is passionate about the project. He expresses his desire to make the adaptation faithful to the source material and is even honest that some of these adaptations have been mostly failures in the past but he’s confident in what he has done.

The premise is very unique. A demon like creature presents a normal high school with a great deal of power. If you write someone’s name in the death note, they will die. The film appears to deal with the ramifications of that power and how that kind of control can truly turn deadly.

The cast, on the panel, is a mixed bag. The lead, Nat Wolff, was pretty awesome and funny. He also seemed really connected to the material which I appreciated. The female lead, Margaret Qualley, was a bit nervous and unfortunately, no one really went to her for questions. When they did, she had issues answering them but again, it was nerves and it was her first Con.

Lakeith Stanfield, stayed completely in character which would’ve been fine if we all knew he was doing that. His character is mysterious and he tried to do that on the panel but it just seemed weird and distracting.

We are presented with another scene that proves to be a tease but a very effective one. It involves the death note being used for the first time and you can even write in the cause of death which in this case is decapitation. The scene cuts to the money shot but it definitely made me want to see more from the film.

The Death Note part of the panel ended rather quickly but it’s mostly because the real highlight (and bigger stars) are featured in the next Netflix feature, Bright.

Terry Crews is hyped on this one and the first thing we get is an extended trailer that honestly presents the film in the best way. It’s a gritty Los Angeles cop drama that happens to also feature orcs and fairies. It sounds silly but believe me it works.

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After the trailer, Crews introduces David Ayer to many bro hugs. The F bombs come right away from Ayer who seems to know that his irrelevant behavior will be a hit with the crowd.

Followed by Ayer is the cast which includes Noomi Rapace, Joel Edgerton, Edgar Ramirez, Lucy Fry and Big Willie himself, Will Smith. The cast gets its fair share of cheers but Will Smith owns the room the moment he walks in. This is a guy that knows how to work a room and his charm is infectious.

The panel is pretty much owned by Ayer and Smith. They built a huge trust working with each other on Suicide Squad. It’s that trust that got Will to do the project. Their second hand with each other is obvious on the panel.

Noomi Rapace was also quite talkative about her villainous character and it was great seeing her so engaging. I don’t know much about her outside of film but she doesn’t seem shy and she seems game to be there.

The subject of theatrical release versus Netflix streaming is brought up and Smith fields the subject in a way that makes sense. Netflix doesn’t seem to interfere with production like a studio would. As Smith states “they give you a bunch of money and say go make your movie.” That kind of freedom was very liberating for the cast and crew according to Ayer. It also seems to be where the industry is headed and they’re jumping on it as it starts.

Will Smith is a guy you want promoting your film. He’s funny (him comparing seeing Star Wars for the first time to his first time having sex had the whole room dying) and most importantly he’s smart. Rapace mentioned his strong work ethic and how he never seemed annoyed to be there, even after long 8 hour days when coverage was mostly on her and he was only needed for 3 takes at the end of the night. While Edgar Ramirez and Lucy Fry aren’t as involved on the panel, Smith made sure to include them and it was a stark contrast to how a similar situation was handled on the Death Note panel.

Before the end of the panel, we get a scene from the film that features Noomi Rapace in full on action mode. I think people are going to love her character. The scene doesn’t establish too much but it is a showcase of how Ayer handles the great action.

At the end of the day, Netflix is making moves with movies in a big way and this panel was a sign that they will be a force to be reckoned with.

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About Gaius Bolling 1030 Articles
At the age of five, I knew I wanted to write movies and about them. I've set out to make those dreams come true. As an alumni of the Los Angeles Film Academy, I participated in their Screenwriting program, while building up my expertise in film criticism. I write reviews that relate to the average moviegoer by educating my readers and keeping it fun. My job is to let you know the good, the bad, and the ugly in the world of cinema, so you can have your best moviegoing experience. You can find more of my writing on Instagram @g_reelz.