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Death Note is one of those adaptations that could go seriously wrong, considering how PG-13 friendly the business is, as opposed to the material – which is very much R-rated. Thankfully, the powers that be at Warner Bros have seen the light of Deadpool's success and decided to keep the film in darker, more mature territory.
The news came from Death Note producer Roy Lee, as he spoke with Collider at this year's DICE Summit in Las Vegas. Lee informed their man on the ground that the following conditions are being set for Adam Wingard's film adaptation:
It’s definitely for adults. It is zero chance it will be below an R-rating. [It] will be one of the first manga adaptations that feels very grounded but still has fantastical elements.
Just looking at Death Note's source material alone should tell you that the film needs to be a hard R-rated film. The manga, as well as its subsequent anime and Japanese film adaptations, focuses on Light – a student who stumbles upon a mysterious notebook. That notebook summons Ryuk, a vengeful death spirit that can kill any target Light chooses – right down to the time and cause of death that Light specifies. As Light becomes increasingly drawn to the powers of the Death Note, he attracts the attention of an Interpol agent who specializes in serial killers, thus drawing both men into a cat-and-mouse chase of supernatural proportions.
With director Adam Wingard boarding the project almost a year ago, and a cast already lined up according to Roy Lee, all that's holding up Death Note's production is an official green-light from Warner Bros. and it'll be off to the races. Considering Wingard's previous directorial efforts include You're Next and The Guest, an R-rated strategy seems like it was always in the cards. Reinforcing this option only assures that Wingard will be able to spill the blood, as he's been known to do, except in a brand new context.
Should this strategy work out, Warner Bros. will not only be doing right by Death Note and Adam Wingard, they'll also be cornering Marvel Studios as the only major comic apparatus without an R-rated film on the books. With enough dark flavored comic films on the market, Marvel Studios just might follow suit, allowing some of their gritty TV franchises to spin-off into just as mature films. Though considering the success they're having with Netflix, it'll most likely take more than a pair of potentially successful comic films of darkness to change their game plan.
Death Note plans to go into production sometime this year, provided the studio green-lights the film in the near future.