Death Note began as a manga, then an anime and the phenomenon burst over into two live-action films. The second of these, Death Note: The Last Name seemed to wrap the story up as the owner of the death note, a book where any name written means the death of that person, was beaten by genius detective L, but only at the cost of L sacrificing himself by writing his name in the death note.
So what do you do if the films make so much money a third is demanded?
Taking advantage of a gap in the plot, L: Change The World works on the premise that, after writing his name in Light Yagami’s death note, L has 23 days before his death. He uses the time to try and resolve as many outstanding cases worldwide as possible before uncovering a conspiracy to wipe out almost the entire global population using a super-virus. Time is running out not only for L, but potentially for the human race as well.
Shusuke Kaneko does not return as director this time around. Instead, the reins are handed to Ring mainman Hideo Nakata. On the other side of the camera, Kenichi Matsuyama reprises his role as L, plus blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cameos from the cast of the previous films during a breakneck tie up of the dangling plot threads in the first few minutes of L: Change The World.
Indeed, the opening of the film serves simply to get rid of the baggage of the previous films and play what is, at its heart, a very familiar bio-terrorism threat movie. An organisation of evil people with guns and the odd black suit ‘n’ facial scar want to bring AN END TO THE WORLD and our eponymous hero must stop them.
It is all fairly pedestrian stuff, given a slight shake-up by Matsuyama’s quirky L as he finds himself acting babysitter to two children who are survivors of the virus and hold the key to the development of its antidote. The objective seems to be to give L a little more humanity beyond his dispassionate analytical nature, but it all feels somewhat twee and does not add the addition character dimension it may have intended.
The Death Note mythos is either ignored or shaken up (apparently Watari is mentor to a whole cavalcade of genuises, each denoted by a single letter of the alphabet), but there is the odd tip of the hat to fans of the manga or anime. Most notably, a character gets named ‘Near’ – albeit in a fairly superfluous manner.
A serviceable thriller, L: Change The World is a journeyman film that, while not terrible, does seem to squander both the rich Death Note concepts and the talents of director Hideo Nakata. Decent, but somewhat forgettable and a disappointing close to an otherwise solid trilogy of live-action films.
- Making of L: Change The World
- Interview with Kenichi Matsuyama
- Stills gallery
Available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.