L: Change the World

29 April 2009

On Sunday afternoon I wrote about scoring a couple of tickets to catch the final Death Note movie, entitled L: Change the World. Having enjoyed the first two movies greatly, I bought tickets online then and there. Our plans changed a little at the last minute this evening but Lyssa and I drove to the AMC Movie Theatre at Tyson's Corner Mall this evening and met up with Hasufin (albeit briefly). We ate a hasty dinner at the food court because we were running a little behind (say what you will, but the kebab place is well worth the cost) but had to part ways due to an emergency on Hasufin's end, which left only Lyssa and myself.

The movie picks up assuming that you're familiar with the basic premise of Death Note: who Kira, Misa-Misa, Watari, and L are, what the Death Note is, what it does, and how it's used. It starts off approximately 120 days before the events of Death Note: The Final Name to set the stage for what is to come, and then bounces to the very end of the second movie.

At this point we see L write his true name in the Death Note - a secret revealed in one other place, Death Note: How to Read - to ensure that he wouldn't die before the defeat of Kira. The shinigami Ryuk appears only briefly when the two Death Notes are destroyed, burned to ash amidst the screams of those who were killed with them. After the death of Watari, L sets to work, making the best use of the time he has left. Whole stacks of case files are torn through as L calls contact after contact, law enforcement agency after law enforcement agency around the world. One gets the impression that L is clearing his backlog of cases as his final act. We then see a village in Thailand decimated by a disease which embodies the worst qualities of the flu and the ebola virus; figures carrying military equipment and wearing P-4 biohazard suits take blood samples from the few villages who are still alive and then clear out before the village is incinerated by a fuel-air bomb.

The plot then kicks up with the escape of a young man wearing a curious medallion and a very young boy moments before the village is eradicated. There is also a slightly confusing subplot with a molecular biologist's daughter who appears curiously obsessed with taking her temperature, mysterious mathematical puzzles in the girl's notebook, and the bioengineered virus which would make an ideal bioweapon if only a vaccine existed to limit who it could spread to. The plot gets a little tangled at this point - parts of the story appear to be thrown together, and only some of them are resolved by the end. There were some plot holes that you could jump through (such as the the injections the girl was given every few days by her father - hypotheses are thrown around but no answers are given) but neither Lyssa nor myself are sure if they're actually bugs in the storyline or if they were artefacts of the translation. One of the villans reminds me a great deal of one of the little sisters, down to her ten foot stare. I keep waiting for her to say, "Look, Mr. Bubbles - it's an angel!"

Rather than hang back in his lair behind a Mac L is forced to go into the field during his final days with both youngsters in tow. There are a couple of chase scenes van and even a touching moment or two between the neigh-inhuman L and the children. It's safe to say that the last thing any of us expected was for L to take a running leap onto a taxiing airplane, L's characteristic hunched stance notwithstanding. We get to see a few things from the manga that hadn't been mentioned before, such as Wammy's House and the other lettered agents in Watari's network. I really could have done with the little girl's stunning irrationality, as well as her father's protracted death scene which only needlessly complicated the story just so the little girl could have a motive of some kind.

Oh, and the little boy? L names him 'Near' and gives him a toy robot. Fans of the manga know what I'm talking about.

If you stay all the way to the end (this means tomorrow) you'll get to see a special half-hour feature that documents the filming of L: Change the World, starring Matsuyama Kenichi and director Nakata Hideo.

On the whole, this is a very enjoyable movie. As with many imports, see the subtitled version before the dubbed version because more of the nuances come through. The plot holes make the story a little confusing but if you pay attention you can follow the overall plot without too much trouble. It serves to cap off the trilogy nicely without going over too much old ground from the other two movies (or the long and drawn out melodrama of the manga).