24 March 2010

Death Note: L, change the world


Starring Kenichi Matsuyama, Mayuko Fukuda, Shingo Tsurumi, Masanobu Takashima
Written by Kiyomi Fujii, Hirotoshi Kobayashi
Based on the manga "Death Note" by Tsugumi Ohba
Directed by Hideo Nakato
Release: 9 February 2008
Horipo, 129 mins., Not Rated

Plot: With only 23 days left to live as a necessary sacrifice to end the reign of 'Kira' and the Death note, the enigmatic L tackles one last case: a bio-terrorist environmental organization hellbent on condensing the number of human inhabitants on earth.

I became sorta hooked with the live action adaptations of the Death Note anime/manga franchise, and so my looking into this third and final installment, a spin-off of sorts, was inevitable. Although not nearly as enticing, heart-pounding, thought-provoking, and all around spectacular as those two movies were, L, change the world is nonetheless a very entertaining movie, and is the final chance to enjoy Kenichi Matsuyama's riveting portrayal of the enigmatic L.

The very idea of finishing the Death Note trilogy with a film chronicling L's final days is a extremely interesting one. Although I'm not entirely sold on the basic idea of this terrorist organization and their ultimate goal, it's nevertheless a 'big' case worthy of L that is fitting for his final days. This particular organization, which is very 'pro-GREEN', wishes to kill a good portion of humanity so we can stop polluting and destroying the earth - the atmosphere and soil, etc. - so that the planet can be saved from our wicked ways. Sorta understandable. I guess it's a better solution than turning everyone into zombies and just bombing the place.

Kenichi Matsuyama brings his A game, as always. The depth of how well he knows this character is amazing. His physical nuances he brings to the performance is akin to Heath Ledger's work as The Joker, his eyes and nonverbal expressions that work of a master of subtly. Plus, the character of L is equally as fascinating - his ability to pick up seemingly mundane clues that end up saving the day...I'd love to see L square off against Sherlock Holmes. In conclusion, Matsuyama is riveting, and there is simply no reason his extraordinary work in this trilogy should be missed. Maki, the daughter of the scientist who was working on creating a vaccine, ranges from annoying (mostly near the beginning), to actually sympathetic. I like her arc - her lust for revenge, even at such a young age, to the point she'd sacrifice herself for it. As for the boy L befriends, I couldn't really care less, sadly. I was just happy the boy didn't turn out to be one of those 'Ken' characters from Showa-Era Gamera films.

The bad guys are overly unspectacular, with the exception of the money-hungry Matoba (Takashima), who was just awesome to watch get pissy and violent. Kimiko Kujo, the female scientist who double crosses the guy working on the vaccine, is equally stellar to watch. Her clear belief in her goal, her ability to be a compassionate woman and in a blink of a eye, a cold-hearted bitch: simply awesome.

There's only one major complaint I have about the film, and it's the god-awful English the performers put on every once and awhile. The kid that L befriends speaks English, but it's so high pitched I haven't a clue what he's saying (which happened during a rather pivotal sequence that I still don't understand what the big 'realization moment' was). A worse offender was the character of F (who I assume is from the same organization L belongs to), played by Kazuki Namioka, who tries his hardest to get his English groove on, but I didn't get a damn thing he said. Something about 'very important' and a lot of digits. Attention directors: unless you got a actor who can actually do a decent enough English voice, don't bother. Please? There's a reason I got the subtitles on and the Japanese audio.

Shusuke Kaneko leaves the director's chair for this outing and is instead replaced by Hideo Nakata, who by no means should be a random name, having worked on the successful Ring franchise (both Asian and American), as well as Dark Water (which was also Americanized). Nakata definitely brings a cool visual style to the film, as it compliments what Kaneko accomplished before but also giving it it's own, er, jazz (?). Unique camera angels, wide shots that pan over a remote countryside in Thailand, and plenty of tracking shots of characters running for their lives (a common thing with the Death Note movies, no?). Overall, Nakata did very well, which considering his lackluster work with the aforementioned horror movies (at least in my opinion; it's a claim I doubt many others would share), it's quite the compliment. Although I'm sure the superb editing helps his direction seem even more cooler than it probably is. Er, that was meant as a compliment.

All in all, even at a little over two hours, the movie runs at a swift pace, with plenty of action, mind games, and double crosses to keep the viewer interested. And again, Kenichi Matsuayama. 'Nuff said. L, change the world is a fitting finale to the franchise, and is highly recommended. I'm just sad to see the saga end.

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