L: Change The World (2008)
Director: Hideo Nakata
L: Change The World is a spin off film from the successful Japanese Death Note series. After Death Notes sequel; Death Note: The Last Name hit the big screen it was time for Death Note to end, or at least until another director named Hideo Nakata challenged the epic conclusion to the series and created L: Change The World; a brand new story revolving around L the leading detective from the Death Note series.
Those of you who have seen Death Note and Death Note: The Last Name all probably have one question in mind right now; How might it be L in this film when during Death Note: The Last Name it is known that L will die in a number of days? Well L: Change The World is set in-between events of Death Note: The Last name, mostly after Light’s death, but before L’s.
Well for those who have not seen Death Note or Death Note: The Last Name have no reason to worry or a reason to not watch this film as it is a completely fresh story from Death Note and you need to know very little about it before watching it. The Death Note series revolved around a Law student Light Yagami who killed criminals simply by writing their names into a deathly notebook to create a new world without any crime, and then there’s L the detective, hunting Light down as he believed that what Light was trying to accomplish wasn’t justice at all and deserved to be punished. L: Change The World has little to do with Death Note at all but includes a few references more towards the beginning of the film.
This time L returns to solve another mystery murder case but this time without his trusted guardian-like character Watari due to his death in Death Note: The Last Name, and he is supported by two children; Near (Narushi Fukuda) who is known mostly simply as ‘boy’ throughout the film and Maki Nikaido (Mayuko Fukuda).
L is faced with the challenge of solving a case when a bio-terrorist group attempt to wipe out a high percentage of the world with a deadly virus that creates some shocking and terrifyingly gory death scenes that Death Note and Death Note: The Last Name strayed from. The scenes are really quite extreme with gore and Nakata has been incredibly bold creating them with a lot of blood and incredibly detailed makeup that is somewhat disturbing to look at during the scenes. Despite these scenes there were heartfelt and sensitive moments with the relationships between the leading characters that grew as the film went on and finally came to the heartbreaking moment of L’s death and final his moments on screen. All performances were executed to perfection including the fierce, terrifying villain Kimiko Kujo (Youki Kudoh- Blood: The Last Vampire, Rush Hour 3) who is absolutely frighteningly exciting to watch on screen.
A new director was bought into play when creating the film; Hideo Nakata who is mostly known for directing the Japanese originals of The Ring and The Ring 2 which went on to be recreated in the U.S with great success there as well as in Japan. With Hideo Nakata as the new director for film, he had a huge challenge to create a new Death Note film with the same energy and complexity that the fans enjoyed so much when Shusuke Kaneko bought Death Note to life and to the big screen for the first two installments. It’s clear that Nakata focused hugely on the development on the character L as fans were torn between the two leading characters L and Light during the first two films.
Kenichi Matsuyama returned once again as L with another a faithful and flawless performance and takes the character of L to a whole new level. Although as L’s character is developed more throughout this sequel it’s hard to judge whether the film could appeal to much more than young adults, children and fans of the previous films or manga, as L is an incredibly unusual character he’s not going to be someone than everyone can connect to. But L’s childish character matures throughout with the help of Near and Maki and develops the theme of responsibility further than Death Note could, and I suppose with that Nakata has done a brilliant job of developing the character of L to its fullest potential along with Matsuyama being greatly involved in the development of his role bringing his own personality onto set and into his role.
What’s perhaps most intriguing about L: Change The World was that it was filmed in single takes rather than several like American minus a scene where there were difficulties using a baby. Knowing this shows how incredibly talented the cast were, especially as two leading roles were performed by children. Nakata and his cast pulled it off with stunning performances all around.
While the film didn’t do as greatly as Death Note, it was only expected for it to be this way. However L: Change The World is an extraordinarily fun, exciting sequel to finish the Death Note series perfectly letting us watch L in action one final time and give him an exit he really deserves. It’s full of humor, action and even some gore and heartfelt moments and all surprisingly work well together. Nakata should be praised for this final goodbye to Death Note.
The DVD set of L:Change The World is really something special Death Note fans, it has some of the longest running time of special features I’ve seen before; and all of it is exciting to watch with behind the scene footage, press conferences before the release of the film, filming footage and much more it shows you a lot about how the film was created and completes the Death Note series.