Review by: Brenda Gregson
Publisher: VIZ Pictures
MSRP: $24.98 US
Running Time: 129 minutes
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Release Date: Available Now
Those who change the world are often those who could end up destroying it.
Having been an admirer of Sherlock Holmes and even having had a fascination with Phillip Marlow, the one detective that truly stands out as a brilliantly original creation is none other than the master detective known as L. Those who know him well have most likely read the Death Note manga, seen the anime or even the two live-action movies based on the Kira case. L made a return on the big screen and now VIZ Pictures has released Death Note: L, Change the World on DVD.
The live-action movie once again has the always fantastic Kenichi Matsuyama reprising his role as the brilliant detective L as Change the World picks up after the events of the second Death Note movie, The Last Name. Having written his own name on Light Yamagami’s Death Note, L has sealed his own fate in a final sacrifice to finally beat Light at his own game. The result is that L has 23 days left before he dies “a peaceful death from heart failure.”
Change the World chronicles the famous sleuth’s final days as L spends his remaining days of life cracking as many high profile cases as possible before he dies. Having lost Watari, his father-figure and assistant thanks to Misa Amane’s Shinigami, L has cut all ties with the Kira case by ridding the world of the Death Note. If you were wondering what happened to the notebooks after the finale of Death Note then Change the World gives you the answer.
In Taiwan, however, a plague has been unleashed on a small village and its inhabitants. As a group of men in Hazmat suits comb the village, a man known only as F makes a run for it with a strange little boy who seems unaffected by the virus. It’s clear that F is infected and before he makes the ultimate sacrifice, the man tells him to memorize a sequence of numbers as well as the telephone number to the only people that can help the boy. The telephone number, it turns out, belongs to Wammy House and the numeric sequence is really a message meant for its founder … Watari.
Of course, with Watari gone, the message is passed on to L and in an instant he finds himself in charge of a little boy that hardly shows much emotion. Seeing L babysitting a kid is by far one of the highlights of the movie, especially since his technique to win the child over is by offering him a kabob made entirely of cakes and sweets. “This is my first babysitting experience,” L says dryly.
In the Infectious Disease Center of Asia, a little girl named Maki (wonderfully acted by “Kamikzi Girls” own Mayuko Fukuda) is living with her scientist father and his loyal assistant, Doctor Kimiko Kujo (played by the talented Youki Kudoh of “Memoirs of a Geisha” fame). As the two scientists work on finding out the origins of the virus that resulted in the destruction of the village in Taiwan, a radical environmental group storms the facility demanding the virus. Maki not only witnesses the death of her own father who made a move to destroy the only viable antidote for the mutating virus but the young girl also witnesses the true ringleader of the group step forward.
Her only hope is find Watari and, instead, finds L who accepts the job to aid the girl when the environmental group comes looking for the girl. It seems that Maki might just hold the key to the antidote for the virus that is a cross between the Ebola and flu virus and L decides to make a run for it with both kids who are linked to the virus. With the aid of an FBI agent named Hideaki Suruga (played by comedic legend Kiyotaka Nanbara), L and the children attempt to locate the only scientist who can makes sense of the biologically created virus and come up with an antidote.
Meanwhile, the leader of the environmentalist group reveals its plan to unleash the virus on the United States to start a pandemic so huge that it will bring their plan to save the planet from pesky humans to fruition in such a manner that nothing will be left. As L manages to locate the scientist, Maki goes caught by the group and this leads to a final showdown aboard an airliner as L finally shows us that he doesn’t just solve cases in front of a computer. In fact, he uncharacteristically takes drastic measure to stop the plane from taking off in one of the most exciting climaxes.
Change the World, if anything, shows us another side of L we didn’t get to see during the Kira case. It also offers us a small peek of the Los Angeles BB murder case from the novel, “Death Note: Another Note, The Los Angeles BB Murder Case.” We also get to see L run, which is a rarity and I don’t know about you but seeing L make an escape in a cute pink “Angelcrepe” van is just so laugh-out-loud hilarious. He even goes on a picnic with the two kids as he explains to Maki why he eats only sweets.
Surprisingly, the lack of a supernatural twist doesn’t distract us from the fact that L is a very interesting characters that makes even a case like this one actually fun to watch. In fact, I’d even go so far as saying that he alone makes all the cast of characters from shows like NCIS or even Monk seem so transparent. If there’s one character that’s screaming to become the star of their own series it’s L so seeing him again in Change the World is a treat. As far as the movie is concerned, there’s some solid acting and Hideo Nakata is able to make the movie flow steadily until its reasonable finale.
Death Note: L, Change the World is a thoroughly entertaining movie that fans of Death Note will certainly enjoy but not as much as the two Kira case movies. That said, the highlight here is clearly the character L who continues to not only be brilliantly fascinating but also amusing enough that watching him crack cases that aren’t even supernatural in nature is still something of a blast. Death Note fans should not miss out of another opportunity to see L at work.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
With only 23 days left thanks to the Death Note, L spends his final days taking on the very case that lead to the death of a fellow detective from the Wammy House that Watari built. With a strange boy by his side and a little girl who might have the key to stopping a mutating virus that a bio-terrorist group wants to unleash on the world, it is L who sets out to save the world.
VIDEO QUALITY: A+
VIZ Pictures once again tops itself with a perfect Anamorphic Widescreen presentation. Still, you can’t help be think how good these live-action Death Note movies would look on Blu-ray.
AUDIO QUALITY: A-
The English voice dub is handled well and even more so with Alessandro Juliani reprising his vocal role as L and Brian Drummond doing double duty as Ryuk and FBI Agent Suruga. It’s a good option to have but this is definitely a movie to watch in Japanese.
There’s a Behind the Scenes featurette with interviews with Kenichi Matsutama and Director Hideo Nakata plus there’s the Event Bonus Footage. The loads of trailers are fine additions but the best special features also happens to be the audio commentary track and bilingual options with Alessandro Juliani. There’s an insert included that comes with a Death Note crossword puzzle.
While it strays from the supernatural cat-and-mouse game that was the first two Death Note movies, L’s final case makes Change the World all the more enticing and actually fun to watch if you’re a fan of Ohba and Obata’s most interesting detective. It’s not a bad story but not as amazing as the Kira case.