For many of you Death Note fans, I’d imagine you have at least followed up and watched one, if not both, of the live action Death Note films. Perhaps you were impressed or just confused as the plot ran astray from the story the manga/anime follows? Either way, I know the movies generated plenty of interest stateside, and being a Death Note fan myself, my interest was peaked as well. This became truer when I read that the movies’ success lead to a spin-off film featuring L himself. I knew I had to watch it immediately, and now I’d like to share my thoughts with you on the film, L: Change the WorLd.
First of all though, let me warn you I will have to give some small spoilers to the first two Death Note films. I will try to do this quickly and be as precise as possible, so as not to ruin those films. The story takes place when L himself is finishing up his battle with Light and, in doing so, writes his own name in the death note, giving himself a limited amount of life. Thus moments into the film the Kira issue is resolved and never returned to, while L begins to count down his days in relative peace.
However, not all is right with the world. In Thailand, a town has been ravaged by a unique virus in an apparent test case by some military/terrorist organization. K, a fellow member of Wammy’s House alongside L, finds a boy who shows no apparent sign of infection and, at the risk of his own life, sends him off to contact Watari. At the same time Maki Nikaido, daughter to a genius biochemist, finds her father victim to the same disease in his research lab and, in an attempt to escape the culprits, also tries to find Watari. L, for various reasons, intercepts the children and starts to take care of them both. Thanks to their arrival, and the looming virus threat, L suddenly realizes that he may still have time in his life to help protect the world from the terrorists.
The director, Hideo Nakata, in an interview with The Star stated that he “wanted to portray L’s human side”, and truly this movie focuses on not just L’s own humanity but each and everyone in the world. We see the villains trying to ‘save the world’ with destruction, while L himself, approaching death’s door, tries as best as he can to protect those few around him. This is an L who is alone and out of his element and now having to take care of 2 scared children. The question of the film is can L, more or less a child himself in many ways, rise to the challenge, save the kids, and ultimately change the world?
In addition to Matsuyama’s superb acting, there was a certain spirit in the film’s execution that impressed me. For instance, to purposefully highlight the differences between L and the terrorists, the scenes involving the terrorists were violent and particularly chaotic in nature, while the scenes featuring L and the kids were ambient and more emotion driven. As the movie progresses the viewer is presented with these two juxtaposing worlds coming together, slowly at first as the film begins and then much more quickly as the terrorists plot comes together. The pacing works wonderfully and succeeds in heightening the overall tension of the film. Seeing as how the director Hideo Nakata of this film is also known for directing the Japanese Ring films I’m betting some of this is carry-over from skills needed to set scenes in horror films. Nakata wisely uses these skills to further portray L’s new position in life, weak and alone himself, yet forced to care for others in a time of looming danger. Certainly Kira is L’s greatest opponent by far, but even for L, this internal struggle may be his greatest fight yet. Ultimately that more than anything is why L: Change the WorLd is perhaps the most entertaining of the live action Death Note films.
Score: 4 out of 5