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Original Title:
L: Change the World

Japan 2008

Crime, Thriller

Hideo Nakata

Kenichi Matsuyama
Mayuko Fukuda
Narushi Fukuda
Youki Kudoh
Kiyotaka Nanbara
Masanobu Takashima
Shingo Tsurumi
Shunji Fujimura
Megumi Sato
Yuta Kanai
Bokuzo Masana
Renji Ishibashi
Asaka Seto

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L: Change the World

Story: L (Kenichi Matsuyama) has only 24 days left to live after he wrote his name into the "Death Note" in order to take down his enemy Light. He tries to make use of his last days by solving as many cases as possible when suddenly another stroke of fate hits him. His friend and surrogate father Watari (Shunji Fujimura) dies just when he gets a new case that would ask for his old friend's emotional support. F, one of his colleagues, died in Thailand after he had discovered a deadly virus. The only one who survived the outbreak of the virus in a little village was a small boy (Narushi Fukuda). When the girl Maki (Mayuko Fukuda) shows up at L's door and gives him a sample of the virus she got from her father all the pieces of the puzzle slowly start to fall into place for the detective. A group of eco-terrorists revolving around Dr. Kujo (Youki Kudoh) plans to decimate the world population with the virus because she wants to reestablish the planet's ecological system. However, the virus itself is useless as long as there is no cure, because otherwise all mankind would run the risk being extinguished. Maki seems to be the key to the antidote and so it's now up to L to protect the girl.

Review: It was only a matter of time until the successful live-anime adaption "Death Note" would get its sequel. After the finale of the two movies it's only understandable that Yagami Light can't make his return as the villain, but there is still the oddly twisted, greatly intelligent, emotionally disturbed and sweets-loving L, who not only managed to build an enormous fandom among the female audience. So why not give this character his own movie? Since the two "Death Note"-movies already took some liberties concerning the original anime material it was also possible to now bring a completely self-reliant story revolving around the charismatic detective on screen. Sadly "L - Change the World" proves to be all that what "Death Note" wasn't: uninspired, lengthy and without wit. The biggest problem is that this time L has no rival that can be en par with his intellect and thus a great deal of the original material's fun and tension factor gets lost.

The beginning already leaves no doubt that this is an independent movie that is absolutely not interested in the "Death Note" subject. The film establishes some bumpy ties to the prequels by mentioning Light a few times and by letting L write (?) his name into the Death Note! In fact, it never becomes clear what this is supposed to mean because those who remember the prequels will know that this was actually a clever move to prevent Light from killing L by writing his rival's name into the note. At least we get to see some familiar faces in a few cameos. Towards the end we even get some information about Near, who filled L's footsteps in the anime-original, and Ryuk, the death god, also gets a small cameo. But wallowing in old memories is put to a halt at the latest when L burns the Death Notes.
What we get after that is a boring story around a mutated ebola virus whereas especially the supporting cast makes you realize how unmotivated the filmmakers were when they made this movie.

Eco-terrorists who want to change the world. Some of them really are interested in reestablishing balance with nature in a radical fashion, others are just interested in the money that can be earned with such a virus, and the rest seemingly just takes pleasure in being a terrorist. The incredibly badly drawn villains never stand as a worthy counterweight to superbrain L. Thus, the audience doesn't get the mental thrill of a cat-and-mouse game. This means that we only get to see extremely monotonous action, that is if there is something happening at all. Most of the time the movie just drags on and therefore surely doesn't justify its 130 minutes running time. To make things worse many scene, during which actually nothing is happening, are carried by actors that tend to overact and make a travesty of the movie. Along with the unspectacular look "L - Change the World" has a TV-film flair surrounding it that reflects the film's level of quality.

This is already bad enough, but when you consider that the film wasn't shot by a first-time director, but Hideo Nakata, the man who brought us such Japanese horror gems like "Ring" or "Dark Water", then you can only shake your head in disbelief.
After the especially lengthy first half of the movie it gets a bit better. That's because the negligible story offers enough room to illuminate the character L some more. The eccentric, highly intelligent but somewhat infantile detective has some serious issues when it comes to interpersonal relationships, but with Maki and the nameless boy he has to take care of and protect there are even some human facets coming to light, which never stands in contrast to the character we know already, mainly thanks to the great performance of Kenichi Matsuyama. Naturally, he also doesn't miss showing the peculiarities we already know of him like his strange habit of sitting on chairs and his impotency to make a straight back. Sadly, there is no reason for him to eat sweets the whole movie because as he explains himself he has the habit of eating everything that has sugar in it because sugar is the perfect source of energy for the brain. But the thing is that in "L - Change the World" he doesn't need to develop his grey matter at all...

Also frustrating is that the filmmakers oftentimes don't seem to know where they actually want to go. The investigation is full of coincidences that are almost ridiculous. Thus, L flees with his two fosterlings from one end of the city to the other without the viewer ever being able to make out a red thread in the actions of the otherwise scheming detective. Emotionally, there is a certain distance between the events on screen and the viewer as well which is even the more frustrating because we know that it should be different with our loved eccentric only having a few days left to live. By the way, it's important to wait for the credits to be finished if you want to get a small but important additional information.
L remains the only reason to watch this otherwise very mediocre crime flick. A small present to the fans that by no means can stand up to a more critical look at it and at some points is even frustratingly boring. There even may be fans that will be so infuriated by the movie that they wish to get their hands on a Death Note themselves to perpetuate the names of some of the involved filmmakers in it...

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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