L: Change the World (2008)
By: Paul Ryan on November 9, 2009  | 
Eastern Eye (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). Japanese DD 5.1, Japanese DD 2.0. English Subtitles. 123 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Hideo Nakata
Starring: Ken'ichi Matsuyama, Youki Kudoh, Mayuko Fukuda, Kiyotaka Nanbara
Screenplay: Kiyomi Fujii, Hirotoshi Kobayashi
Country: Japan
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
Shusuke Kaneko's two-part big screen adaptation of the popular manga series Death Note was a huge commercial success. However, with a good portion of the characters dead, making a follow up film wasn't going to be easy. Fortunately Hideo Nakata's spin-off feature, L: Change the World manages to get around such pesky details by setting the film concurrent with the final scenes of Death Note: The Last Name, and it works surprisingly well. While the film is presented as an essentially stand-alone tale, you'll still need to watch the first two Death Note films to fully appreciate this one.

A bio-engineered super virus has gotten loose in Thailand, wiping out an entire village, save one small boy (Narushi Fukuda). Smuggled out of the country, the child is entrusted to the care of the eccentric detective L (Kenichi Matsuyama), fresh from the events of Death Note. L discovers the virus is in the hands of a group of militant environmentalists led by Kujo (Youki Kudoh), who plan to decimate the world's population in order to reduce the damage inflicted on the world by humankind. Finding himself also protecting the young daughter (Mayuko Fukuda) of the scientist who worked on the virus, L races to stop it from being unleashed. Compounding matters is a personal – and irrevocable - deadline of his own...

Solidly put together by Nakata (helmer of the original Ring films), L: Change the World is good, over-the-top fun. Having been an ensemble player in the earlier films, the eccentric, junk-food scarfing detective L works extremely well as a lead character, with Kenichi Matsuyama droll and engaging throughout. Nakata brings a more visceral sensibility with him, and this is a more graphically violent entry than it's predecessors. This installment pulls back on the metaphysical elements of the earlier films in favour of a more straightforward thriller approach. Even with its outcome a foregone conclusion, Nakata keeps the film suspenseful and thrilling, with a particularly tense climax on board a hijacked plane. The only thing this entry lacks is the presence of Takeshi Kaga, but you can't have everything...
Released in cinemas only last year, it's no surprise that the video transfer here is excellent. Detail is high throughout and colours are well rendered. The English subtitles are clear and consistently readable.
Audio comes in 2.0 and 5.1 Japanese Dolby tracks, and both are first rate, with muscular sound effects. Both are also crystal clear and absent of any problems.
Extra Features
A Slice of L (51.39m): This making-of featurette is quite good, covering the Japanese portion of the shoot (finishing with the crew flying out to Thailand), and gives a reasonably detailed look at the day-to-day process of putting the film together. We get a look at Hideo Nakata's on set eccentricities (wearing a towel tied around his head, refusing to use a monitor, etc), the experience of making a film from the perspective of the two child actors, and how Matsuyama took a hand in revising the script.

Interview with Kenichi Matsuyama (16.51m): Exactly what it says it is, this is frankly rather dull, with Matsuyama coming across as fairly disinterested throughout. The sight of him sporting a goatee and leather jacket does make an interesting contrast to L's standard appearance though.

Stills Gallery: I've come to think of these things as the extra feature you put on a DVD to make it look like you're providing extra material. Fifteen stills from the film. Yawn.

Trailers: In addition to the original theatrical trailer, you also get bonus previews of both the animated and live-action versions of Death Note, plus trailers for Eastern Eye titles Kaidan and Dororo.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
While it doesn't add much to the Death Note mythos, L: Change the World is an enjoyable addendum to the series. At over two hours, its a bit overlong, but Nakata's direction is expectedly solid and Matsuyama is again very entertaining as the oddball detective. Madman's DVD is top-notch as usual.

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