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Death Note Movie II: The Last Name

VIZ // Unrated // February 10, 2009
List Price: $24.92 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted March 4, 2009 | E-mail the Author
The Series:
Death Note is a very popular manga and anime series in Japan and around the world.  In Japan as in Hollywood, when something's incredibly popular a live action movie soon follows.  The first Death Note movie covered the first quarter or so of the story, setting things up nicely for this followup, Death NotevII:  The Final Name.  If you haven't seen the first movie, pass this one by.  The creators intended this sequel to be seen my fans of the first film and if you haven't seen that you'll be totally lost.
In the first film, Light Yagami, brilliant college student studying law, discovers a notebook with "Death Note" written in English on its cover.  Inside the cover are the following instructions:
• The human whose name is written in this note shall die.
• This note will not take effect unless the writer has the subject's face in their mind when writing his/her name. Therefore, people sharing the same name will not be affected.
• If the cause of death is written within 40 seconds of writing the subject's name, it will happen.
• If the cause of death is not specified, the subject will simply die of a heart attack.
• After writing the cause of death, the details of the death should be written in the next 6 minutes and 40 seconds.
Light thinks it's a joke, but after testing realizes that he really can kill people with this innocent looking notebook.  Light comes up with a plan to turn the world into a Utopia by killing all criminals.  He starts with those in jail.
With criminals in prison all over the world dropping dead of heart attacks everyday, it's not long before the governing bodies start to take notice.  Obviously outside of their league, they agree to let the mysterious figure "L" take over the investigation.  L communicates only through a laptop computer, and no one knows his real name or what he looks like.  With a razor sharp intellect, L soon starts to track Kira, as the general population has started to call him, down.  The first film ends with Light causing the death of his girlfriend in order to draw attention away from himself.
This film starts off soon after the events of the first movie, with Light's girlfriend's funeral.  Even though she's dead, "L" still suspects Light as being Kira.  Things get more complicated when a second Kira sends a tape to a TV station and says that anyone who disagrees with Kira or his methods will also be killed.  These threats are carried out on live TV when the police try to break up a pro-Kira rally in front of the station.
The second Kira turns out to be a teen pop star, Misa, who has made a deal with the death demon who originally owned her notebook:  for half of her remaining life, she'll be able to know someone's name just by looking at them.  She soon discovers that Light is her hero Kira using her new eyes and meets him.  Light isn't happy about the new help he has.  Misa isn't that bright and he's sure she'll crack if "L" ever captures her, which is what happens the next day.
With Misa locked up in solitary and "L" positive that Light is really Kira, the young genius comes up with a convoluted plan that just may save himself and Misa.  After making some preparations, he turns himself in and insists that he be locked up until "L" is certain he's not the killer.
This movie trimmed a lot from the manga and changed some things around.  The most important alteration is that they cut out the last half of the story.  This film does wrap up the tale, though there will be some surprises for fans who have already read the manga.
Like the first film, this movie adapts the story pretty accurately and manages to capture the spirit of the source material very well, but it does move a bit too fast.  One of the great things about the anime and manga is that people have time to wonder "what would I do in this situation?"  There's not that luxury in the movie.  Soon after Misa is captured Light realizes what he needs to do.  There really isn't that much time for viewers to worry about him, of to wonder how his plan is going to work out.
There's also less of the cat and mouse game between Light and "L" in this film, which is one of the highlights of the first installment.  That means that the film drags a bit in the second half.  The epilog also seems a bit out of place and superfluous too.  It shows how people are acting a year after the climax of the story, but none of their actions are particularly surprising, touching, or thought provoking. 
The DVD:

The movie comes with the original Japanese audio track and an English dub both available in DD 5.1 and stereo.  I preferred the original track a bit more, though the dub was very good.  Being a dialog-based film, there wasn't a lot of use made of the soundstage, though there were some cool effects like when Ryuk is off camera talking to Light and his voice comes from the rear speakers.  The audio on both tracks is very good with no hint of distortion or other common audio defects.  There are optional subtitles in English.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic image is pretty good.  The colors were bright and the blacks were solid.  The definition was good and the level of detail was adequate.  There was a little bit of aliasing when the camera would pan across a sky scraper for example, but it was minor.  Overall this was a nice looking film.
This disc got rid of the strange and hard to navigate menus that the first disc had, thankfully.  The main bonus item is a 23-minute making-of featurette that includes on the set interviews with the actors and the director as well as copious shots from the film. It was about average, with all of the actors saying that they wanted to give everything they could to the movie.
There are also English and Japanese trailers for the film as well as a trailer for another Death Note related movie, "L Change the WorLd."
Final Thoughts:
This was a good adaptation of a great manga.  The changes they made to the story didn't alter the flavor of the original and though it did drag a bit in spots the film was quite enjoyable.  If you liked the first installment, but sure to check this one out too.  Recommended.
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