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Death Note 3: L, Change the World

VIZ // Unrated // August 18, 2009
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted September 9, 2009 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:
Never let a small thing like lack of quality get in the way of cashing in!  That seems to be the motto behind this third Death Note movie, L:  Change the World.  Taking off where the second movie left ended, this will confuse people who haven't seen the earlier films, even fans who have read the manga or seen the anime.  Totally different from the earlier works, it is clear that the people behind this project had no idea what made Death Note the success that it is.  The result is a long, slow movie that has little charm.

Warning:  There are spoilers about the two live action Death Note movies in this review.
For whatever reason, the creators of the live action Death Note movies decided to change the plot significantly.  At the end of the second film, Light does not outsmart L as he does half way through the manga and anime versions, he's killed.  L reveals that Light is Kira, but he does that by writing his own name in a death note but postponing his death for 23 days.  This movie is the story of what he does with his last few weeks of life.
First of all the young genius goes through his files solving case after case and informing the authorities.  After a week or so of this, he gets a coded message from "F" (apparently there's a whole alphabet of secret geniuses sprinkled across the world) delivered by a young orphan Thai boy who just happens to be a mathematical genius.  When a middle school girl turns up at his door, the daughter of a friend who was just murdered, L is able to piece together a very scary picture.  There is a group of ultra-environmentalists who have decided that the Earth is overpopulated with humans.  They plan to release a genetically engineered virus that will kill everyone in the world.  The only thing they need to do is create an antidote so that they can pick and choose who will survive to fashion a new Utopia.

Armed with only a few clues, it is up to L and the two children he has befriended to stop this mad organization before they can unleash their plans and before L's time runs out.
There were many, many things wrong with this movie.  First it's way too long (it clocks in at 2 hours and 9 minutes.)  The first hour moves very slow and really drags.  For a movie about a genius it's ironic that the film assumes that the viewers are idiots.  Just who the bad guys are, what their plan is, and how they decide to go about it are all spelled out in slow, monotonous, detail.  The film does pick up in the second hour, but by then it is too late. 
The movie changes L's character drastically too.  In the manga, anime, and earlier movies he's a super-genius who has few connections with other people and spends his time eating junk food and thinking deep thoughts.  In this film they turn him into a low-grade action hero.  Not only does he leave his apartment (something that rarely happened before) but he chases down an airplane, makes a death-defying leap, and faces down a murderer who is wielding a large knife.  What??  That's what he hired others to do previously, and if there's some world wide network why doesn't he use it. 

Not only that, but he befriends too kids.  The old L acted like he was autistic, rarely making eye contact and having no interest in becoming close to someone.  The L becomes BFF with the two kids that are thrust upon him nearly instantly.  In one of the extras Ken'ichi Matsuyama, the actor who played L in all three movies, even bemoans the fact that he had to come up with a totally different character for this movie.
Finally, they missed the key elements that made Death Note so intriguing; the cat-and-mouse mind games that were played between two geniuses.  There's none of that here.  As a matter of fact the head of the criminal organization who wants to purge the Earth of humans didn't even make the virus himself.  He stole it and was hoping to trick another doctor into making the antidote.  L without a worth foil is just not that interesting, and that's why this movie fails.

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 adequate.  Being a dialog-based film, there wasn't a lot of use made of the soundstage.  There was moderate use of the subwoofer during the explosions at the beginning though the rest of the time it wasn't used.  The audio on both tracks are clear 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.
As for the extra features, there's mot much here.  The biggest bonus is a 20-minute behind the scenes featurette.  Like many Japanese background shorts, this isn't narrated and mainly shows the crew at work shooting scenes.  These are cross cut with quotes from the director and star, which were unfortunately dubbed.  In addition there are several trailers (both Japanese and American) and the intro that was shown when the movie had it's limited theatrical release in the US.
Final Thoughts:
This attempt to cash in on the Death Note franchise just doesn't work at all.  The changed L almost beyond recognition, they removed the battle of wits that made Death Note so engaging, and they padded to movie with a terribly boring first hour.  While I didn't like them as much as the manga or anime, I thought the first two Death Note movies were okay.  This one is horrible.  Even fans of the franchise should skip it.
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