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Japanator review: L Change the World

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It's no secret, we here at Japanator have a love for just about all things Death Note. Hell, I myself have expressed that love more than a few times. Yet when it comes to the live-action films, well, things start to splinter a bit.

A lot of that has to do with the inevitable dumbing-down of the plot. There's a lot going on in the Death Note world, most of it taking place in the heads of its characters. That doesn't exactly make for riveting film. Packing all of that in to a couple hours just isn't possible. One has to give up a few things, for better or worse.

Things only get even further out-there when you try to re-invent the wheel and come up with an entirely new plot that falls far outside of the original material. That's the case with the L-centric story behind L Change the World. Taking place before, during and (mostly) after the events in the two Death Note movies, the film tries to weave itself into an already rapidly unraveling tapestry. With the main protagonist turned antagonist decidedly out of the picture, can L hold up on his own? What could he possibly face that would test his giant brain even further? Join me after the jump for an all-too close look at L Change the World and find out!

Oh, and before you do, MASSIVE AND TOTAL SPOILERS TO FOLLOW. Seriously, I talk about the end of the first Death Note films as well as L Change the World. If you don't want anything spoiled, then the gallery should be pretty safe. Check that out at least.

OK, onward!

First off, let's get things straight. L Change the World has absolutely nothing to do with Death Note or the Death Note universe. In fact, I don't think that the characters that re-appear in L Change the World should even be qualified to call themselves Death Note characters.

I know that sounds awkward. Let's see...

For instance, L. L isn't the L we've come to know over the multiple manga volumes, anime episodes or previous films. He's just some weird guy. He eats candy and types funny and that's about it. I mean, he runs around in this film. He lets anyone and everyone instantly know who he is. OK, maybe I'm getting a head of myself.

The plot of the film is your basic “deadly virus developed by an underground company is going kill everyone unless the hero can stop it just in the nick of time.” Normally, this is where you'd get the twist, the hook that would make you want to throw down your cash and that would keep you glued in your seat until the end credits rolled. Well, sorry, there isn't one. In this film, L, the hero, has been so heavily gimped that he's not any different than the bumbling FBI agent or the stuffed teddy bear Maki caries. Ah! Sorry. Getting ahead of myself again. It's easy to do.

Anyway, the film opens with L confessing his love for Watari, L's elderly man-servant, saying that being a reclusive super-detective is all that he is, and that as long as Watari is around he'll be happy. Also, the Kira thing is heating up, so L and Watari go to Japan.

120 days later, we see a village in Thailand full of dead and dying people. One man stops and gives a necklace with the letter “F” written in gangster font on the front to a young boy that he simply calls “Boy.” He also only speaks in English for some reason. Anyway, the man also has the same disease as the other villagers. He drives off and is promptly blown up by a helicopter.

L learns of F's death. Seems to be no big deal. Probably because he has bigger fish to fry. L pulls out Misa's Death Note and writes “L Lawliet will die of a heart attack in 23 days” on it. This is basically setting up the end of his battle with Kira from the previous Death Note movies.

Cut to some scientists working in a large lab. Turns out that there is no antidote to the quickly mutating killer virus.

Cut to Misa (again, another previous Death Note character) and Watari in elevator. Watari dies, pretty unceremoniously.

Cut to L. Now, it's after the battle between Light and L. With Ryuk watching, L burns the Death Notes. Still, Ryuk lets L know that he is still going to die in a few days. L then sends out an email to his fellow single-letter-named friends saying that he will mourn Watari. Apparently there is something special about K. Ha ha! Get it?

OK, this is already turning into a play-by-play account, and this movie certainly doesn't deserve this much of my time. Let's hit fast-forward:

Blue Ship is the company that's making the virus. They want to cleanse the world by killing off most of the population ala Kira. The “F” boy contacts L. F-boy is immune to the virus and L takes him in as a roommate. F-boy's necklace has info on Blue Ship. One of the scientists, Kujo, working on the anti-virus is actually the one responsible for creating the original virus. She and Blue Ship take over the lab. Mr. Good Scientist destroys the new anti-virus and kills himself before Kujo can get the data. Turns out Good Scientist's daughter Maki has the data. After her! Meanwhile, K contacts L hoping L can help find the data and the anti-virus. Oops! K is Kujo! They catch up with Maki, Maki gets away and joins with L. Now L is running all over the city with the kids. Oh, and an FBI agent. In a pink dessert truck. Starting to see where this is going?

K outs Maki on national TV, saying she is caring the virus. The city panics, not that it matters. L finds another scientist friend. They have a roof-top picknick. L eats all proper and nice like and even stand up straight for a few seconds while the kids applaud. Happy! Eventually they make the real anti-virus. But ZOMG! Now Maki is gone! She scoots in order to save everyone and kill K herself. She messes it up and just gets herself kidnapped.

Blue Ship, with Maki in tow, get on a plane destined for America ('cause they've got the most money to buy the anti-virus.) L comes to the rescue, once again with a flurry of Indiana Jones moves. He gets on the plane and saves the day. Yay.

L then takes F to an orphanage, presumably the same one he himself is from. After telling him “No matter how gifted you are, you alone cannot save the world” he also names him. “Near,” he says. Wait? What?! Then it's off into the sunset (literally) where we are left to assume L falls over dead, as it is the last day of his final 23.

As you can see, this isn't the same Death Note-style mind-fuckery we've come to expect. It's much more action oriented, pulling L far out of character over and over again. Now, to me, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I'd say that, on its own, L Change the World is a far better film than the Death Note films. The acting is far superior and the production values are higher. Sure, the plot is abysmal. Sure, there is nothing new or fresh in the presentation and the characters are all incredibly flat. But those Death Note movies were really horrible, so it would be tough to sink much lower.

On its own, L Change the World is just an OK movie that never needed to be made. It is blindingly obvious that it is just two hours of fan service for the L lovers and no one else. Even then, it completely twists everything that made L so compelling in the original material, so in a way it just shoots itself in the foot from the very beginning. While on the one hand I can't imagine anyone actually enjoying this film, I'm sure that there are more than enough fans out there wiling to abandon their already paper thin principles in order to shoehorn this into their own personal L shrines.

For those wanting to preserve and respect the memory of L, stay well away from L Change the World.

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reviewed by Zac Bentz

 

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Zac Bentz
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Filed under... #death note #live-action #reviews #TV and Film

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