I had the opportunity to see L: Change the World last night. It was only playing 2 nights here in NYC and good buddy Mike got tix for a few of us Death Note fans. It was in Japanese with subtitles. It's sort of a sequel to the two live action Death Note films. The same actor (Ken'ichi Matsuyama) who played "L" on those 2 movies, also stars in this one. We see a glimpse of characters/moments from Death Note (Light, Misa, Ryuk) but this is a completely different movie. And L is a completely different character almost.
Oh yes. There will be spoilers.
The story starts off with a small village in Thailand that is clearly infected with some sort of deadly virus. Suddenly, army type trucks head toward the village and out come guys in biohazard suits. They come to take samples, not to help. Meanwhile, a little boy is seen doing some sort of mathematical type equation on a wall with chalk in the jungle nearby. He escapes with someone who seems to know what is going on. Someone with an "F" necklace. Hmmm...like in Death Note, another single letter person. Perhaps a graduate of Wammy's House. The little kid survives and gets in touch with L after "F" gets killed.
We meet L as we left him in Death Note. It's his last 23 days before he is killed by the Death Note. They show him writing his own name in the book much to Watari's chagrin. Watari is the kindly old gentleman assistant, also seen in the previous 2 movies. L vows to solve as many crimes in his last days. Of course, L still has that sweet tooth and ridiculously chows down on all sorts of sweets from donuts to candy to plain old sugar. After the nods to the previous 2 films are out of the way (Watari dies in front of Misa, a shot of Light, a small scene with Ryuk where L burns the 2 Death Notebooks), we get on to the story at hand.
That virus in the village is the main plot point. We follow a couple of scientists who have a strain of it and are working to find an antidote. The male scientist (Professor Naikado) has his teen daughter, Maki, around. Working on puzzles/homework given by her father and getting daily shots though she's not sure why. The female scientist (Dr. Kujo), played by the lovely Youki Koudoh (see below), seems to be sort of a mother figure to the Maki.
We pop over to some more scientists of the environmental sort. A gentleman with a funky eye, Matsudo, is looking to sell the virus for millions. He brutally kills one of the lead environmentalists who disagrees with him. The remaining 3 assistants reluctantly follow him. Well, the 2 guys seem reluctant (at first), but the girl (played by the lovely Megumi Sato as pictured below) seems gung ho to join in the killing.
Soon, we realize that Dr. Kujo is not on the side of the angels. She's working with the evil funky eyed guy and seemingly now crazy and blood thirsty assistants. Actually, she seems to be leading them. We then find out that she is "K". Another possible Wammy House graduate. Seems like there is one for every letter of the alphabet.
Meanwhile, L has taken in both the little math boy genius and Maki. Maki witnesses her father's death (who injected himself with the virus and burned the antidote) because of the evil machinations of Dr. Kujo, Matsudo and crazy crew. After a brief confrontation where Maki injects herself with the virus, L goes on the run with the kids and finds another scientist that worked on the virus with the now dead Professor Naikado. Success! An antidote is found. Maki is strangely somewhat immune to the virus.
However, Maki is feeling like a little revenge and gets in touch with Dr. Kujo who kidnaps her. Kujo realizes they can use Maki to infect others to further their mad "new ecosystem" plan. She and the crazy crew get on a plane with plans to take the virus to the U.S. Maki accidentally gets cut which makes her bleed and causes the virus to go airborne in the plane. Affecting everyone aboard.
L rushes to the airport with a sack full of antidote syringes and boards the plane as it is trying to taxi down the runway. One of the crazy assistants had taken over the cockpit, even though he was infected. L is able to get the antidote to everyone and save the day.
Lastly, we see L taking the little math boy to Wammy's House. And he names the kid. "Near". For you Death Note fans, you know who this kid is now. L's successor. L walks off into the sunset with only 1 day to live.
It was a really enjoyable film though overacted by many an actor. Especially the crazy assistants who we kept saying had crazy eyes. Megumi Sato (the 2nd hottie pictured above) probably displayed the crazy eyes more than anyone else every time she killed someone. Which totally made me want her for some reason. Hey, I like the crazy ones. Some great nods to the previous 2 films without beating it over our heads. I kind of thought the little boy would turn out to be Near, but it was still done nicely.
After the film, we were treated to a behind the scenes little short. Matsuyama ("L") talked about how he had to play the character different than he had in the other 2 films. How he and the director, Hideo Nakata, disagreed on the character and the compromises they made. It was a nice peek behind the curtain.
Overall, it was pretty fun, though unintentionally funny at many spots because of the overacting and crazy eyes. It didn't ruin the film for me though. If you're a Death Note fan, then you will definitely want to see it. If not, it's still entertaining enough and you can enjoy it without knowing the background of the other 2 films.
Now, I'm off to find Megumi Sato and see if she'll make those crazy eyes for me. Of course, that means she might have to kill me to do it, but it's totally worth it. Sayonara!