Sunday, November 16, 2008

L: Change the World (Japan 2008)

He's back! Everyone's favorite brain with a sweet-tooth, L, from the insanely popular Death Note series, returns with a movie of his own in L: Change the World (Lの本当の秘密). The bad news is that it's nowhere near as good as those movies, but the good news is that it still manages to entertain at times. However, calling it a prequel seems inaccurate.

L (Kenichi Matsuyama), still has 23 days to live, but now he's all alone as his beloved caretaker Watari (Shunji Fujimara) has passed on. However, he still chooses to spend his remaining days working and solving major cases with Interpol. We learn that L is merely one in a number of similar agents, all with one-letter names, that come from the Wammy House organization. He has reestablished contact with the mysterious K, and another fellow agent, F, is seen in a virus-ridden village in Thailand trying to rescue a small boy who appears to be immune. He makes sure the boy is delivered to L, and before long, L finds himself practically running a daycare when 12-year old Maki (Mayuko Fukuda), also carrying the virus, shows on his doorstep as well. The girls father, Nikaido (Shingo Tsurumi), the brilliant doctor who developed the virus, is killed by the those wanting to use the virus for their evil deeds. Nikaido knew Watari and told his daughter he'd be able to care for her. However, L is now responsible for these children and has to find out who's after the virus. The bad guys want to use the virus as a form of population control, so they can rid the world of people they feel are too stupid to exist. Only the brightest minds should live in their utopia! With the days literally counting down the rest of L's existence, time is now a luxury for the three as they rush to find a cure and stop the villains from executing their plan for world domination. Could the children be the key to finding a cure?

L: Change the World
is bit of a letdown when you think about where this character was last seen. In the Death Note films, his superior intelligence was really on display in the battle of smarts with Light Yagami. So it's definitely a letdown to see the L character in a film where he doesn't appear to use the characteristic that made him so special when viewers first saw him. Truth be told, a doctor later on the in the film does most of the thinking for him. The story of stopping a virus from eliminating most of the world's population, again, is nowhere as interesting as the content we saw L dealing with in Death Note. It feels too ordinary of a story for such an extraordinary character, and the way it's told just isn't that interesting. For such a simple idea, the movie seems to go out of it's way to make it all sound more complicated than it really is, which makes the movie feel long at times. However, that doesn't take away from the charming performance Kenichi Matsuyama gives as L. He does such an outstanding job with this character that you really can't picture anyone else playing it at this point. He truly made L his own. The cast of characters all do a great job in their roles and are entertaining to watch, but the story they're stuck in definitely works against them.

In the end, L: Change the World, is a spin-off for the character of L, who stills manages to be fascinating to watch, but isn't strong enough to float an entire movie on his own. The world his character comes (Death Note) from suits him best, and when taken out of that world, it doesn't translate into that same feeling you got when you first saw him. If you love L, you'll probably enjoy watching him here, but you can't help but feel as if he just doesn't belong. (Lee)

Grade: C


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