In light of the recent announcement that Adam Wingard is to direct an American adaptation of Death Note, Anime Reporter now turns his eye to the second Japanese live action film in the series: Death Note: The Last Name. Any strangers to Death Note might find more joy in my review of the first film, though I’d personally recommend that nobody should go near the live-action films before experiencing the, frankly, much superior manga and anime versions.
Death Note: The Last Name carries on pretty much directly from the fallout of the first film, with Light, as far as the world is concerned, grieving over the death of his girlfriend and eager to join his father in hunting down Kira. If the irony in this statement isn’t clear to you, then you really should have heeded that last spoiler alert.
Much like its predecessor, this film follows the basic plot points of the original series, but takes a few liberties with characters and plot details, ultimately telling a less intense tale about a less complex battle of wits between Light and L.
Making things all the more complicated is the appearance of a second death note and a user whose power may surpass Light’s. This second “Kira” might prove to be Light’s greatest weapon or the weak link which brings his entire enterprise tumbling down. This is particularly risky as Light hasn’t yet escaped L’s suspicion. L is watching Light more closely than ever before and has even allowed Light to join the Kira investigation just to keep an extra close eye on him. Light will struggle to operate as Kira while trying to prove beyond doubt that he couldn’t possibly be Kira. Out of the two films, this is Light’s manipulation at its very best.
Unfortunately, for anyone who’s seen the anime version, (and I really would have to recommend seeing that before even going remotely near these films), the plot of The Last Name is really an oversimplified version of the second act of the series. Really, the plot can only feel a little amateurish in comparison with its source material.
This sense that you’re watching a slight knock off of Death Note extends ever so slightly towards the CGI effects and even the acting. I’m not saying anything negative about the main cast, but I do think that if people are hired to appear in a film primarily to act as people dying of heart attacks, they should probably be able to reasonably fake a heart attack. The main adversaries, L and Light both show more of a range of emotion and intensity, though this isn’t something which suits L’s character as well as it does Light.
Death Note 2: The Last Name is undoubtedly the better half of the first two Death Note movies and it’s available on DVD now!
66% – “A Nice Improvement!” – Death Note- The Last Name improves upon the weak delivery of the first film and gives us more of the cat and mouse style manoeuvring that made the original Death note series a true phenomenon to watch and read. It’s by no means as good as the original Death Note, but it’s a move in the right direction.