Well that was handy wasn’t it? I reviewed the first Death Note film last week and here’s the sequel. If you’ve read my previous review you’ll probably be able to guess how much I was looking forward to seeing this one. If you haven’t then that amount is approximately not a lot. The first film had a cool concept but failed on most other levels to excel in any way. Shoddy characterisation, some bizarre shooting techniques and editing and to top it all off the story was all over the place structure wise. So here’s Death Note: The Last Name. Click the link for the review.
As the film opens we see a sequence from the previous film where a minor TV and pop celebrity named Misa (Erika Toda) is being chased by an obsessed fan that worked on her show. The man suddenly dies and to the floor a death note drops. Here we see what happens directly after those events though. She learns of the Death Note’s powers from another God Of Death named Rem (voiced by Shinnosuke Ikehata). After a scene of extreme exposition dressed up as a funeral featuring the main cast of the previous film the film really gets under-way. When you have films that follow on so closely you really can’t avoid this sort of clumsy retread of plot points. You have to assume that either the audience may not remember entirely what happened in the previous part or that they may not have even seen it. As it stands I’ve seen this sort of exposition handled much worse before now.
The plot for this film involves Light Yagami (Tatsuya Fujiwara) who has now manipulated his way onto his father’s investigative into the identity of Kira, the alter ego Light uses as his name when carrying out his killings. His plan is to learn the real name of the teams lead L (Kenichi Matsuyama) so he can use the death note on him. Along with that he intends to pin the blame on someone else if possible. Luckily for him Misa has taken up the name Kira II and is killing anyone that stands against Kira/Light. What follows for the next 2 hours is possibly one of the most convoluted, plot twist obsessed films ever produced. Now I’m not saying it’s confusing to follow, although it does come close. What it ends up being though is a long series of fake outs and set ups in order to shift the blame around to anyone Light can. They even rope in a journalist investigating the Kira killings, Kiyomi Takada (Nana Katase) who pretty much follows the orders Light had given to Rem until her use is expired. She also shows off her legs a lot because the book makes her all confident and sexy. I have no issues with this.
I really couldn’t explain too much of what actually goes on over the course of the film so excuse me if some of this is vague. It’s not due to spoiling anything. It’s down to just how convoluted it all is. There’s even a point in the film where Light has purposefully erased his memories of the death note so he can genuinely work on the team to catch Kira whilst a plan is in motion to put the blame on someone else. So you can guess while all this is going on very little is happening with the characters.
No one really changes over the course of this film. Light was already a manipulative dick in the previous film so here he’s just going a few extra degrees further. L doesn’t really have a character arc here, he just wants to solve the crime. He goes through a few slight shifts in his demeanour as the case unravels, generally involving him eating even more sugary treats or occasionally moving more than 3 inches at a time. He even falls off his seat once reacting to something that anyone else should have just laughed at. I guess that’s the sort of guy he is.
The newish characters of Misa and Kiyomi are pretty much two crazy women who should probably be exactly the people to not have their hands on the death note. Misa is too stupid to figure out how not to get caught and has an unhealthy with Light. She’s in love with him apparently. When she gets her memories wiped for some reason Light chooses to let her keep her love for him, presumably so the finale can be a little more heart wrenching for her. Kiyomi on the other hand is smart but isn’t smart enough to realise she’s a patsy and so there’s no arc to her beyond abusing the power a little to get some revenge on a newscaster at her TV station. Basically what I’m saying is that these characters only exist to add layers of complication to the story that would have been able to spend more time being genuinely clever in it’s execution without them.
What the film eventually boils down to is a 2 hour long version of the final scenes in a Saw movie. Unlike the last film that waited until the end of the film to do that. Hardly any sequences lead up to anything other than an explanation of the plot twists we just saw or a flashback to show us what we didn’t know already, and then they explain the plot twist. It honestly felt like they were one step away from turning to the camera to ask us if we got all that Spaceballs style.
As with the previous film there’s a unique concept but the sum of it’s parts fail to pull together to create a cohesive whole. The film is shot a little better that should be said. But performances, script and direction all come off as very made for TV. I’ll have to watch the anime some day because I hear so many people praising this franchise that I do wonder what it is I’m missing. And no, I should have top be a fan of the anime to like a poorly constructed film.