Posted September 13, 2010 by Alex Moss Editor in Films
 
 

Death Note 2: The Last Name


The follow up to the twisted supernatural crime thriller brings a darker edge but little to develop from the original.

The follow up to the twisted supernatural crime thriller brings a darker edge but little to develop from the original.

Sequels are a tricky thing in filmic terms. For every Star Wars; The Empire Strikes Back (1980) there is a Pirates Of The Caribbean; Dead Man’s Chest (2006).
The dangers of simply phoning in a follow up film to cash in on the
success of the first are often what cause deflated second instalments. Death Note: The Last Name
does what a good sequel should, it builds upon the premise of the
original and heightens the stakes. So far so good, but what it also
manages to do is take the painfully long running time of the original
and extend it further.

Adapted from the popular Manga and anime series, The Last Name picks up exactly where the first film ended. Light (Fujiwara)
is now part of the task force to hunt down the dreaded Kira, a killer
able to murder people by heart attack. What the rest of the task force
do not realise is that Light, in possession of the Death Note, is in
fact Kira. The only person to suspect him is the genius and creepy L (Matsuyama). But, when Japanese TV star Misa (Toda)
finds another Death Note the stakes are raised as she sets out to
protect Light by abandoning all of his moral rules of only killing
criminals, in order to pressurise the task force into allowing him to
continue is reign of terror against crime.

The plot, on paper, sounds complicated but in many ways this is just
the tip of the iceberg. The Last Name introduces new rules that govern
the use of the Death Note and increasingly powerful methods of killing.
Misa’s Death Note allows her to see the name of her intended target by
looking at them, but it comes at a price that halves her life span by
agreeing to use this power. To say that The Last Name ups the ante for the franchise is an understatement.
The problem is that in doing so it lacks continuity from the first
film. At times it is a struggle to remember all the rules that were laid
down in the original only to be broken in the second.

Thankfully, while the plot is still paramount, the moral ambiguity
and dark undertones are still present. With the introduction of a new
Reeper, the demons that accompany the bearer of the Death Note, director
Kaneko, who returns from for the second film, finds a new menace with which to toy.
Misa’s Reeper Rem is a visual skew of Light’s Reeper Ryuuk in that he
resembles the cartoon look but has a darker tone to his presence. Like
an Anakin Skywalker brooding with the dark side.

The game of cat-and-mouse continues between Light and the
disturbingly eccentric L, to mind-boggling effect. Kaneko often frames
the two leads in ways that represent their characters. L titled and deep
in introverted thought while Light becomes ever more sinister in low
angles. That the characters are so different anyway makes this device
unnecessary but is in keeping with the animated style of the source
material.

As Light Fujiwara finds a new smugness with which to instil the
character. With is ever plotting ways this makes Light a genuinely fun
anti-hero that, despite his evil ways, you cannot help but root for.
Matsuyama is always over the top as L but remains a curious character
who you always want to better understand. Toda unfortunately brings a
slightly irritating giggly schoolgirl essence to Misa when the character
needs a more manipulative streak to fully invest in.

Fans of the first Death Note will no doubt love this follow-up. It
takes the original’s ideas and makes them bigger with a broader canvas
of crimes to enjoy. Newcomers on the other hand will spend much of the
film wondering what is going on. It is far too long and introduces plot
devices that add little but confusion to the concept. However, overall Death Note; The Last Name is a clever sequel that retains the spirit, or should that be Reeper, of the first film.


Alex Moss Editor

 
Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com