Ten years after the last Death Note movie hit theatres, cinemagoers in 2016 are treated to a new movie entry in the series. Death Note: Light Up The New World recently hit cinemas in a limited release in Australia and been a fan of the anime and the manga, I had to get along to it. So what did I think of it? It’s a watchable affair but not without its flaws some of which are too big to just ignore.
In case you missed all the news about it, the movie is set ten years after the events of the previous movies and the Death King in charge of the shinigami world releases six Death Notes on Earth in order to relieve some boredom. Having six murder notebooks on Earth stirs things up with 4 of the notebooks being in Japan, one in Europe and the other in the USA. It isn’t long before the US and European books end up in Japan which begins a fast and deadly game of cat and mouse between the police and the new Kira. So I mentioned there were flaws but before I get to them, let’s talk about what is good about it.
First off, the story itself is pretty good and solid in pieces however at times it tries to be too smart for its own good and ultimately ends up being a tad confusing in places. Early on in the movie it doesn’t affect the pacing too much but towards the end, it can leave you scratching your head wondering what’s going on. The actors give fairly solid performances as well with some actors from the past movies making a show in this new outing. And they even manage to squeeze in Tatsuya Fujiwara, the original Light Yagami into the film as well. Cinematography is great as are the special effects and CGI which leads to the Death Gods themselves.
We see a couple of new characters with Beppo, Arma and everyone’s favourite shinigami, Ryuk making an appearance. Beppo is awesome and looks amazing and I still can’t tell if he was real or just CGI. Ryuk’s animation is oh so silky smooth and he’s never looked better. But the real stand out would have to be Arma, a female shinigami dressed in beautiful white robes with elegant, spindly fingers who loves eating grapes just like Ryuk has a fetish for apples. The costume design and makeup are absolute standouts and I found myself wanting her to come back on the screen, she’s so amazing looking.
Now for the negatives, in the original series, L’s successor was Near who lived all the way through to the stunning climax of the story. So in this movie, there’s mention of Near whatsoever. At all. At any time. It’s like they never existed. Granted it’s been ten years but Near was a child meaning that unless they met an untimely demise, they should still be around. That’s one point, the other being that the successor in this movie is called Ryuzaki just as in the series. Why does he have the same alias? Surely it would make sense use a completely different name to separate both characters from different timelines. I’m guess the writers probably went for continuity but it reeks a little of lack of originality. Misa Amane is back in but for the small part she played, it was hardly worth it and almost seems like they just added her just for the fans.
But probably the biggest issue I have with the film is this new L himself. While the original L was an absolute genius, had an incredibly sharp mind, an aura of mystery and eccentricity, even the way his wardrobe suggested that he was more focused on solving mysteries than appearances. This new L doesn’t come across like possessing any of those qualities at all. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. He’s almost like that friend that most people have that tries to be funny and does have their occasional moment but for the most part they fall flat. The original L when he solved problems, you could see how he got there. L version 2 shows up at the Task Force HQ advising he’s made a breakthrough in the case and we as viewers have no idea how he got there. It’s disappointing considering how L was portrayed as a prodigy while the new one comes across as a bit wacky and mildly amusing.
The movie overall does have drama, tension and areas of suspense and as I said at the very start, it’s watchable. Someone new to Death Note will probably like it more and not see the obvious flaws but for people familiar with the source material, this new film might leave them feeling a bit empty. And to be honest, it is great to have a movie ten years after it was all finished. I honestly thought I’d never see Ryuk on screen again and to have 3 shinigami on screen is awesome. With all these types of movies, before you know it the run will end so get along to it before it ends.
Final score: 7/10