FEBRUARY 7, 2011
Kind of ironic that today is the 4th anniversary/birthday of Horror Movie A Day and I watched Death Note II: The Last Name, which is barely a horror movie (but qualifies under a few of my rules, and is, after all, about a dude who can kill anyone just by writing their name down, which is scary). But more ironic is that one of the things I fear most is dying of a heart attack or an aneurysm – something instant and largely unpreventable. It’s like, if you die in a car crash you can spend all of the afterlife wondering if you had just hit the brakes a second sooner or left work five minutes later you’d still be alive – but those sort of things, which is basically what the Death Note does, can happen anywhere, anytime, and there’s not a thing you can do about.
Adding to this irony, if you missed my note earlier, is that I indeed could have very easily died tonight if the tire/bushings/rod/etc on my car had snapped off two minutes earlier (when I was on the freeway doing 65 mph) instead of when it did (driving 1 mph as I was pulling into my parking spot at home). Guess it just wasn’t my time! Hurrah! I live on to watch the rest of and then review Death Note II.
I enjoyed the movie OK enough, but I liked the original more (also - that was over a year ago? Man, 2010 flew by). For starters, Light is simply not sympathetic this time around. While he still wants to kill criminals and such, he’s far more concerned with covering his own ass this time around, and by the end of the film he’s trying to not only kill L, his awesome “nemesis”, but even his own father. The few criminal kills in the movie are largely perfunctory, serving as Macguffins for the movie’s real plot, which is how Light and L have “teamed up” in order to uncover the identity of a 3rd “Kira” that has sprung up. Thus, this means that a giant chunk of the film is given to our main characters trying to figure out something we have already figured out, as well as sitting around a monitor room saying things like “If *I* was Kira, I would do this...” or “Kira might be trying to do this in order to keep us from doing that...” and so on and so forth. And the movie is 140 minutes long (!), so it gets a bit dull.
Not to mention needlessly convoluted. While I like the basic premise and the idea of rules, there are a bunch of new ones here (or at least, rules that didn’t really factor into the first movie), which seem to just be ways of working around potential plot holes for the most part. But whatever they were introduced for, it just makes the movie even more convoluted than it already was – Christ, they even introduce fake rules every now and then, just to keep us on our toes I guess.
It also fails to capitalize on what I thought was the most interesting thing about the movie – L and Light being forced to work together. There’s a great scene where L steps outside for once and joins Light at school, donning a silly mask (but still eating candy at all times – this dude’s going to get diabetes) and inadvertently putting Light in a position where he has to pretend he’s a friend. I would have loved more of this sort of stuff, and I would have preferred Light tell L that he was Kira and join him for real in order to find the impostor, instead of having Light simply get more villainous as the film went on. Especially since L is a far more interesting character anyway – it would have allowed him to branch out a little more, instead of going back to the monitor room and doing the same shit he did throughout the first movie for the bulk of the (excessive) running time.
I think they also miss the chance for some cool revisionist/ret-conning of real world history – how great would it be to find out that say, Jimmy Hoffa (or the Japanese equivalent, if there is one) was the victim of a previous Death Note holder? Again, I find the idea that someone can simply write my name down and kill me somewhat terrifying, and that the deaths happen in very normal ways (as opposed to Final Destination style freak accidents) would make it very easy for a more devilish screenwriter to work in some real world incidents that could have been the result of a Death Note. Something to think about for the inevitable US remake (which is being helmed by Shane Black, a guy who has no problem with possibly ruffling some feathers).
The sequel also continues the odd fascination with the music of Red Hot Chili Peppers, bringing back “Dani California” (“Californiaaaaaaaaa rest in peaaaaaaaace”) and playing “Snow (Hey Oh)” for good measure. I mean, nothing against the band, but it just seems funny to me that one song wasn’t enough for them. One of the characters even plays a pop star but we hear more RHCP than we do from her. Also, of all mainstream US bands, I wouldn’t peg them for being big overseas (especially in a non-English speaking country) since all of their songs are about California. Unless Japan is just big into heroin.
Luckily one thing has improved this time around – the DVD menu! Last time I couldn’t even find half of the bonus features because the menu was some impenetrable maze of nonsense, but here it’s a pretty standard bullet point list, starting with a making of that features a (dubbed) interview with director Shusuke Kaneko and some subtitled on the set footage with the actors. Pretty standard stuff, and I think it was originally webisodes or something because every 2-3 minutes it flashes the same title screen. There’s also a trio of trailers; one for Japan (which is oddly sans music), one (actually two played back to back) for US with a hilariously excited voiceover guy, and a third for a spinoff movie featuring L, which looks like more of an action film (there’s an explosion!) but is, back to irony here, the only one labeled a horror movie on the IMDb. Anyone see it? Worth a look (horror or not)? I wouldn’t have minded some more about the original comic and/or animated version and how the two differ, but at least what was there I could find.
Long story short, it’s a decent sequel, but didn’t quite go the way I would have liked, and was a bit too long/convoluted. If you flat out loved the original you’d probably enjoy this one, but if that one wasn’t your thing, this certainly won’t change your mind. Unless you hate apples – there’s no apple fixation in this one!
What say you?