Death Note: Light Up the New World is set ten years after the events of the 2006 film. For those unfamiliar with the premise, a Death Note is a notebook that gives the bearer the power to kill. If the bearer knows your name and can picture your face, he or she can write your name down in the book, and you will die. They can specify the means and the circumstances of the death. The film kicks off with six new Death Notes arriving in the world, setting off another spate of murders. The specter of the first Death Note killer, the figure known as Kira, hangs over these new events, despite having died ten years ago. A brilliant investigator going by the name Ryuzaki (Sosuke Ikematsu) faces off against the new Kira as he helps the special Death Note Task Force stop the murders.If you have not seen the first movie, this will all probably be really confusing. This is not for a lack of explanation. The movie is in fact prone to long bouts of exposition where characters in basements explain every last aspect of this narrative. They explain and re-explain everything, making sure that no one is being left behind. Still, the entire plot is wholly consumed by the past, with its most important elements reliant on an investment on stuff that’s gone on before. The characters it talks about the most aren’t even really in the movie, and this proves to be a real narrative challenge.Those looking for the ludicrously complex mind games of the original story will also be disappointed. The film is largely told just from the perspective of law enforcement, rather than pinging back and forth between the two sides. This is no longer a chess game. Ryuzaki and the rest of the Death Note task force are largely playing against an invisible foe, whose moves on the board are rarely seen. The film invests a lot in the mysterious identity of the new Kira, but doesn’t actually do anything to raise the tension. Again, it’s mostly just characters talking in basements about what stuff they know.The result is remarkably dull. The film is overwhelmingly static, the script saving all of the action for the last part, throwing out all of its revelations in a chaotic third act. As things come to a head, the film deploys a bunch of twists that don’t really make any sense. The film seems to know it, too, not really dwelling too long on these developments. It tries to cover up the inadequacy with a last, desperate attempt at bringing some excitement to the story, but it’s far too little, far too late.The production package is competent, but not much more. The designs for the reapers continue to be a highlight, but other than that, there aren’t a lot of compelling visuals in this film. The sets mainly look like the stuff you’d see in every overblown police procedural. Sosuke Ikematsu plays at some idiosyncratic behavior, but the script really lets him down. Ryuzaki is no L, the character just not given a chance to really show off his supposedly superior intellect. Masahiro Higashide and Masaki Suda seem thoroughly confused by what their characters are supposed to be. They are not alone.Death Note: Light Up the New World is a movie that really shouldn’t be boring. It is about outlandish characters literally given the power over life and death. It is about a great detective matching wits against an intellectual equal possessing a terrifying power. But the movie seems to be determined to sap all the energy and excitement out of this milieu, dealing mainly in what has been done before, and stuffing practically all of its real forward movement in the last fifteen minutes of its 135-minute runtime. This is unconscionable.
DEATH NOTE IS NOW SHOWING IN SELECT CINEMAS NATIONWIDE.