Death Note gets complicated

Tsukuru Mishima (Masahiro Higashide, far left) and Ryuzaki (Sosuke Ikematsu) track down the deadly notebooks.
Tsukuru Mishima (Masahiro Higashide, far left) and Ryuzaki (Sosuke Ikematsu) track down the deadly notebooks.PHOTO: ENCORE FILMS

REVIEW / FANTASY THRILLER

DEATH NOTE: LIGHT UP THE NEW WORLD (PG)

135 minutes/Opens tomorrow/3/5 stars

The story: If you write the name of a person while picturing his face into Death Note - a supernatural notebook - the person will drop dead. At the end of Death Note 2: The Last Name (2006), both Kira, who used a Death Note to execute his brand of justice, and L, the brilliant detective hunting him, had died. Ten years later, a rash of new Death Note murders takes place. Tracking down the notebooks are task force member Tsukuru Mishima (Masahiro Higashide) and Ryuzaki (Sosuke Ikematsu), an investigator who has inherited L's DNA. Meanwhile, Kira appears in a computer virus video, raising doubts about his death. Based on the Death Note manga series by Tsugumi Ohba.

The crux of the Death Note movies has always been the battle of wits between Kira, originally an ordinary college student named Light Yagami, and L.

They were protagonist and antagonist, light and dark, villain and hero - although it was not always clear who was which.

After all, wasn't Kira using his power for good by rooting out the unsavoury elements of society?

With Kira and L out of the way, this new instalment, to keep the story going, goes for the bigger and more complicated.

But it is less inclined to dwell on the philosophical conundrums presented by the existence of Death Notes.

There are now six such notebooks and it takes a while to account for who possess them.

Then there is the computer virus and the question of who is behind it, while suspicion is also cast on L's successor Ryuzaki.

With so much story to get through, it is no wonder the film feels so busy.

Worse, without a clearly defined rivalry along the lines of Light versus L, Light Up The New World seems more scattered.

Still, one does get caught up in the story as it develops.

The twist at the end is quite a whopper and it leaves the door wide open for the next movie chapter.

For those who miss the Kira vs L dynamics, the American live-action remake of Death Note is out next year.

But given Hollywood's track record with manga adaptations - um, Dragonball Evolution (2009) or Oldboy (2013) anyone? - an English-language Death Note could well be a tough sell.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2016, with the headline 'Death Note gets complicated'. Print Edition | Subscribe