Sunday, February 3, 2013

Battle Royale (Kinji Fukasaku, 2000)

   So, I watched Battle Royale last night; on a whim mostly as I sifted through my movie list and realized just how long this praised flick has remained there. Besides, my friend had brought the DVD back from her house after the winter break, so why not? Often compared to The Hunger Games, this film most closely resembles The Raid: Redemption in its brutality and shock factor. Much like Raid, I enjoyed and squirmed through nearly every single minute of this film.

Spoilers Ahead:

   Adapted from the 1999 novel of the same name by Koushun Takami, Battle Royale is about a class of students on a bus driving to their field trip; they are chloroformed and wake up in a class setting. There, they are informed that they have been chosen for this film's Battle Royale by none other than their 7th grade teacher, Kitano. The film features several flashbacks throughout that procure necessary back story. In 7th grade, one of the students (Kuninobu) stabbed Kitano and then decided to leave school permanently. Kitano decided to resign shortly afterwards. Kuninobu was meanwhile convinced to return to school by his best friends Shuya and Noriko. Kitano informs the students that the Battle Royale is a law/program passed by the Japanese government to reform the country after thousands of students walked out of school. The students are placed on an island where they are required to kill each other until only one remains. However, they must do so within a 3-day period or the collars placed around their necks will detonate; in such a case, there would be no winner. Every 6 hours, Kitano and his army of soldiers on the island will broadcast news of who died, how many students are left, how much time remains and which areas of the island have been declared danger zones. If a student lingers in a danger zone, his or her collar will automatically detonate. Two students are killed by Kitano before they have a chance to receive a backpack (which contains certain survival equipments and a different weapon per student) and be sent outside onto the island; one of them is none other than Kuninobu. Before all of the students are outside, some already start killing each other. Others decide to commit suicide together. Shuya and Noriko decide to protect each other and refuse to participate in the bloodshed. Nonetheless, it seems to follow them wherever they go, sometimes through misunderstanding and other times by some of the students' sheer blood-thirst.
Homegirl was whispering during Kitano's presentation. She had to go.
  As far as acting goes, The Hunger Games is superior than Battle Royale. The cinematography and sountrack of  the former are also better. Yet, I would give both films the same rating because, while they do share the same themes (government oppression, survival of the fittest, yadda, yadda), they go in completely different directions. Battle Royale does not attempt to go in depth into exploring its most political themes. It is most interested in showcasing the interpersonal relationships between the characters and their subsequent deterioration in the face of adversity. It accomplishes this through carnage and brilliant death sequences. The acting is not necessary to carry the film; the visuals and the soundtrack do aid in making the film as successful as it is, but they are secondary to the plot. The story and one's subsequent analysis of their ability to relate to it are the charms of this film. What would I do if I were on this island? Would I commit suicide in a bid to remain clean or would I revert to barbarism? Would I actually help Shuya and Noriko's whiny, pathetic asses survive? What I would I do if my weapon was a friggin' binocular?! Rarely do action or death sequences pose such profound questions.The film perfectly demonstrates how survival instincts may perhaps be stronger than friendship. The students' sudden awareness of their mortality forces them to shun not only their sense of ethics, but also the stereotypes/roles placed upon them by society. Three nerds nearly survive till the end of the game. An upper middle class student abandons his learned morals and brandishes his crossbow. One of the most savage characters and my personal favorite, Mitsuko, is a beautiful girl who uses her charms to ruthlessly deceit and kill.
  The film's final act is nevertheless disappointing. This is due to the fact that some of the characters who fought the hardest to survive are bypassed by Shuya and Noriko. This does not mean you should cross to the other side of a street if you ever met me in real life; I'm really a nice guy. But if I were to die on this island (trust me, I would have fought tooth and nails and binoculars) and there had to be a winner after such a huge loss to mankind, then I would rather it be somebody who strived to survive. Not two people who stumbled into the arms of somebody who decided to help them for the remainder of the game. With such profound themes, the ending felt like a let down. I am not saying that Shuya and Noriko should have killed. I just would have preferred the winner(s) to have shown some sort of humanity. There is no way so much bloodbath would not change somebody. There is no way witnessing the deaths of your classmates or their turning on each other would leave you in the same state from when the film began. Shuya and Noriko are never shown to question their new surroundings. There is no doubt, no confusion, no yearning for answers in their eyes. I could not relate to them because they came across as robots programmed to an unsatisfying victory. As such, I found the final act considerably weaker than the genius showcased in the previous segments.

Ludovico Rating:

3.5/5. I would definitely watch this film again. It's already one of my favorites.


  1. If Shuya and Norkio fought like the other students (with binoculars and potlids) they would be even more like robots programed to an unsatisfying victory. THe fact they kept their ideals intact showed they had more heart and did not want to conform like the others. The other classmates were met with death by the other students not just these two.
    I agree the acting is bad, but its not awful and I like the characters in this way more then The Hunger Games. Good Review

    1. You're right, the characters are much better than The Hunger Games, which focuses way too much on Katniss and Peeta. Here, there are so many different characters and nearly all have interesting story arcs (unlike Hunger Games where you're either against Katniss/Peeta or you die for them). I guess that's probably why I didn't take to Shuya and Norkio as much. There were so many options lol.
      The acting can easily be overlooked. Thank you for commenting. I really seeing this film through different 'binoculars'.