I had heard of the movie BATTLE ROYALE years ago and actually had a chance to see a portion of the sequel. My son has always told me it was an amazing film but until this release I'd never had the chance or time to watch it (even though I borrowed his copy months ago). Fans of the film were hard pressed to find a copy and for the most part the only way to do so was via bootleg copies or those sold at fan conventions over the past few years. But that has all changed with the release of this box set put together by Anchor Bay.
Included are the directors cut of the original film as well as the theatrical cut, the sequel and a collection of extras that include The Making of Battle Royale, TV Spot: Tarantino Version, Basketball Scene Rehearsals, Tokyo International Film Festival 2000, Special Edition TV Spot, Original Theatrical Trailer, Battle Royale Documentary, Special Effects Comparison Featurette, Filming On-Set, Behind-The-Scenes Featurette, Audition & Rehearsal Footage, Instructional Video: Birthday Version, and Battle Royale Press Conference. As you can see they've covered nearly all the bases with this one. The transfer is beautifully done and the colors and film footage nearly leap off the screen, which could be a bad thing considering the amount of blood shed during the film. With two films to discuss, I'll break them down.
The story takes place in the near future. Unemployment is at an all time high and people are beginning to give up hope, especially the young generation. Rather than sit back and accept things as they are, the youngsters tend to express their rage through violence and disrespect. In response the adults pass a law and form Battle Royale, a competition that is literally life or death.
The worst 9th grade class is taken on a field trip and gassed but when they wake they don't find themselves home. Instead they are find themselves in a large room surrounded by soldiers. When their teacher arrives he explains they are now part of BR and how it works. Each student has a collar. Should they try to take it off or escape, the collar explodes. The students will each be issued a backpack that will contain food, water and a weapon. Once they get their pack, they are to leave. They are on a deserted island now and there is one thing they need to accomplish: survive to be the last person alive at the end of 3 days. Yes, each student is to kill the rest to win. Should there be more than one survivor, those remaining will all die. To make it more of a challenge they've also been given a map that shows a grid and every 6 hours the grid changes with hot zones that will explode their collars.
The biggest turmoil for these kids is of course being able to kill someone to continue living. But there's more to the story than that. Keep in mind these are junior high students, kids who are in the midst of making friends, making enemies, being picked on or being popular. All of those things that teens go through come into play with the interaction between them all. Alliances can be made but for how long knowing that if you don't kill the rest you all end up dead? To make matters worse, two wild cards are brought in, two students not from this class who seem to be trouble makers of the worst sort.
The film moves at a furious pace with plenty of action and fairly gory effects. As each student is killed or commits suicide, the count changes with each now dead classmate having their names added to the daily announcements. Some react as you would think a normal person would, others seem to care less. This is survival of the fittest taken to extremes.
Two students have joined forces, a couple that never had the chance to actually become a couple. Shuya and Noriko find themselves caring for one another more than they though possible. Both want to make it and aren't sure how they can do so with both of them alive. When a chance presents itself for that to happen, they jump at it.
The movie is brutal and shocking but at the same time tells a great story. It makes you consider the thought; could I actually kill my best friend in order to continue living? At the heart of the film that's what makes it work so well, confronting the concept in your own mind and applying it to yourself. If anyone thinks they can come up with the truth as an answer you're kidding yourself. Who knows what one would do when put in that situation? The ending of the film works well but I won't spoil it here.
BATTLE ROYALE II: REQUIEM
The sequel is well done but doesn't quite live up to the first. SPOILER ALERT: If you don't want to know how the first film ends then watch it before reading below.
It begins 3 years after the last film. Shuya and Noriko survived the first film and escaped the island. With a tremendous grudge against the adults who made them play the game, they are now wanted fugitives. Rather than except their predicament, they become terrorists out to bring down the adults of the world. In response to their attacks and propaganda, the government passes another law creating Battle Royale II.
The same starting principle holds true with a group of 9th graders brought to a military base after being sleep gassed. When they wake they find themselves in a cage with their new teacher telling them the rules. Instead of hunting one another they will be dropped on an island with their backpacks in order to put an end to Shuya's declaration of war on all adults. Their job is to kill Shuya and his followers. Should they decline to do so they will immediately be killed via collar. Added to this is the problem that they are to work in pairs. Should one die, the other finds themselves victim of the collar.
Placed in boats and heading for the island they find themselves under attack before they hit the shore. Between being shot en route and when they land, nearly a third of the 42 kids are gone before they receive ammunition and have the chance to find cover. Once more the mind set of the teen is played and they more often resort to the tantrums or emotional upheavals teens do rather than think things through. Once they begin to do so they become a more effective unit.
The biggest difference between this film and the original is the involvement of politics. Condemnation of governments and those in charge runs rampant here. The idea of teens taking over the world harkens back to the sixties and the concept of trust no one over 30. Yes, the adults have messed things up pretty bad, but the chances of these kids saving the world don't seem much better.
Eventually the combatants realize what is going on and unite forces. Shuya and his group disable the collars and keep the new teens armed and ready. This means that the military must now go in to take them all out. Who will survive and who will die isn't seen until the film's end.
So there you have it, the stories behind the movie and sequel. Are they worth watching? By all means. And if this is the sort of movie you can enjoy in one way or another, it's also one that you should add to your collection. As I said, the transfer to DVD is beautiful to see. The acting is amazing even when the film is in Japanese (the first is dubbed, the second subtitled). For all the controversy that surrounded this film, it is one you should seek out.
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