Battle Royale is a film that most people who end up opening an Asian film site, review within the first few weeks of opening the website. I, however, felt that I didn’t need to shed light on every mainstream film that comes out the East and purposely took my time releasing this review to the masses. After getting over the initial shock of what is, for very good reason, considered to be not just a violent film but also a very disturbing one in terms of subject – this movie I am convinced is destined to become a cult classic. Battle Royale’s plot involves a futuristic schooling system where kids have stopped going to class, and are becoming pests. So the government started a new program where one class of 9th graders a year is chosen by impartial lottery to go onto a deserted island. The kids then get ‘voted off’ the island and must kill each other.
They are given weapons and are forced to kill each other. Only the last one surviving will be able to go home. Why comply to these rules? If there isn’t a winner in 3 days, the collars on the students necks will explode, and no one goes home. Pretty badass premise and it no wonder why this film gets so much attention throughout the years. While a violent film, I wouldn’t characterize Battle Royale as an action film per se. Every character is fully developed and most have back stories. Its hard to do that in any movie especially one where there are so many characters. I also have to praise the way classical music is used in this movie. It’s done in an artsy way that makes you think about the horrible things you’ve seen and make sense out of it, and I loved it.
This may seem like an extremely violent film at face value, but Fukasaku tries hard not to overdo the violence and gore, and holds either a certain respect for or a certain humor of the portrayal of death. The film strays from the book in some details but is substantively similar. We don’t get to know the secondary characters as well, so questions of trust are not as complex as in the book. And we see that none of these kids are bad kids, they are all alone and crying out for love. That is probably the greatest tragedy of all. Yes, this is a far fetched concept, still it works surprinsigly well and manages to be a superb comment on the grim, hopeless and desperate atmosphere that surrounds modern societies.
As you’d expect for a movie with killing as its central theme, there’s a tremendous amount of bloodshed in Battle Royale but, believe it or not, it’s thoughtfully handled by the director. The adolescent violence is a constant theme, never allowing the viewer to breathe for too long. Bottom line, the film makes sense, has a well-paced, intelligent narrative, and interesting circumstances. Some kids can’t handle what’s happening, others glory in it. Basically this is a movie of mixed parts – whilst some characters are highly interesting, others are far too dull, and if the beginning is shocking, the ending is uninspired. All in all, its popular for a reason and I can’t deny its brilliance. Thumbs up!