In the story, Japan experiences serious economic downturn, which is evident by “the 15% unemployment” and “800,000 students boycotted school and juvenile crime rates soared”. Japan’s government is forced to pass the Battle Royale Act, whereby a set of students are dropped in an island with one goal: to kill each other until only one is alive.
Character and emotional depth
One reason why watch Asian films, particularly in Japan, Korea and India, is that it digs an abyssal emotional depth that their western counterpart can’t match. Like most Asian films, “Battle Royale” still have purity and innocence, even though it ironically celebrates violence.
But if there is a slight modification for improvement it would be to build more relationships of the characters at the start of the film. Show the lovers. Show the best friends. That way when you see a friend killed, or a friend running after you, waving pistol in air, it would be more gripping and heart-breaking. Besides, it wouldn’t be hard to set up that drill since the chosen participants are a high school class and not some random street kids plucked from the pavement.
Will this film make you cry? No, but it’s really sad. A boy arrives in an abandon warehouse, where a girl hides. The boy calls out her name but the girl panics and she shoots him. The boy is dying only to find out that he comes to confess his long silent love. It’s sweet. But sad. There’s even a group of girls getting killed for a misguided argument. You can really see how insanity corrupts even the most kind and cute person.
“Battle Royale” is based on a 1999 Japanese novel penned by Koushun Takami. Apart from film, it also has a manga version. On the film release of “Battle Royale”, it has been controversial on its idea of killing and has been banned on several countries. Nonetheless, it’s still considered as one of the best film made in the decade. More information about their wiki page.
Did it achieve its goal?
The Battle Royale Act was approved to warn and discipline the youngsters of their misdeeds. Unfortunately, this is the part where the film fails to show. At the start of the film, we see the winner of the recent batch of Battle Royale. The winner looks horrid and twisted. But if cut to the outside world, we don’t really see much violence in what the film is trying to show, only a teacher getting stabbed for fun and a father on a suicide but all of you will agree that isn’t enough. “A Clockword Orange” scenes would have been good sample for a teenage outrage.
You would think that this ridiculous violent act of forcing teenagers to kill other teenagers to at least make some impact to the outside world, but you never really see so. The film lacks visual elements to support its narrative ones. This makes me think that the whole Battle Royale is just put up to provide a cunning entertainment with no grounds. Although that is not what the film is trying to achieve, but it has certainly implied so.
Battle Royale and its influence
After seeing films like “Inglorious Basterds” and “Kick Ass”, both films who are indebted to “Battle Royale”, it’s sad to admit that the former is more visually superior than the later, and has better narrative. After watching Battle Royale, although it’s already gory, I thought it was still conservative in showing flesh and blood, comparing it to the other films. Just as “Hunger Games” will be more popular than “Battle Royale”. To reiterate the old adage: “It’s sad but true”.
Addendum: Battle Royale and The Hunger Games
The hit movie blockbuster “The Hunger Games” (blog review) has been gravely compared to Battle Royale. Most Battle Royale fans say that “the Hunger Games” is no good, not new and just a ripped off of the former because of the following recurrent subjects: evil and corrupt government, and teenage killing. I won’t deny the similarities but I won’t also say that Hunger Games ripped off Battle Royale.
Suzanne Collins, author of the Hunger Games Trilogy, haven’t heard of “Battle Royale” until finishing her first book, and suffice to say she has a different sources of her inspiration. Besides, the idea of kids/teenagers killing each other for survival is not an eye opener. We first heard it from a 1954 novel written by William Golding, “Lord of the Flies”, (blog review) at least as far as history can record. But that also can’t guarantee that it is the first story to tackle about cute little kids running around with spears. Who knows what stories have been told by our ancestors? Not to mention “Battle Royale” has been rumored to pluck inspiration from “Lord of the Flies”. So originality is out of the context.
Original or copied, as long as the film looks fresh and/or entertaining, we couldn’t care less. Don’t you think?