In a survival situation, I would be the worst person to team up with. THE WORST. If confronted, I would hide. No question. God forbid if I am ever forced into such a situation. And if you ever find yourself in my company during one, I feel really sorry for you.
If I grew up in a dystopian Japanese society as did the children in Battle Royale, I would, unfortunately, be forced to brush up on my stabbing and shooting skills. Every year, some unlucky Japanese school kids get hand-picked by some disgruntled adult they all pissed off and taken to a remote, uninhabited island. Once on this island, they are each given a survival kit, which may or may not be useful, and are told to keep killing each other until the eventual winner remains. Sounds a lot like The Hunger Games, right? Right, but this isn’t a game or a wet Young Adult novel adaptation. This is the modern classic action horror film Battle Royale.
The narrative has undeniable parallels to The Hunger Games, of course. Forced onto an island against their will and forced to kill until only one remains. The children receive updates on who has been killed at certain intervals of the day and certain areas of the island are off-limits on depending on the time of day. It’s an amazing premise and the details of the island are shockingly similar. However, since it was released long before The Hunger Games books, we’ll end the comparisons there. Because Battle Royale is no Hunger Games. It’s so much more fucked up.
Side note: This class of 42 students was handpicked by their old disgruntled teacher to fight for their lives. British kids from the 1990s… doesn’t this sound like the game show Get Your Own Back but in reverse?
And what an utterly brilliant fucked up film it is! Just the shot from the tail end of the previous Battle Royale with the young girl with blood all over her, smiling eerily at the hoard of Journalists, had me shuddering in anticipation of what was in store for the Battle Royale we were about to witness. Was this film going to be like the bone-shaking Japanese horror films I’ve heard about? I had been trying so hard to avoid them. And now, I was willingly opening a Lion’s cage and walking in. Luckily, the film teetered on thriller rather than horror, but I still couldn’t relax no matter how hard I tried.
1,000 miles away from Katniss and her pals
With there being 42 students, you’d think it would be difficult to keep up with or care about any of them a great deal. It can be a real problem in movies with too many key players, but Battle Royale manages the character balances extremely well. There are a small handful of frontrunners who have back stories and lead the narrative, a few more interesting students that have delightfully intriguing storylines and then a few more kids that unsurprisingly get killed off quite quickly.
I was also quite taken aback by a few mentions in the movie: suicide for one, periods and a gross, suggestive interaction between the teacher and one of the female students. With a movie as poignant as this, you really do have to look closer at the themes. Is it an ‘out there’ metaphor for adolescence? Is the Battle Royale thinning out the herd so that the only one strong enough to endure the dog eat dog world of Japanese corporate life survives? Or are teenagers just really that annoying?
Either way, Battle Royale has cemented its reputation as a modern classic with an ingenious scenario that I thoroughly recommend to all cinema fans who are sick of seeing the same old garbage. Except if you’ve already seen Hunger Games, of course…
Have you ever seen Battle Royale? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!
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