Film Review : Battle Royale
● By Justin Buettner
A Japanese film made in 2001 based off a book of the same name, Battle Royale was the primary inspiration for the Hunger Games series which has been met with so much success. This film takes place in a future where the economy has collapsed and under aged crime has overrun society. The adults create a game called Battle Royale which pits a random 9th grade class against each other in a fight to the death. The lone survivor wins back their freedom. The story primarily follows Shayu, who has sworn to protect Nakagawa, a girl whom he loves . With a three day time limit looming how can the two survive when the game allows for only one to live?
The rerelease in 3D is unnecessary and has been done to try and capitalize on Hunger Games success. It seems unfair that the film that actually told the story first and told it better should be reduced to a 3D gimmick . Although Battle Royale quite noticeably was on a much smaller budget and had worse acting talent the story is just flat out more compelling than the Hunger Games. Kinji Fukasaku’s direction off a screenplay he adapted from the book was much sharper than that of Gary Ross. Some of that can be attributed to the fact that Fukasasku quite clearly never aimed for a PG-13 rating so he told the story the way it was intended to be told. In short Battle Royale didn’t pull any punches.
The violence in Battle Royale is on a much grander scale. The camera quite clearly and graphically shows the murder and mayhem that goes on. The violence between 9th grade children was quite shocking and got the film banned from several countries upon its release. Who knew a decade later Hollywood would find a way to take the same premise and package it as a PG-13 film and it would be greeted with mass success.
Looking past the gore and violence, the struggle for survival among the students was better executed in Battle Royale from almost every angle. The action was much clearer, the stakes were much higher, and the participant’s back stories were much deeper, and the relationships the students had with each other brought a more meaningful message to the movie. Unlike the Hunger Games where the kids by in large did not know each other before the battle, the kids in this film grew up with each other. This creates a much darker tone. Each character’s reaction to the situation and how they chose to deal with their predicament was extremely compelling. They showed several different angles and reactions that covered the spectrum of the human condition. Some choose not to fight and committed suicide instead of becoming killers. Some, quite cleverly, tried to find ways to cheat the system and escape. Even the kids that chose become killers and hunt their classmates were given interesting backstories. The movie was at its best when it dissected the relationships of groups of friends that banded together only to show how quickly trust could be broken in the face of life and death.
Battle Royale will not be for everyone. Even though this movie digs deeper psychologically than Hunger Games giving a much richer story, it is much edgier in its graphic content and its production values are not even on the same playing field. This movie was never intended for mass audience consumption. In addition this is a Japanese film, therefore it is sub-titled. If you avoid foreign movies because of sub-titles you are missing some excellent movies, this being one of them. If you were a fan of the Hunger Games I would encourage you to give Battle Royale a try. Battle Royale is a great study of relationships and social study of the human psyche wrapped in a violent disturbing package.
Films like Battle Royale : Hunger Games, The Running Man, and Lord of the Flies
Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.