Review for Battle Royale: Limited Edition
Battle Royale is set in a dystopian future where crime, violence, unemployment and unrest has plunged Japan into ruin. The government pass a law codenamed 'Battle Royale'. With this law, every year a group of school children are taken to a deserted island and forced to fight and kill each other until only one is left. If there is more than one left after three days everyone dies thanks to explosive collars around their necks.
What follows is a various obvious morality tale about whether you should take someone else's life if you will day anyway if you don't. As the time goes on alliances form and break as the children try their best to survive in any way they can.
I shall first address the elephant in the room which is that the film is very similar to The Hunger Games. However, of course the novel the film was based on was written in 1999, filmed in 2000 and so if anything that series of books and films was influenced in some way by this instead. That being said, the other obvious thing to compare this film to is 1987's The Running Man, right down to the exploding neck braces and 'fight to the death' plot.
This does bring up my biggest issue with this film: What is the actual point? The whole Battle Royale scheme appears to be to help with juvenile delinquency and it also appears that the media is interested in who wins at the end, but to what end? It is never really explained what happens if you do win. The very idea of having someone survive three days killing everyone in sight and then just releasing them back into public an even worse idea.
Leaving that to one side, I would say that this is a very interesting film and despite me having no connection to any characters within, it does make me feel for them as it goes on. The constant tallying of the dead is a great idea and maybe if this had been a found footage-style film or 'mockumentary' it would have been even better.
The action is relentless and though the use of bright vibrant blood is a little offputting and unrealistic I did enjoy the film as it went on and the ending was very effective.
Both the Theatrical and Special Edition cuts are included here. I watched both and though I know that eight minutes was added and I have read what those bits were I don't think any of them are really needed. This is a shame as I expected this to be a huge inclusion of additional footage not just a few minutes of extra footage which do not add much.
Over the two disks there are multiple extra features. There are ten featurettes across the two disks regarding various creation aspects of the film from an interview with Takeshi Kitano who played Teacher Kitano to looking at how the Special Edition was created. What did surprise me was that this Special Edition wasn't just a case of adding scenes that has been deleted originally it was the cast coming back and filming extra footage. All are great at looking at the film and its creation.
Writer and Producer Kenta Fukasaku discusses making the film and his father who Directed the film. It is a pretty indepth interview and it is a shame he could not speak English as I am sure he would have done an amazing commentary on the feature itself. Coming of Age: Battle Royale at 20 is a new documentary which has many people such as critics Kim Newman and others discussing the film and the impact it has had.
The Correct Way to Fight in Battle Royale is the full version of the video shown in the film which is nice and the 'Birthday Edition' is a tongue in cheek one for Kinji Fukusaku's 70th Birthday.
Three Press Conferences are great to see some of the actors and crew discussing the film and it is not surprising that they thought this film was going to be a success. It is a shame that nothing is from when it came to US or UK shores as it would have been interesting to see how it was originally greeted at the time of release.
An Audio Commentary (only on the Theatrical Cut) by Tom Mes and Jasper Sharp who both describe themselves as Japanese film specialists. I really enjoyed watching this along with them as there is a clear love for the film and they clearly had a huge amount of knowledge about the film and those involved which was great. Finally we have a mixture of nine TV and Theatrical Trailers and Promo spots.
Battle Royale is a controversial film and one that needs to be seen. Much like The Purge, Hunger Games and so on, it very much looks at what would happen in society did fall and this kind of 'culling of the population' was ever introduced. It is a very effective film and I can understand why Quentin Tarantino even rates it as one of the best films he has seen. If you are a fan of Japanese films you will love it.