Dub Cee Reviews: Battle Royale (2000)
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Writer(s): Koushun Takami (novel), Kenta Fukasaku (screenplay)
Book to movie adaptations are always risky. How far do you stray from the source material, if at all? If the book has a moral do you change it or remove it from the film? Battle Royale answered these questions. It did so correctly in my opinion.
In the not so distant future the world’s economic and political boundaries have been significantly altered and new governments are in place. The younger people in The Republic of Greater East Asia are not happy with the government and have caused problems for the adults. Thus the government created the Millennial Educational Reform Act as a means of creating paranoia and preventing the opposition from organizing. Basically, what this means is that once a year a group of students, right in that Junior High – Freshman age group, are shipped off to an island. Once there they received a survival pack full of food and water rations, a map, flashlight, and a random weapon. The weapons range from a pot lid, to a GPS locator, to a fully automatic Uzi. Each student is wearing a metal collar which is wired to an explosive. Through the game, sections of the island become “hot” meaning if you are in that area, the explosive will be triggered and you will die. To make things worse, the game must be completed within 72 hours or else every collar will be detonated. Finally, if nobody dies within a 24 hour period, the collars explode. So, basically, in order to survive, you must kill off your classmates and friends.
For those of you out there who have seen The Condemned with Steve Austin and Vinnie Jones then you get the basic idea. The only differences being why the people are being put through the game and that Battle Royale is well done while the Condemned ends up next to Death Race.
One slight drawback to Battle Royale is the amount of people involved. About 20 students are killed before the killing gets to a character we care about. However, the deaths come early and often in the start which basically offsets my minor complaint.
It is interesting to see the different approaches some students take. Some join together in a lighthouse and try to live a normal life. Even reprimanding each other for not washing hands before coming to the table to eat. Other feign friendship and working together to get close enough to steal the better weapon and kill their classmate. While others find themselves actually enjoying the experience. The psychological look into how humans go into that fight or flight survival mode is actually what this story is about. Not so much the kills but how the students deal with the killing and just how long before morality is tossed aside and survival becomes king.
I cannot say much more about the story or comparing to the book at risk of spoiling a lot of important information. I personally preferred the way the book ended vs. the movie. However, overall, the film strayed very little from the source material. Good solid movie.
P.S. An American remake is in the works for 2011. If it happens, I will travel to the shoot and will be witness to many… many unfortunate “ accidents” on the set.